Vital Signs

South of the Border

After decades of outward socio-cultural differences and political animosity, North America’s two United States—north and south of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo—are becoming more socially homogenous than some would care to admit.

Mexico’s economic disparity has been the most extreme in all of Latin America, a social stratification described by George Baker as “equivalent to the dimensions of the caste system of India.”  The turn of the millennium has brought Mexico to the crossroads of change, vacillating between the First and Third Worlds.  The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) offered the possibility of expanding productivity, manufacturing, and exports.  An end to the 71-year political monopoly of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (institutionalized, but hardly revolutionary) and the overwhelming election of Vicente Fox Quesada to the presidency heralded the possibility of substantive political and socioeconomic change in a country hampered by inefficiency, corruption, nepotism, ineptitude, indifference, and unaccountability.

Whereas the first round of globalism saw the flight of U.S. manufacturing to its southern neighbor (and, with it, the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of working Americans and the destruction of local and regional economies), Mexico is now experiencing the same flight—to the East.  One economist commented that the maquiladora...

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