We Don't Know our Neighbor

On the latest Global Pulse episode, host Erin Coker reviews world coverage of how the cross-border drug war is affecting the United States and Mexico. Watch the episode below and share your thoughts!

Growing up I never lived more than an hour and a half’s driving distance away from Mexico. I’ve never been there. Although the geographical distance was short, Mexico felt a million miles away. I suspect I’m not the only American who feels this way.

That’s not to say I don’t know anything about Mexican culture. I grew up in Moreno Valley, a far-flung suburb of Los Angeles where nearly half of the population is of Hispanic heritage. Yet my brushes with Mexican culture turned out to be…well, more American than anything else. I vividly remember the tragic death of Tejana singer Selena being a huge news event where I lived. Selena sang in Spanish phonetically, because she didn’t speak it until she learned it much later in her career. Her primary fame was here in the US: immortalized in an English language film starring the Puerto Rican-American Jennifer Lopez.

Mexico in the American imagination is either a play land or warzone, not a place where people live and work. Americans who visit Mexico on cruise ships and spring break also get an incomplete picture. Outside of the resorts and beaches, many real Mexicans live in conditions unseen by casual tourists. If we don’t try to understand Mexico beyond Taco Bell and Cancun, and the only exposure we have to Mexicans and Mexico is through our stereotypes, we’ll continue to treat our southern neighbor as an offensive caricature.

With drug related violence crossing the border, and the never ending debate about immigration, we really need to know what were talking about when we deal with Mexico. It’s not just that America owes it to Mexico to better understand it (we do), it’s also that we owe it to ourselves.



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