Border mirrors instead of fences

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Ihave lived and worked in all three NAFTA partner countries. For the past 20 years, Mexico has been home. I am the product of a stateside university education, a career with IBM and a lifetime of being Latino. I think and feel with two hearts and minds. A first generation U.S. citizen, Spanish was the language spoken at home. At school we were punished if caught speaking Spanish.

Times have changed.

I don’t know how ya all survive in the Southwest without speaking Spanish. Stockton California , two hours East of San Francisco,, is a San Juaquin Valley community dependent on agribusiness. The city’s hospitals report that 75% of all newborns are Mexican.

I read U.S. and Mexican newspapers and the same for my viewing of T.V. journalism. I am a junky for political news and commentary in both languages.

I wish citizens, North and South of the borders , had access to such differing national viewpoints.

As average Joe, Jaque or Pancho (NAFTA citizens), either language and or cultural differences have prevented us from engaging in meaningful dialogue and debate. We are uninformed of each other’s differing political opinions, life experience and socio economic struggles. Some political representatives and academicians communicate across borders but not their constituencies.

The benefit of “seeing ourselves” as others see us is enormous (be it an individual or a nation). As a yank , I find it fascinating to hear and read Mexican pundits and opinion makers comment on George Bush and the war in Iraq or the issues surrounding immigration. Viewpoints you won’t hear in the states because journalists here reflect the obvious concerns of their audience – “how United States’ policy and actions in the world affect us as Latinos” .

Having lived in all three NAFTA countries I can state with absolute certainty that the average Canadian or Mexicano can tell you a lot about U.S. history and current events. Contrary in the states, U.S. citizens know very little about Canada or Mexico.

Perhaps organized community forums, focused on exchanging perceptions and common problems, could help us all progress as nation states and cultures. To heed the advice of neighbors who don’t have an intra national political agenda or belief system to promote. A sort of. group therapy approach to socio political advancement. Mirrors at the borders instead of fences.

NaftaWe as separate nation citizens, shape political agendas that are of mutual concern to the NAFTA triage. Yet, as a public, we are not privy to the information we need about border problems. Insufficiently educated to direct our representatives to programs and solutions important to all NAFTA citizens.

Public dialogue between journalists and citizens of NAFTA could create an historic first step in generating new and effective alternatives to the unsolved problems of: immigration, security, labor exploitation, and the environment. Problems that politicians and multi national corporations have only made worse.

 

Border guards have tripled in the last seven years while illegal border crossings have gone up by fifty percent. The average factory worker makes ten dollars a day in Tijuana and Ensenada while the cost of living approaches that of San Diego . Mexican worker salaries have increased 3% while the cost of living has increased 12% over the past seven years. Worsening border pollution is affecting Beaches and wetlands from Ensenada to San Diego . Pollution and a scarcity of water are problems along the entire 2600 mile border separating Mexico and the United States.

Public opinion polls were invented in the U.S. and reached popular use in the 1950’s. Despite a short five year history of polling citizens, public polls are now as popular in Mexico as they are in the states. Polls, conducted on both sides of the U.S. Mexican border, express dissatisfaction with NAFTA..

Public opinion contradicts the general conclusion of economists that NAFTA is a big success for all three partners. Cross border labor and business groups could begin to address the inequities of NAFTA by directly involving workers and entrepreneurs affected by .the accord. A tri national series of debates whose mission is to generate problem solutions to conflicts and inequities in exporting goods and services.

Another iissue for tri national dialogue would be Mexico’s refusal to support the U.S. in the United Nations regarding the pre emptive strike against Iraq. A discussion about the use of power and Mexico’s historic proclivity to remain a neutral and peaceful nation could help norteamericanos understand the benefits of a less meddlesome state department and intelligence community.

We could develop forums of to formulate plans for attacking corruption on both sides of the border. Mexicans could learn from yanks in dealing with undesirables in Government. Richard Nixon left in shame for deceptions that most Mexican presidents would consider a minor indiscretion. .Trent Lott made a racial inference that lost him his leadership in the Senate while Mexican congressmen disrespect with impunity the cultural mores of Mexico.

I believe individual citizens and journalists must lead the effort to enhance border issues dialogue. I don’t foresee traditional institutions stepping up to the plate. As a member of the San Diego Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, for three years I attempted to gain the Chamber’s involvement in cross border business issues.

The international committee, formed to stimulate cross border cooperation, was disbanded for a lack of interest. They talk the talk about The San Diego – Tijuana region but few walk the walk.

The same can be said for San Diego journalists. As a member of the San Diego press club I find the dialogue at reporter gatherings to be myopically parochial. When I mention an issue about Mexico , their reporter eyes hood over like Iguana lizards. They reflect San Diego’s conservative bent for regarding Mexico as our charming but “messed up” neighbor to the South. San Diego Dialogue, a San Diego State University. think tank on border issues, claims that 55% of San Diegans have never crossed the border into Mexico .

There are journalists assigned to covering Baja and Mexico who do an excellent job of reporting, but most of their work does not make it into print, let alone page one. You must go to the wire services on the internet to get decent English language coverage of Mexico. I believe involving the press is imperative to promoting and generating excitement for “grass roots” border improvement initiatives.

I don’t believe there are more newsworthy issues in the America’s than those affecting border relations, commerce and culture. Aside from social benefits, I believe that increased media attention would produce new and exciting bi national programming that is presently almost non existent.

The general press, on both sides of the border, have underestimated the interest among NAFTA citizenry in directly addressing Issues that significantly affect all our lives, today and more so in the future.

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