3 Mexicans Reflect on Their Nation's Future

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on January 7, 2010

The opinion pages of the Mexico City daily Reforma are often bubbling with ideas. Three year-end essays struck me as particularly interesting because of their reflections on the future of our southern neighbor.

The first was written by a researcher who said better schools are imperative if the country is to redress its brutal inequality and poverty. The second was a passionate call for civic engagement by a university professor. The third was a grim lament by a journalist who moved to the U.S. a quarter century ago and now claims Mexico is crumbling so badly that millions more will leave as soon as the U.S.economy picks up.

Luis Rubio, general director of the Center of Research for Development, denounced the miserable education that public schools offer to Mexico's poor. He blames not only the poor quality of the teachers but also a deep-seated culture in which "the focus of the supposed education is always directed at the control of the population and its subordination."

"Many countries face serious problems of inequality," Rubio continued. "The difference between those that are developed or really move in that direction and those who stay relatively poor and stuck like ours is that the former have created educational mechanisms so that any child, independent of his social or economic origins, has the same opportunity to make it."

Denise Dresser, a passionate advocate of a patriotism of engagement, wrote hopefully about the energy and idealism she found last year among ordinary Mexicans in her travels from Mexicali, on the California border, to Merida, on the Yucatan Peninsula. She hailed "the enthusiastic squadron of those associated with a great idea: Mexico can be transformed through the cumulative actions, big and small, of millions of people."

Dresser called on her countrymen to act locally: by picking up garbage from the streets, circulating a petition for political reform, joining a group that fights for human rights, writing a letter to the editor to denounce a political abuse, or volunteering in a shelter for victims of domestic abuse. She called on Mexicans to recognize that Mexico "will only be a better country when its inhabitants renounce cynicism and reject passivity."

After those two assertions of hopeful possibility, it was a downer to read the column of Univision newsman Jorge Ramos, who recalled the pessimism he shared with his school mates long ago. "It was as if Mexico were the country of permanent crisis and we couldn't lift our heads. Some of us thought that we couldn't wait two or three decades for the country to change, and we decided to change countries."

Continuing in this gloomy vein, Ramos wrote that while the U.S. recession has limited emigration to the U.S., "as soon as the economic recuperation is consolidated, millions of Mexicans more will see the United States as their only opportunity for a dignified life."

"Mexico beautiful and beloved," Ramos wrote, sadly invoking the name of a popular song. "But for millions of Mexicans, it's also far away, crumbling, and without future."