Two “Mother Countries.” Mexico and/or England. Mexico, we know. It’s right here at the border of the Rio Grande. And Britain? Or is it Great Britain? Or the United Kingdom?
Actually, The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to use the full name, is the political union between England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The U.K. is a sovereign state. But each nation in the union is also a country in its own right. No wonder Donald Trump couldn’t figure it out.
My friend and colleague (and former contributor to the Rio Grande Guardian) is currently traveling, researching in England; I hope he may share his observations when he returns. I just returned from (and wrote about) my recent visit to Guanajuato state, in neighboring Mexico. This column deals with some of Mexico’s connections with England. Oh, would I had the gift of time travel, a la “The Outlanders,” to be whisked through the neolithic stones of Stonehenge to centuries past, to conjure up closer views of some of those connections.
I often think of international politics which I taught at the University of Texas. They never stop intruding into my mind. Today, Mexico is on my mind (new President-elect). But I’m also thinking of England as it prepares to leave the European Union. Its cities are cutting back on services; belts are tightening, as many regret the Trump-induced, Russian-assisted exit.
But likely increased trade with Mexico gives England more hope. If the past is prologue, I have found and will share here some intriguing (and mostly positive) connections between Mexico and England. Other Latin American countries have had their affairs with England too; in Argentina, afternoon “tea” is still a custom. The little matter of the Malvinas (islands), as they are known in Argentina, or the Falklands, (“British Overseas Territory”) remains confusing, but peaceful.
In Brazil, too, in the 19th century, English businessmen heavily influenced the economy. British bonds built the trams, hence the quaint “bonjees” that crawl up to the Christ on Corcovado. Brazil also played a role in helping England end the slave trade. But it is with Mexico, the second largest population in Latin America, where the UK is currently most involved. Trade has increased since Brexit and, since Trumps declaration of a tariff war, opportunities have proliferated for both countries. But long before today’s relations, Mexican and English ties were established.
England was the first great power to recognize Mexico in 1810, when it broke from Spanish rule. They both joined in the 1837 abolition of the slave trade. In 1838 England sided with Mexico in its war with France. A rupture in good relations occurred in 1861 after President Benito Juárez suspended payment to creditors; England helped other European countries occupy the Port of Vera Cruz, but pulled out in 1862. After that, a frenzy of economic relations developed, especially involving infrastructure, railroads, and mines.
Nowadays, both Mexico and England are members of the G-20 (an international consortium of significant contributors to the world economy); both are recognized as major players. They are also partners in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development and, of course, in the United Nations. They both respect international law and Mexico has frequently been a welcome host for mending angry relations among other nations.
On a more popular level, English influence was notable in sports; they introduced soccer to Latin America and Mexico. (Mexicans also credit Aztec ancestors.) But problems arose; economic differences flared. England joined the angry oil companies of the U.S. when President Lázaro Cárdenas nationalized natural resources in 1938. (Brazil followed, later.) But good relations were restored in 1944, when the Allies needed a friendly Mexico (as we do now) during war with the Nazis and Fascists. Now, as with the U.S., relations are amicable; trade and tourism are growing.
The year 2015, in fact, was declared “the Year of U.K.” in Mexico. Major celebrations and performances were held during the famous Cervantino festival in Guanajuato; England was prominent during the internationally renown Guadalajara Book Fair. Even today, interesting traces of British influence remain at local levels, as with the “Cornish” pastries enjoyed in Real del Monte, Pachuca (the recipes left by English miners).
One must mention persistent dilemmas, such as the venal influence of drug cartels largely operating out of Mexico. Their tentacles reached into Liverpool. A ring of British Airways workers at Heathrow was involved. But diligent international investigation by Mexico, England and Interpol–so vital, so much a result of cooperation among nations, so in danger due to Trump’s bellicosity–helped break up those operations.
England respects Mexico and the respect is reciprocated. Both nations now, increasingly, are looking toward themselves and to other nations (Europe, even China, perhaps Russia) for understanding and markets. The Trump administration continues to demean the reliability of the United States as a dependable ally. We don’t need time travel (we have things called history books) to adjudge the persistence and necessity of international ties. We must remain vigilant against any who would disparage values of cooperation among nations. We give special thanks/gracias to our two major Mother Countries. Viva Ingleterra! Viva México!
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows Queen Elizabeth II and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto participating in a toast during a state banquet at Buckingham Palace in March, 2015. (Photo: Dominic Lipinski/Pool)