Noche Buena, or Christmas eve, is a Mexican Christmas gift, right on our doorstep. Among other hopeful signs, “tourism is rebounding after two years in a pandemic-induced recession” (“The Rise of Mexico,” Hotels, 5 Dec 22). 

Mexico beckons! Go, enjoy the Zen, for Christmas eve or the passion, for New Year’s eve. Go to nearby Progreso, here on the border of the Rio Grande. Have a margarita at Arturos. Perhaps go on to Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, or one of the other pueblos mágicos. A trip to Mexico is a gift that keeps giving. So near, so (relatively) inexpensive. So full of culture and history—both closely connected with that of the United States. “Como México, no hay dos,” or “There is nothing like Mexico,” so the saying goes. And, our fascinating neighbor is upward bound, its economy improving, its society worthy of increased appreciation. 

Mexico is a country of 130 million people, It is—often repeated, but little understood—the third major trading partner for the US (after China and Canada). Problems there abound, (corruption, cartels)  but the modern financial sector is competitive and the banking system remains well capitalized (Heritage Foundation, “2022 Index of Economic Freedoms,” 20 Dec 22). Most importantly—for both countries, as well as for the Rio Grande Valley of Texas—Mexico is our next-door neighbor.

Our two countries are different in many ways. Consider: Mexico hoped to grant asylum to Pedro Castillo, ousted President of Peru. Castillo was a former campesino, or farmer, and school teacher, but was removed by a right wing Congress. (Sebastián Castañeda, “Peru’s First Poor President,” AFP News, 7 Dec 22). Mexico is famous for granting asylum to major leaders, such as Trotsky, fleeing Stalin, or Salvador Allende, seeking refuge from a fascist military golpe de estado (coup) in Chile. (viz: film, “Missing,” by Costa Gavras.) Yet, Mexico and the US are more alike than we think.

For example, AMLO, (Andrés Manuel López Obrador), current Mexican President, is accused of attempting to meddle in affairs of INE (El Instituto Nacional Electoral), the Mexican institution that regulates elections, in favor of his own political party, MORENA (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional, or National Regeneration Movement), before the 2024 campaigns and elections. 

Perhaps a US former president—and candidate for 2024 – could give AMLO tips? Would he try to emulate that president or others in the US who deny results of valid elections? Ojalá que no! God Forbid! AMLO cannot succeed himself. The Mexican Constitution allows only one sexenio, or six-year term. The name of his party, MORENA, cleverly evokes “La Virgen Morena,” the Virgin Mary, national religious symbol of Mexico. But if spiritual help doesn’t work, might electoral manipulation be needed?

What lessons can we learn from Mexico’s dilemmas? For one thing, both “right” and “left” politicians or political systems can be corrupted. Therefore, the masses, the elites, and those in between must be ever vigilant, lest they lose their rights and/or their democracy, to the extent they enjoy one. Mexico’s democracy is more fragile, more besought by perennial obstacles– histories of authoritarian rule, invasions by the US (and, previously, by colonial powers of Europe). 

The US system is more powerful, but also more a slave to unrepentant, greedy capitalism. And too often, the US allows racist “leaders”—anti-Mexico, anti-Mexican and anti-Latin American—to operate, largely unchallenged. Most of us are better than that, supportive of our Constitution and our dedication to fair play.

Bright, alert people, concerned for their future, must be on the watch for any—right or left—who pursue personal, avaricious goals, at the expense of the general good. May this Christmas and Hannakuh season help us re-learn and resurrect the best ways of living—and loving. We must expand faith—faith in the promise of Noche Buena (“peace and goodwill for all mankind”) and faith in the promise of science and education, giving us the tools to save the environment, and our planet.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Dr. Gary Mounce, a professor emeritus (political science) at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. Mounce can be reached by email via: [email protected].

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