European Colonization of the Americas
In the early 1500s, the Spaniards were sent to colonize the New World, not hesitating in expanding to a much broader spectrum, even establishing a few “short-lived colonies” far up north in Florida. Since then, Mexico’s North and a few states of the United States’ South, have displayed differing characteristics from their respective countries. Woodard, an American journalist, and writer well known for American
Nations argues that their “staggeringly remote location from the centers of the Spanish American civilization” triggered a disparity between their countries in terms of culture, resulting to a floating border.
On a current note, over 400 years later after the Spanish conquest, said cultural disproportion between Mexico’s North and South has been further incited by the immigration flow from Mexico’s South to the US since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. The alienation subsequently created a floating border with hybrid zones and no well-established culture up North, where a mestizo culture established with both “Mexicanidad” and “American way of Life”.
THE TWO REGIONS
The North. Mexico’s North — constituted of Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas — is characteristic to the term ‘floating border’ 1 presented by a renowned senior researcher of the Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales de la UNAM 2, Gilberto Giménez.
As he reported, the Mexican-American border is a situated hybrid zone with no well-established culture, which is most often considered a ‘mestizo’ 2 region. As cities from both sides of the frontier seemed to develop in a twin pair scheme — McAllen-Reynosa or Laredo-Nuevo Laredo —, a new culture arises with both Mexican and American traits, subsequently alienating the North even further from the Mexican society.
Through research carried out by the UNAM where Southerners were asked to present their view of the North, many of the respondents viewed it with fascination and attraction as it had an ‘American Way of Life’ — such mindset being further denominated by researchers as the “tropism of the North” 3. On the other hand, natives of the Anglo-American communities within the Southern states of the United States often perceive the North as a “latin reconquest” figuring a true foreign invasion.
These conclusions have significant applications in the distinctiveness of the North since the implementation of NAFTA, as they portray the preferability coming from the Mexican Southerners but the hostility of the Americans.
The South. Due to the regional disparity in the Mexican labor markets, poverty, and education, the implementation of NAFTA was felt inconsistently through the country. Such effects contributing to an increase of the Mexican immigrant population in the U.S. between 1990 and 2005. (Perreira 2011).
The ramifications were mostly present in rural, agricultural areas of the Mexican South where the decrease in wages for poverty-stricken regions incited the migration to the North in search of fair wages and a glimpse of the ‘American Dream’. Various Southern states such as Chiapas, Oaxaca, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Yucatán, and Guerrero, did not have a favorable outcome within the terms of NAFTA. Correspondingly, Southerners migrated to the Mexican-American border contributing to the hybridization of the North with folklore and traditions of their parting regions.
EFFECTS OF NAFTA
Immigration ; Migration. During the 1990s, as explained by Mexican Families in North Carolina, an article published by the University of North Carolina and written by Krista M. Perreira, NAFTA strongly influenced the privatization of the Mexican ejido system on agricultural based areas of Southern Mexico.
As a result, Southerners migrated towards the North in search of a sustainable lifestyle and supply for their families. Norma Ojeda, Professor of the Sociology Department at the San Diego State University, describes how migration flow subsequently changed the cultures of both their parting and arriving communities as farmers, professionals, technicians, and businessmen migrated up North taking within them Southern traditions and behavior. For instance Americanization.
The American culture referenced by Maitane Zuloaga, a graduate student from I.T.E.S.M. University Monterrey, as ‘pop culture’ 4, significantly influenced the cultural mindset and cultural industries 5 within the Mexican society. In her paper, Zuloaga argues that Mexico derives from a dual society where the developed communities live side by side with the underdeveloped regions making it difficult to understand the cultural lifestyle of the country.
The Mexican culture is characterized by its diverse nature; however, as soon as NAFTA was implemented in the early months of 1994, “a wave of major cultural industry changes in Mexico were underway” (Zuloaga 2001). The author maintains that the treaty fomented a rise in the demand for American products — T.V shows, radio, clothes, food, music, and movies — as it brought to Mexico numerous U.S. goods with minimal to no supplementary tariffs.
Consequently, the demand for cultural products increased, creating a much more competitive ground for national cultural entities. For instance, Mexican conglomerates of television were heavily impacted by Americanization as the Mexican government presented no previous request for a cultural exemption clause which would “exclude its cultural activities in order to be in a better position to protect” (Zuloaga 2001). By these means, the U.S. had the liberty to incite cultural trends within Mexico with no repercussion.
A survey taken from the research of José Carlos Lozano, a recognized Level II member of SNI 6, notices the effect as citizens of Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey favored American films, sports, and soap operas over Mexican items (Lozano 2006). Due to the geographical closeness of the North to the U.S., the Northern states were impacted by a much stronger wave of Americanization than those of the South; nonetheless, major Southern cities like Guadalajara and Mexico City were considerably impacted due to their strong economic development.