Mexico's northern border region and U.S. relations

Raúl Fernández

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Abstract

La importancia de la franja fronteriza norte de México en las relaciones bilaterales con Estados Unidos aumenta a la par de la creciente fuerza económica de la región. En la frontera, los trabajadores indocumentados, las maquiladoras, el petróleo, la seguridad nacional y el turismo llevan a cabo una interacción que es crucial para Estados Unidos. En lo que a México respecta, el impacto que tendrá la región fronteriza sobre el grueso de la economía nacional obligará a un cambio en su postura en las relaciones entre los dos países y se pueden contemplar varios escenarios: un "tercer país", un mercado común norteamericano, y un pacto de las zonas fronterizas.Para llegar a cualquier acuerdo hay obstáculos, las tendencias hegemónicas son difíciles de borrar. Aún así, los muchos problemas que existen entre México y Estados Unidos deberán contemplarse como contratiempos entre amigos y su solución deberá provenir por principio, de esta amistad.


ABSTRACT

The importance of Mexico's northern border in bilateral relations with the United States grows apace with the region's increasing economic weight. At the border, oil, maquiladoras, undocumented workers, national security and tourism interface in a complex interaction crucial to the future of the United States. As for Mexico, the border region's impact upon the whole of the national economy will force a change in thinking regarding the relationship between the two countries. Several scenarios suggest themselves: a "third country," a North American common market, and a border areas compact. There are obstacles to any new arrangement. Hegemonic tendencies die hard, a problem for the United States to overcome. Mexico's suspicions of the northern neighbor are equally difficult to eliminate. But the many problems that exist between Mexico and the United States should be viewed as problems between friends, therefore resolvable in principle by friends.

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Referencias

An analysis of census figures is presented by Mario Margulis and Rodolfo Tuirán, "Nuevos patrones migratorios en la frontera norte: la emigración," Demografía y Economía, 18:59 (1984). The population of Mexican border towns may well have been underestimated by the 1980 census. For an overall critique, see Sergio Noriega Verdugo et al., Censo de Población y vivienda; 1980. Datos Relevantes, metodología y problemas principales para la investigación y el desarrollo. Cuadernos de Ciencias Sociales, Serie 2, núm. 4, Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, 1985. Many observers of the border cities feel that the population of Tijuana, for example, was considerably underestimated. In 1980 it was probably close to 800,000, and it hovers around 1 million today.

See, among other, Bryan Roberts, Cities of Peasants: The Political Economy of Urbanization in the Third World, Arnold, 1978; Ray Bromley and Cris Gerry, eds., Casual Work and Poverty in Third World Cities. New York: Wiley, 1979.

Peter Worsley, The Three Worlds. Chicago; University of Chicago Press, 1984, p. 210.

See Ernst Griffin and Larry Ford, "A Model of Latin American City Structure," Geographical Review70 (1980): 397-422 for an interesting comparison of Bogotá, Colombia and Tijuana, B. C.

Worsley, 1984: 175 For a contrary view, see Joan B. Anderson, "Causes of Growth in the Informal Labor Sector in Mexico's Northern Border Region," Journal of Borderlands Studies 3:1 (1988): 1-12.

The early shortcomings of the Border Industrial Program I pointed out years ago. See Raúl Fernández, "The Border Industrialization Program on the United States-Mexico Border," Review of Radical Political Economies 5 (1973): 37-52.

Evidence and evaluation of BIP performances are presented by J. Manuel Luna Calderón, "México: crecimiento orientado por exportaciones y segmentación de proceso productivo: la industria maquiladora." México, D. F.: Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, 1983; Joseph Grunwald, "Internalionalization of Industry: U.S. -Mexican Linkages," in Lay James Gibson and Alfonso Corona Rentería, eds., The U.S. and Mexico: Borderland Development and the National Economies. Boulder, Colo.,: Westview Press, 1985, pp. 110-138; Edward Y. George and Robert D. Tollen, "The Economic Impact of the Mexican Border Industrialization Program," Working Papers, Center for Inter-American and Border Studies, No. 20, University of Texas at El Paso, 1985; Norris C. Clement, "An Overview of the Maquiladora Industry," in Paul Ganster, ed., The Maquiladora Program in Trinational Perspective: Mexico, Japan and the United States. Institute for Regional Studies of the Californias, Border Issues Series, No. 2, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, 1987.

See, among others, María Patricia Fernández-Kelly, "Mexican Border Industrialization, Female Labor Force Participation and Migration," in June Nash and María Patricia Fernández-Kelly, eds., Women, Men and the International Division of Labor. Albany: State University of New York, 1983; Frieda Molina, "The Social Impacts of the Maquiladora Industry on Mexican Border Towns," Berkeley Planning Journal 2: 1-2 (Spring-Fall 1985): 30-38; Albert Levy Oved and Sonia Alcocer Marbán, Las maquiladoras en México. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1983; Sandra Arenal, Sangre joven: Las maquiladoras por dentro. México: Editorial Nuestro Tiempo, 1986; Joan B., Anderson, "Female Participation and Efficiency in Mexican Electronic and Government Assembly Plants," Campo Libre: Journal of Chicano Studies2: 1-2 (Winter-Summer 1984): 87-96; Devon Pena, "Skilled Activities among Assembly Line Workers in Mexican-American Border Twin-Plants," Ibid., pp. 189-208.

See J. Manuel Luna Calderón, op. cit.; Joseph Grunwald, op. cit.

Joseph Grunwald, "U.S.-Mexican Production Sharing in World Perspective," in Paul Ganster, ed., The Maquiladora Program in Trinational Perspective: Mexico. Japan, and the United States. Institute for Regional Studies of the Californias, Border Issues Series, No. 2, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, 1987.

Capital goods and durable goods (e.g., machine tools) are items utilized in the production of other products. Intermediate goods encompass industrial raw materials and other goods used as inputs in manufacturing. Consumer nondurables comprise food, clothing, and other items for direct human consumption.

BIP operations include maquila beef-the processing of live cattle imports from the United States for export back to the United States and Japan. See Steven E. Sanderson, "The Receding Frontier: Aspects of the Internationalization of U.S.-Mexican Agriculture and Their Implications for Bilateral Relations in the 1980s". Working Papers in U.S.-Mexican Studies, Program in United States-Mexican Studies, University of California, San Diego, 1981.

See Bernardo González-Aréchiga and José Carlos Ramírez, "Productividad sin distribución: cambio tecnológico de la maquiladora mexicana (1980-1986)" and Rocío Barajas, "Hacia un cambio estructural en la industria maquiladora de exportación en México," in Frontera Norte 1:1 (January-June 1989), El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, Tijuana, for detailed analysis of recent changes in the maquiladora processes.

See Douglas C. Bennett, "Regional Consequences of Industrial Policy: Mexico and the United States in a Changing World Auto Industry," in Ina Rosenthal-Urey, ed., Regional Impacts of U.S.-Mexican Relations. Monograph Series, No. 16. Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, University of California, San Diego, 1986.

Bennett, op. cit., p. 144.

Jean Revel Mouroz, "La frontera México-Estados Unidos: mexicanización e internacionalización," Estudios Fronterizos 2:1: 4-5 (May-December 1984).

In this essay I focus upon the importance of growth in Mexico's north. For an extended treatment of the economic past, present, and future of the U.S. Southwest, see my The Mexican-American Border Region. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989.

See Mario Margulis y Rodolfo Tuirán, Desarrollo y población en la frontera norte: el caso de Reynosa. México, El Colegio de México, 1980.

Peter Wiley and Robert Gottlieb, Empires in the Sun. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1982, p.246.

For the early period, see David J. Weber, The Mexican Frontier, 1821-1846: The American Southwest under Mexico. Albuquerque, N.M.: University of New Mexico Press, 1982. For the modern era, see Raúl A. Fernández, The U.S.-Mexico Border: A Political-Economic Profile. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977, chap. 7.

The increasing difficulty in providing adequate services to Mexico City has led the Mexican government to consider building a new capital further to the south. See Jorge G. Castañeda, "Should Mexico Move Capital to New City?" Los Angeles Times, August 19, 1987.

Kevin F. McCarthy, "The Slow-Growing Orange, A Demographic's Look at Future Los Angeles", The Rand Paper Series, April 1984; Thomas Muller, The Fourth Wave, Urban Institute Press, 1984.

See Tonatiuh Guillén López, "La cultura política y la elección presidencial de 1988: Hacia un análisis del neocardenismo" Frontera Norte 1:1 (January-July 1989) for an analysis of the Neocardenist movement.

Lorenzo Meyer in "La Simpson-Rodino, una parte del todo," Foro Internacional 107 (January-March 1987) suggested that what some perceive as support for the PAN as an alternative to the PRI may result in a political crisis—a vacuum of power—primarily because the PAN is far from being able to take on that role.

Niles Hansen, "The Nature and Significance of Border Development Patterns," in Lay James Gibson and Alfonso Corona Rentería, eds.. The U.S. and Mexico: Borderland Development and the National Economies. Boulder, Colo. and London: Westview Press, 1985, p. 12.

Richard R. Fagen, "How Should We Think about the Borderlands? An Afterword," New Scholar9:9.

Baja Times 8:12 (December 1986):15. The notion of a "third country" is not novel, but up to now its usage has been largely metaphorical. See Tom Miller, On the Border. New York: Ace Books, 1981.

Alicia Puyana, "La idea del Mercado Común de América del Norte y las implicaciones para México," in Lorenzo Meyer, comp., México-Estados Unidos, México: El Colegio de México, 1982.

For a Mexican view on the potential for Canada-Mexico relations, see Humberto Garza Elizondo, "México y Canadá en el decenio de los ochenta," Foro Internacional105 (July-September, 1986).

But see Gustavo del Castillo, "Política de comercio exterior y seguridad nacional en México: Hacia la definición de metas para fines de siglo," Frontera Norte1:1 (January-June 1989) for the benefits to be derived from tripartite exchanges between the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

For Locke, the process of compact creates a community, whereas the establishment of administrative units of political power constitutes a distinct process of "contract of government." See John Locke, Two Treatises of Government. Mentor Books, 1965, p. 126 and ff. The political system of Mexico is often referred to by PRI leaders as the Mexican "social pact"; the terminology is familiar to students of the border region's economy where the Colorado River Compact played a significant historical role.

This is a paraphrase of the speculation contained in Warner Bloomberg and Rodrigo Martínez-Sandoval, "The Hispanic-American Urban Order: A Border Perspective," in Gary Gappert and Richard V. Knight, eds., Cities in the 21st Century, vol. 23, Urban Affairs Annual Review, Sage Publications, 1982.

See Leo Chávez, Estevan T. Flores, and Martha López-Garza, "Migrants and Settlers: A Comparison of Undocumented Mexicans and Central Americans in the United States," Frontera Norte 1:1 (January-June 1989) for a comparison of the recent experience of Mexican vs. Central American migrants to the United States.

David Ronfeldt, The Modern Mexican Military: Implications for Mexico's Stability and Security. Santa Monica, Calif.: The Rand Corporation, 1985.

See Jesús Tamayo, "Frontera, política regional y políticas nacionales en México," Programa de Estudios Regionales, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, México, D. F., 1986.

This poignant description has been attributed to Dr. Paul Ganster. For a detailed discussion which demonstrates the anti-Mexico bias of some U.S. press accounts of this problem, see Roberto Sánchez, "La negociación de conflictos ambientales entre México y Estados Unidos," Frontera Norte 1:1 (January-June 1989).

Siempre 1777 (July 15, 1987): 16-17.

David J. Weber, op. cit.

Rober Dunbier, The Sonoran Desert. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1968.

John W. House, Frontier on the Rio Grande. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982





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