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Post Heat-Shimmer at a Line in the Sand: Gary Moore Reflects on the US-Mexico Border
Created by John Eipper on 09/12/19 5:03 AM

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Heat-Shimmer at a Line in the Sand: Gary Moore Reflects on the US-Mexico Border (John Eipper, USA, 09/12/19 5:03 am)

Gary Moore writes:

Even as Brexit clamors, Richard Hancock's new post (September 10) on something far away--the Bracero Program, and hence the global riddle of illegal immigration--is a quietly stunning look at lost history, lost opportunity, nearly lost sanity.

It pairs unexpectedly with my own 1999 Mexico article (September 9) that JE fitly suggested was a window onto once-upon-a-time US-Mexico future promise that could not be. The old line in the sand drawn by Rio Grande, Monument One (and allegedly by a drunken Gadsden Purchase surveyor), had an organicity only implicitly separating Haves from Have-Nots. More immediately it sliced (as drafters may have consciously considered) between ungovernability and (north of the line) a Wild West that could eventually be passably governed. The lost history peeking from Richard's vivid authority and my own 1999 glibness unmasks a disowned split in liberal thinking that seeks to rescue Mexico--a split between promising practicality (like Richard's wry removal of the bracero bully), and authority-hating shouts that destroy (as Bracero-like approaches were destroyed in the euphoria of the 1960s, a euphoria including Vietnam).

Also masking was "the Mexico narrative," portraying a halcyon Mexico climbing naturally to developed status after World War II--though the 2000s would reveal that periodic colossal holes in this narrative were in fact the real story: not a skyrocketing into full development but a steady state of slow burns of ungovernability, with the old bandido hordes of the nineteenth century being not such an ancient exception after all. By all indications, Mexico will indeed continue to shudder toward greater prosperity and stability, but amid the towering ungovernability challenges that can either be happily masked or disastrously attacked.

Euphoria didn't ask for this.

JE comments:  Euphoria never stops to think.  Gary Moore's reflection on Mexico reminds me of Istvan Simon's conference presentation at WAIS 2009.  (Can that have been 10 years ago?)  Istvan described his native Brazil as the "nation of the future" for the last century or more.  The future for Brazil briefly seemed to have arrived for a decade in the early 2000s--but now things have returned to their traditional dysfunction.


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  • US Aid vs Remittances to Mexico, Central America (Timothy Brown, USA 09/14/19 4:29 AM)
    A bit of data might help with the discussion on borders and immigration.

    In 2018 US Consulates in Mexico issued 9 million non-immigrant visas, plus 1.3 million Border Crossing Cards. More than a half-million of the NIVs were temporary worker visas (today's braceros).


    The number of legal crossings from Mexico into the US were more than 300 million, most of them shopping trips.


    In 2018, according to Central Bank Data published by The Dialogue, family remittances to Mexico totaled $33,470,000,000.


    Central American countries also received remittances from the US:


    Costa Rica $ 531 m.

    El Salvador $ 5466 m.

    Guatemala $ 9288 m.

    Honduras $ 4751 m.

    Nicaragua $ 1.501 m.


    Total +/- $ 21.5 b.


    US foreign aid to Mexico and Central America runs $ 750 m. to $ 1 billion a year.


    JE comments:  There's no question that remittances accomplish far more than direct aid, which as Tim Brown pointed out recently, is often wasted:  "Poor people in rich countries giving money to rich people in poor countries."  Remittances are not very useful for major development projects though, such as water and roads.  Gary Moore recently discussed Chicago's "Hometown Clubs," which pool money for infrastructure projects in Mexico.  Tim, can you give us some other examples?

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