The Realities of U.S.-Mexican Relations

Courtesy Reuters

When Jimmy Carter toasted José López Portillo on the occasion of the Mexican President's mid-February visit to Washington, he drew a laugh from those assembled in the White House State Dining Room by saying, "The Mexican people know what Yankee imperialism means, and being from Georgia, I have also heard the same phrase used." He went on to add:

There has been a saying of one of President López Portillo's predecessors, "Pobre México. Tan lejos de Dios, tan cerca de los Estados Unidos," which means in English, "Poor Mexico. So distant from God, so close to the United States." But I know that under President López Portillo's administration the distance from God has become much less and the proximity to the United States, I hope, will become a blessing and not a curse.

Earlier in the day, when greeting President Carter on the White House lawn, President López Portillo had remarked:

To be neighbors means to share everything, the good things and the bad things, too. We are absolutely convinced that it would not be correct to enhance the bad things that life brings on its own. On the other hand, friendship makes it possible for us to make progress by deepening and enhancing all good things. Therefore, it is advisable for good neighbors to be good friends.

Remarks on official state occasions are notoriously thin threads on which to hang weighty analyses, but as symbols they are not without their usefulness. To have Yankee imperialism - hardly a joking matter to most Mexicans - even mentioned in the White House suggests a modicum of historical candor. And certainly, whatever the López Portillo administration's relationship with God may turn out to be in the long run, one can only hope along with both Presidents that there will be more blessing than curse in Mexico's necessarily close relationship with the United States. But what realities must this hope confront, and what aspects of the total situation

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