Mexico City—When President Vicente Fox said Mexicans should be glad they weren’t born in the United States, it was a reminder of an ugly little truth.
Aside from the U.S. economy, many Mexican citizens—especially those living in Mexico—don’t care much for the United States.
“We are already a step ahead, having been born in Mexico. Imagine being born in the United States, oof!” Fox said Tuesday with a chuckle, according to the Associated Press, after a remark that Mexicans should be thankful for their heritage.
The comment, made at a public event while Fox visited the central state of San Luis Potosi, raised some eyebrows in the United States, but went all but unnoticed in Mexico.
That is because although millions of Mexicans risk their lives to sneak into the United States as illegal immigrants each year, many see U.S. society and politics as troubled.
Mexicans often see the U.S. as full of broken families, rampant drug use and unchecked materialism that is run by a government that doesn’t hesitate to go to war or meddle in the affairs of others, a standing underscored by events in Iraq.
“It is an incredible schizophrenia we live with. We don’t have a good perception of the United States but we do cross the border,” said Edna Jaime, a Mexico political analyst.
The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City declined to comment.
Mexicans still point with anger to the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, under which Mexico signed away about half of its territory, including what would become Texas, California and other U.S. states.
“It doesn’t surprise me Fox would say that at all,” said Henry Dietz, a Latin American expert at the University of Texas at Austin. “Part of it is envy, part disdain, part a need to separate themselves and maintain an identity that is not overwhelmed by the United States.”
Among the most popular sayings regarding Mexico’s perception of the U.S. is one credited to Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz, removed from power by the 1910 Mexican Revolution: “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.”
Despite the negative reputation of the U.S., many Mexicans still see it as better than what they have at home.
“If Mexicans were so content here, why would millions of us try and go to the United States?” said Lino Chavez, a Mexico City artist. “If you ask me, what Fox said is stupid.”