A Border Patrol vehicle drives alongside the border wall between the US and Mexico at Tecate
The worst thing about the US election for Mexico was supposed to be the fact that Donald Trump’s dialogue on immigration and trade would somehow shape Hillary Clinton’s policies.
She would introduce things to appease those who supported Trump, and his rhetoric would have a half-life that would continue to poison Mexico after his loss. This was made even more dangerous by the fact that nobody knew what those policies would be. Now, as the dust settles on Trump’s upset victory, things aren’t any clearer.
On election day, I spoke to Alejandro Carrillo, a political scientist from the Northern Frontier College in Tijuana, who watched the election with his colleagues.
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“The feeling that we share at this moment is one of a moral failure,” he said. “A divided country has authorised a candidate who campaigned on sexism, racism and xenophobia.”
Unfortunately, Carrillo can still only predict how policies will affect Mexico by interpreting rhetoric.
“Nobody is optimistic about the Trump administration and the relationship between Mexico and the US,” Carrillo said.
Trade will definitely be affected. Carrillo says there will be a wall between the US and Mexico, but whether it is a real wall or metaphorical is uncertain.
“He might impose some tariffs or increase the cost of getting a US visa,” he said. “But for Mexicans, it’s the feeling of rejection. He’s already built a wall. What’s been discussed is that he will do whatever is in within reach to make Mexico go away.”
One Mexican who has done well from the election result is 26-year-old Daniel Arbaiza, who graduated with a bachelor of social studies, anthropology and media communications from University of the Fraser Valley in Canada, and who now owns a jewellery store in Mexico City.
He cleaned up about US$150 from friends and family, having backed Donald Trump’s win.
I met him walking up from the beach the morning after the election, jubilantly exclaiming that he had a massive hangover, and that the world would now end.
“I knew he would win as soon as he was nominated. Hillary is such a turd sandwich,” Arbaiza said, referring to South Park‘s depiction of the two parties. “Bernie would have been a better candidate, but it was Hillary.”
He attributes the win to baby boomers, Trump’s “silent majority”.
“All of these guys are a bunch of white, Republican, straight-faced gringos that have this idea of how things should be. Not how things are, but how they think it should be. Most young people don’t vote, most people on the internet no matter how much they talk about politics don’t vote. But the older people vote, and America is an ageing population.”
He says after the GFC, the baby boomers wanted change, and it was Trump who represented change, whereas Clinton represented the opposite.
Arbaiza also has family in America that have lived there since before he was born.
“Trump doesn’t know the situation in Mexico or in America with Mexican immigrants,” he said. “And he wants to start kicking them out even though their whole lives are in America. They are full-on Chicanos, they have no place here in Mexico. How can they come back?”
Arbaiza believes that if 11 million illegal immigrants have to move back to Mexico, there will be more extreme poverty. Currently, more than 45% of Mexicans are impoverished.
He says that people like welders and labourers get good money in America, but in Mexico they are part of a large informal economy where they negotiate low-paying jobs based on oral agreements.
British freelance journalist Stephen Woodward, who lives in Guadalajara and contributes to Reuters and a Mexican English-language paper, says as he watched Mexican coverage of the election last night, the panel guests became more worried as the night went on.
And while he doesn’t think the wall is even possible, he says there is a real worry for Mexican-Americans: “A lot of Mexicans are worried about increases in racial attacks and discrimination they will face in the States.”
I also spoke with Cristina Puga, a political scientist from the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), before the election. She says the most important thing for her government to do is to instruct Mexican embassies and consulates to protect those in America.
“Trump has changed the American discourse. There have been a lot of strong opinions and it has [been] allowed to [become] anti-immigrant,” she said.
Puga says her government can only wait to see how things play out in terms of trade and relationships.
Trump has also vowed to start work on day one.
One girl from Chihuahua on holidays with some friends, who grew up in Colorado and then moved back to Mexico, sat on the sand at the hostel the morning after the election, close to the wi-fi router, and spoke to her family still in America.
She said she was worried about her family, but her brother said he would only look forward and towards the best outcome. Her family, she said, was relying on a lot of faith.