He expected knee-jerk anti-Americanism from his audience -- vague calls for Mexican sovereignty. Three months ago his station, W Radio, lost Carmen Aristegui, a prominent host of what Leon calls "The Populist Left"; she accused the station of effectively censoring her. Leon, who sees himself as a pragmatic progressive, began broadcasting from the same station on a show with the same name, Hoy Por Hoy (Today for Today), but with a very different view of the U.S.
Leon's father, Enrique, is a prominent Mexican historian, who collaborated closely with Octavio Paz and founded the magazine 'Letras Libres.' Both father and son Krauze vociferously opposed leftist presidential hopeful Lopez Obrador in 2006, dubbing him a dangerous Messiah. Thirty-three-old Leon saw greater hope in Felipe Calderon, now president, a pro-business figure who, like the Krauzes, supports closer ties with the U.S.
Leon's gotten used to taking heat from supporters of Lopez Obrador, and what he calls "that small part of the loud Left that insists on frowning upon everything." This group, he says, opposes the United States at every turn, from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to the liberalizing/privatizing of Mexican oil ownership (the hot topic now). Their emphasis on "sovereignty," he says, is misplaced for a nation whose people and economy are entwined with those right across their borders.
About a fifth of today's callers tell Leon what he expected to hear. The first caller, Enrique Mendrillo says, "Mexico has been losing to the U.S. since the 1800s. They always leave us nothing!" and he calls on Leon "not to forget 1848." Another caller, Mario Rosales, then laments President Felipe Calderon's visit to the U.S. this week, worrying that he'll bargain away Mexico's oil resources to the United States' private sector, much as La Malinche enabled Spain's Hernán Cortés to conquer the Mayan Empire. (Don't forget 1521 either.)
Another 20% of the callers who say Mexico must look within to solve its problems. "The problem isn't with the U.S. in Mexico, it's with our own corrupt politicians," Rogelio Rivera Lopez says succinctly. Don't look north for salvation, he warns.
The remaining three-fifths like Carlos Frauda from Nayarit, argue that "we’d be much worse off without the U.S." He says Mexico's education system would be weaker, its movies duller, and its citizens poorer, looking more like "Mexico's poor Honduran, Guatemalan and El Salvadorian neighbors." Caller Rodrigo La Torre provocatively quotes a former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, who apparently said: "There’s no worse punishment for Mexicans than to leave them alone to govern themselves," invoking the U.S. as a protectorate of sorts.
Time's running out for the show. A Tom Petty tune swells, and Leon calls out, "Buenos noches, amigos." He flips a switch and says, with a surprised look on his face: "I didn't expect that!"
His callers ran the gamut, from fierce, historically-rooted distrust of the U.S. to a passive dependence upon it. Where does Leon come down? He'd say in the pragmatic center. As one caller Ignacio Chavez put it, "Let’s leave the complaints alone already and take advantage of our northern neighbor!"