how the world sees america


February 8, 2008 3:38 PM

U.S. Soccer Lacks 'Sacred Fire'

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MEXICO CITY - "Now it's time for revenge," Erubiel says as the national soccer teams of Mexico and the United States jog onto the field at Houston's Reliant stadium. Revenge for what? I ask. Seizing California in 1848? Their answer is more modest: "We haven't beaten the U.S. [in an away match] in nine years." (At home, altitude gives Mexico the advantage, since they're accustomed to thinner air.)

"Mexico faces a mental hurdle," says PostGlobal panelist Leon Krauze, when it comes to defeating the U.S. Leon greeted me here in Mexico after my too-short press visa to Venezuela expired the other day. "Football (soccer) is the only thing left that Mexico is better at than the Americans, and it devastated this country when the U.S. beat us in the 2002 World Cup."

I head to the Salon Corona, the spot to watch soccer downtown, wondering if this is the year that "Mexico's psychological anxiety of losing" will be overcome.

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February 12, 2008 11:35 AM

Mexico Better Off Without U.S.?

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MEXICO CITY - "If the U.S. didn't exist, would Mexico be better off, exactly the same, or worse?" Leon Krauze asks his national radio audience of three million Mexicans. Jump to a commercial break, and calls start coming in. A lone woman in the adjacent office begins fielding the four dozen phone calls that will stream in over the next hour. She writes down replies at a frenetic pace, and hands them to Leon. He likes what he reads.

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.

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February 14, 2008 3:47 PM

Migrant Longing for Bimbo Bread


MEXICO CITY - Let's call it de-Bimbofication -- the process by which, over successive generations, Mexican Americans lose their nostalgia for Bimbo-brand-breads and start buying American brands instead. This phenomenon is one of the many challenges facing Daniel Servijte, CEO of Bimbo, the largest bread company in Mexico, as he tries to expand to American, and especially Mexican American consumers.

Daniel sees the gradual process of Mexican American assimilation, coupled with mounting anti-immigrant sentiment, a U.S. recession, and renewed emphasis on border controls as drags on his consumer base's readiness to go for Bimbo bread.

Take, for example, Daniel's recent experience in Texas, where he drove around in an unmarked white van between small Mexican marts asking consumers and vendors about their intake habits. After a few hours, word got out these mysterious vans were from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and then every mart he pulled up to next would evacuate immediately, illegal Mexicans sprinting out the door before him.

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February 19, 2008 11:15 AM

Mexico Wages Cartoon Wars Over U.S.

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MEXICO CITY - "They call me the cartoonist from the right, the pro-American cartoonist," says Francisco "Paco" Calderon, with a bemused look on his long, bearded face. "They call me a U.S. Pig." Hands on his belly, he stops suddenly to ponder his own words. Then he leans back in his chair, widens his eyes, and bellows at his critics: "You idiots, open your eyes! You are getting comfy in your coffin! "

This catches me a bit off guard. We're sitting in his cozy studio looking at the thousands of cartoons he's drawn over the years. They've morphed from rotund black and white figures in his youth to the sharp, toxic-colored panoramas of now. About one in five cartoons is about the U.S.

"I try to educate Mexicans a bit about the United States," he says, "to fight the caricature that the Left depicts of the United States as a blood-sucking vampire," he says, referring specifically to cartoonists in the socialist daily La Jornada, an ideological counterpart to his paper called Reforma - a publication that current President Felipe Calderon (no relation) once wrote for.

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February 20, 2008 3:23 PM

Americans Love Blood

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MEXICO CITY - Arena Mexico is bustling. Men wearing glittering masks hold their wives in one arm and their children in the other, jockeying for a view of the stage. Their favorite sport, Lucha Libre, Mexico's eighty-year-old form of wrestling, is about to begin.

I squeeze in beside a family of four and ask their opinion of the game. "Lucha Libre is a sport," they say, "it's acrobatic." They prefer it to the American version, which they say is "just entertainment." A round-faced teenage girl pipes up. Americans prefer wrestling that looks more like actual violence, she says. In the U.S., she says, "there is blood."

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February 25, 2008 11:30 AM

Don't Know Much About NAFTA

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PACHUCA - Few of the tiny cornfields surrounding Pachuca, the capital of the Mexican state of Hidalgo, are larger than five square acres. Most lack irrigation systems and are worked by hand -- often by the farmer’s many children -- resulting in a harvest of mini-sized maize that pulls in under US$1000 per year. The farming families here find themselves no better off, harvest after harvest. The years go by and the competition stiffens.

So the farmers make bricks, work construction jobs, and collect money from migrant relatives who move to the U.S. to keep afloat. They say they don't know much about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but remain certain it hasn't done them any good. Yet they blame the Mexican government, not America, for their suffering.

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February 26, 2008 10:34 AM

Hector, Father Turned Drug-Runner - Part I

Hector Salinas

HIDALGO - At age 18, Hector Salinas's girlfriend became pregnant unexpectedly. The pair promptly married, she bore their son, and the new father found himself unable to buy diapers and milk for his baby boy on the US$200 per month he earned working for the local water authority of the state of Hidalgo. So Hector headed north to the United States, alone.

Three years later, he was running drugs along the California coast, pocketing six thousand untaxed dollars per month, and sending his family at least US$800 per week. Hector says he fell deep into an underworld and ended up an unwitting witness to a murder.

That’s when he decided to escape the snares of his drug boss. He stole home to Hidalgo and met his baby boy for the first time in three years, vowing to keep him from a similar fate.

Over a long Friday afternoon, the affable Hector, now a spiky-haired office-worker in Mexico City, recounts his migration story systematically, in minute detail, as if chronicling its moments for his son’s generation. His speaks terse, matter-of-fact Spanish, his emotions always controlled. He refuses to pass judgment on any of the actors in his tale, including himself. He simply warns fellow Mexicans against rushing north, and urges them to temper their dreams of America.

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February 29, 2008 12:20 PM

The View From the Border

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TIJUANA - This is my final post before signing off. I'm at the border separating the United States from Mexico. Over the past year, I've written 150,000 words and conversed with all of you through another 3 million or so. But standing here, at this border and at this moment, I'm at a loss for words.

Here is where video comes in handy. Watch men and women, young and old, interact with the U.S. across its border fence, and share what you're thinking.

And, finally, here are the many thank yous I owe to journalists, friends, and readers who made this project possible and worthwhile. Thank you for making this the most enlightening and exhilarating year of my life.

PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send your comments, questions and suggestions for PostGlobal to Lauren Keane, its editor and producer.