I couldn't help being surprised by the scornful reaction of many Mexicans to the growing consensus in the world media that this is "Mexico's moment" in the global economy.
Over the past few weeks, there has been a flurry of glowing headlines around the world announcing that Mexico will eclipse Brazil, and perhaps even India and China, as the world's most promising economic star.
In January, The
Late last year,
Until only a few months ago, most international media had been carrying hair-raising headlines about Mexico, focusing on the estimated 60,000 deaths in drug-related violence over the past six years. Some even speculated that Mexico was becoming a "failed state," like Somalia, where the government can't control its entire territory.
How can one explain this sudden turnaround? Mexico may have become an overnight media darling by default: With Brazil's growth fizzling, the economies of China and India slowing down, and Europe in recession, Mexico is shining by default. Mexico's economy grew by 4 percent last year, compared with Brazil's 0.9 percent growth.
Also, we journalists are like birds sitting on a telephone wire: Once one of them takes off, all of them take off. We tend to have a pack mentality, whether we admit it or not.
During my visit, I found widespread skepticism in the local media, and among Mexicans in general, about the sudden international love affair with Mexico.
"After so many years of mediocre economic growth, there is a lingering mood of frustration," pollster Ulises Beltran, head of the BGC polling firm, told me.
According to Beltran's latest poll, released in early February, only 46 percent of Mexicans believe the next five years will be better, compared with 56 percent when the previous government started a six-year term in 2006.
People's confidence has risen somewhat since Pena Nieto took office in December, but 66 percent say Mexico's economic situation is "regular" or "bad," the poll shows.
When I asked an audience of about 500 people during a panel in Mexico City last week whether they were optimistic about Mexico's future, only half of the people raised their hands.
And most political analysts react with a mixture of caution and humor to the upbeat forecasts from abroad.
Commenting about the
My opinion: Mexico is not a "new China," nor a tiger economy, at least not yet. But there is no doubt that there is a constellation of positive factors working in Mexico's favor - and we haven't seen such developments in decades.
The U.S. economic recovery is likely to help Mexico's exports, a likely U.S. immigration reform may legalize millions of Mexicans who would get better-paying jobs and send billions of extra dollars back home in family remittances, and soaring wages in China are driving growing numbers of multinational manufacturing firms to relocate to Mexico.
Just as important is an unprecedented agreement signed
And last week's passage of a constitutional amendment to allow teachers' evaluations and other far-reaching education reforms, along with the much-publicized arrest of almighty teachers' union leader Elba Esther Gordillo, may signal that Pena Nieto is serious about pushing his various reform plans.
But for Mexico's rise to become a reality, Mexicans will have to start believing it themselves.
So far, the Pena Nieto government has done a great job convincing foreigners that Mexico is on the rise, but it will have to start doing something to help boost Mexicans' self-esteem at home, as has happened in Peru and Colombia in recent years, in coordination with opposition parties.
If Mexicans are not convinced, Mexico's moment will not last long.
- Latin America's Fastest-Growing Economies
- A Post-Castro Era Looms for Cuba
- It's Time to Delist Cuba
- Evolving United States - Mexico Relations
- Mexico's Drug War: Balkanization Leads to Regional Challenges
- Venezuela's Maduro Off to a Bad Start
- Venezuelan Opposition Leader Gains New Political Clout
- Venezuela's Maduro Hurts his Own Case
- Venezuela Lags Behind in Social Gains
- Argentine President May Be Hurt by 'Francismania'
- A Guatemalan Tyrant Faces Justice at Last
- The Free Market Experiment in Latin America
- Surprise! Mexico Backs Human Rights Cause!
- The Deal That America and Russia Must Make Following Chavez's Death
- Venezuela Election: David vs Goliath Contest
- Venezuelan Elections: Rehabilitated Neoliberalism vs 21st Century Socialism
- Chavez: American Nemesis, Latin American Hero
- Open Letter to The Economist - RE: 'Hugo Chavez's Rotten Legacy'
- Argentine Pope Could Impact Politics in Latin America
- Argentina Shoots Itself in the Foot Over Falkland/Malvinas Islands
- Brazil Should Stop Being Self-Absorbed Giant
- Mexico's Education Reform May Prove Historic
- Everybody is Upbeat on Mexico — Except Mexicans
- NAFTA at 20: The New Spin
- Venezuela Vice President Maduro Will Raise Anti-American Rhetoric - For Now
- Chavez's Populism will Remain Popular for Decades
- Ecuador, The Dictatorship of the 21st Century?
- With Chavez Absent, Venezuela is in Limbo
- United States - Europe Deal Will Impact Latin America
- Latin America's Corruption Starts at Top
- Argentina-Iran Deal Makes a Mockery of Justice
- Haiti's Man-Made Hell
- Salvadoran Gang Leaders Achieve a Measure of Redemption
- Latin America Should Not Be an Asterisk
- Militarizing Latin America: Four More Years
- Latin America's New Leader: Raul Castro
- The Falklands Referendum: A Hemispheric Balancing Act
- Argentina's Leader Populist, But No Longer Popular
- Mexico's Cartels and the Economics of Cocaine
- Super-Rich Pay Lower Taxes in Latin America
(c) 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.