The state of unbecoming.
Notes on the disintegration of Mexico.
Yesterday’s notes on Ciudad México have attracted a deal of comment and attention, and if nothing else, I hope it spurs more people to visit it — and to learn more about Mexico in general. The country at large is a curious blind spot, for the most part, in American minds. There are only two nations with the capacity to cause serious harm to the United States in this century. One is the People’s Republic of China, and it poses its threat through plain malice. The other is the United Mexican States, and it poses its threat through no directed malice, but though the organic consequences of its own political disintegration.
We assume Mexico, as a polity, is a friend, or at least a neighbor with whom there are no outstanding points of contention. This is a deeply ahistorical view: the US-Mexico frontier (and before it, the Anglo-Spanish frontier) has been contested ground for nearly its entire existence, with only an interregnum from about 1920 (immediately after the last major American invasion of Mexico in the 1919 Third Battle of Juarez, which I’m willing to bet you are now learning of for the first time) to 2006, with the kickoff of the current Mexican-cartel war. That 86-year period is just a moment between the 1750s settlement of modern Texas, and the Year of Our Lord 2022, in which the border is effectively uncrossable — that is, if you want to have an ironclad assurance of surviving the experience.
Take the Laredo-Nuevo Laredo conurbation. I remember quite well that the cities used to be effectively interchangeable in terms of governance, law, and culture. Although I never did it, being too young for the experience, persons whom I know of the preceding generation used to cross from one to the other fairly often, for shopping, to eat, to visit family. That regime of exchange and comity lasted — despite the contested nature of the greater border — from the very establishment of Nuevo Laredo (as a colony of erstwhile Laredo residents who rejected American rule) in the mid-nineteenth century clear through to the past decade.
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