Why Mexico will continue to rise

Hardnews Bureau

As Mexico is set to celebrate 207 years of its independence, it should look behind and delve into its history to find the strength to face the challenges ahead


Interestingly, Mexico does not observe its Independence Day on the date when it gained independence. It is instead celebrated on a day when a progressive Catholic priest, named Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, urged his countrymen to take up arms against the Spanish government. The war that followed dragged over a decade before a treaty was signed in 1821, establishing Mexico as an independent constitutional monarchy under Agustín de Iturbide, an army general and politician. Barely 18 months later, the emperor was ousted and the first Mexican Republic was established.

During the years that followed, the country saw frequent armed conflicts between the conservative Spanish-origin landowning elite and the largely indigenous landless minority, resulting in instability. A young country at the time, Mexico saw a long period of turmoil and reforms before transitioning into the republic that it is today. The La Reforma period between 1855 and ’72 was characterised by the passing of liberal reforms that limited the power and influence of the Catholic Church.

Four years later, the country witnessed a 35-year-long dictatorship between 1876 and 1911 under the rule of Porfirio Diaz. The period brought a long period of stability, modernisation, and economic growth, but at the price of political repression and stagnation. The Mexican Revolution that began in 1910 ended Diaz’s rule in 1920 and led to the establishment of a constitutional republic. Like any nation-in-making, Mexico has witnessed periods of strife and civil war but has stood the test of time and reaffirmed its deep affinity for and commitment to a democratic system time and again.

Mexico became a multiparty democracy in the mid-1990s and elections that have been held since 1996 have been generally regarded as free and fair. The voting process followed in the country is touted to be superior to that of the United States and is overseen by an agency whose political independence is internationally acclaimed.

At one point of time, the Latin American country used to be home to a variety of indigenous civilisations, like Maya of the Yucatan, Totonac, Huastec, Otomi, Mixtecs, Zapotecs, Tlaxcalans, Tarascans, and Aztecs. They had elaborate urban centres used for religious, political, and commercial purposes. Because of its rich culture and heritage, Mexico has the most number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in America.

Mexico is a member of the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, the G8+5, the G20, the Uniting for Consensus and the Pacific Alliance. It was the first Latin American country to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1994. It is classified as an upper-middle income country by the World Bank and a newly industrialised country by several analysts. The Latin-American nation currently ranks as the world’s 15th-largest economy. Its output of around $9,000 per person ranks about on par with Romania and Turkey, a little ahead of Brazil—and well ahead of China’s $7,900. By 2050, Mexico is projected to become the world’s fifth or seventh largest economy.

The spurt in growth can be attributed to a government that does not levy personal income tax and rather uses a variety of business and consumption taxes to fund government services. The workforce needed to fill the constant-growing manufacturing industry is pruned by the government through a system of free public education till the 9th grade. Higher education is also available at public expense for those with talent and ambition.

To boast of a history that is nearly two-century-old and which has witnessed periods of strife and the dictatorial regime is a feat in itself. For a nation that has emerged out of it with more strength and commitment to values of personal liberty is what makes the country’s Independence Day a proud day in the calendar for Mexicans. As the anti-Mexico rhetoric picks up momentum in US and Mexico looks at the challenges that await it, it should draw its strength from its 200-year-old legacy.

 

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: SEPTEMBER 2017

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