U.S. and Mexico: A View from Zacatecas"
García Medina, the governor of Zacatecas,
spoke in the Geballe Room on Monday, April 4.
Still Distant Neighbors?
By Prof. Alex Saragoza
The central state of Zacatecas faces the challenges
of out-migration to the United States more than most regions
in Mexico. With roughly
half of all Zacatecanos resident north of the border, it is understandable
why the state’s governor, Amalia García, seeks to
link the issue of out-migration to the need for regional jobs
and growth and to the role of the United States in Mexico’s
economic development more generally. Citing the book Distant
Neighbors, by the New York Times’ former correspondent
in Mexico City, Alan Riding, Governor García stressed
how both countries are gripped in an inextricable embrace, sharing,
however reluctantly, a number of challenges.
A “social market economy” must characterize any
strategy of economic expansion, she said during her CLAS presentation.
In this light, NAFTA has benefited both countries, the governor
argued, but too often the distribution of the fruits of the trade
agreement has been far from equitable. Yawning income and regional
disparities persist in Mexico despite the agreement and its vaunted
outcomes. Not surprisingly, mutually different perceptions mar
Mexico–U.S. relations. Gov. García, a longtime member
of Mexico’s left-of-center party, the PRD, noted the very
different ways that the public of each nation understands the
results of NAFTA: Mexicans think it has largely benefited the
U.S., whereas their northern counterparts assume that Mexico
has garnered most of the gains from the agreement.
Much of the governor’s talk turned on the issues of migration
and immigration. About half the population of Zacatecas resides
in the U.S. at any given time, primarily as a consequence of
migration flows back and forth across the border, both legal
and undocumented. The importance of that flow of migration is
reflected in the size and growth of the Mexican origin population
in this country. But the significance of that flow for Mexico
is also enormous, as remittances in 2004 alone came to about
$17 billion. For Zacatecas, the sum of remittances amounted to
about $480 million. Citing the economist Jeffrey D. Sachs, Gov.
García suggested that the only way to stem the flow of
migrants to the U.S. would be a large-scale, sustainable investment
strategy to promote development, create more job opportunities,
extend credit, spend on infrastructure and expand internal and
external markets. On this point, the governor chided U.S. President
Bush for his declaration to the World Bank in 2001 that globalization
should be exploited to reduce poverty. “We need actions,” she
observed, “not only declarations.”
Gov. García went on to indicate how migration has shaped
her agenda as the head of her state. She has made numerous visits
to Home Town Associations (HTAs) organized by Zacatecanos in
the U.S. that funnel monies back to their hometowns for various
types of civic improvements. Taking advantage of the “Program
3 X 1,” the funds sent by the HTAs are matched by state,
local and federal monies to promote hometown enterprises, renovate
schools and build infrastructure. Migration has also colored
the politics of the state. The governor pointed out that several
members of the legislature have been migrants, which has created
support for electoral reforms to allow migrants to run for state
and municipal office. In sum, the governor concluded, Zacatecas
has become a binational state.
In the question and answer session, the theme
of migration continued to shape much of the discussion. The
governor expressed her evident
concern and thinly veiled outrage at organizations like the Minutemen,
a North American group of citizen volunteers in Arizona intent
on patrolling the border in an effort to discourage undocumented
entrants from Mexico. The rights of migrants must be protected,
urged the governor, as vigilante type efforts, like those of
the Minutemen, threaten fundamental human rights. She also criticized
the attempts of politicians to manipulate 9/11 terrorist concerns
to essentially bash immigrants, using the example of the drivers
license controversy. President Vicente Fox’s handling of
the immigrant issue with the White House also came under fire.
Immigration should be a bilateral discussion, Gov. García
stated emphatically. President Fox must be retake the initiative
in resolving the immigration question with this country. Toward
this end, the governor indicated her hope that a more European
Union type approach to labor would eventually develop among Mexico,
the United States and Canada. The governor went on to underscore
the specific importance of migrant workers to the economy of
California, as she made reference to the film, “A Day without
a Mexican,” to make her point.
She was quick, however, to return to an earlier comment: Mexico
needs to generate more and better jobs for its workers. In this
vein, she noted the growing threat of China to the employment
prospects for her country, as more and more companies move their
operations out of Mexico to take advantage of low Chinese labor
costs. Mexico must respond to the challenge by developing better
jobs and opportunities for its people, not by relying on more
maquiladoras and cheap labor. She enumerated her efforts and
those of other Mexican governors to develop ties with their counterparts
in the U.S. to foment mutually beneficial projects for the improvement
of health programs and services for migrant workers. She also
described her efforts to promote bilateral commercial opportunities
between her state and those U.S. states with large numbers of
Zacatecan migrants, including the improvement of transportation
linkages between her state and Texas, the key entry point for
Mexican trade to the U.S.
Though the discussion centered on issues of migration,
the governor also commented on her drive to develop the state’s
economic future and to better the social conditions for the
her state. She highlighted her efforts to modernize and expand
the silver mining sector, a traditional pillar of the economy
of Zacatecas, as means of providing jobs and trade for her state.
Furthermore, she described her effort to reach out to the most
marginalized groups in Zacatecas, such as indigenous communities,
like the Huicholes, for whom the governor has provided increased
state funding for educational and health services. Clearly, the
new governor of Zacatecas has taken a forceful, dynamic and broadly
conceived approach to the challenges facing her state. The outcomes
of her efforts will undoubtedly have long term effects, as Mexico
may be witnessing the emergence of a strong leader of national
García Medina on the Berkeley campus.
García Medina is the governor of
Zacatecas, Mexico. She spoke at UC Berkeley on April 4, 2005.
Alex Saragoza is Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies at UC
Original event text
"The U.S. and Mexico: A View from Zacatecas"
García Medina is the governor of the state of Zacatecas,
Mexico. Previously she served two terms as a Federal Deputy
and was the vice-president of the Executive Committee of the
Chamber of Deputies. Governor García Medina was also
a senator and a legislator in the Legislative Assembly of Mexico
City. She is dedicated to a number of causes, including equal
rights for women, human rights and the fight against corruption.
Her tireless work promoting citizens' initiatives has led to
substantial changes in the political system.