Updated: Nov 18, 2020
I visited Mexico for three weeks over Christmas and New Year except this isn’t a travel journal or a list of recommended places to visit. This is because in those three weeks were I visited the three northern states of Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Sonora, I came away with one thought: I believe The United States of America is neo-colonising Mexico. The definition of Neo-colonialism is the practice of using capitalism, globalization and cultural imperialism to influence a developing country instead of direct military control (imperialism) or indirect political control. You may believe I am merely paranoid and cannot generalise the whole of America’s relationship with Mexico as modern colonialism as I only visited three states out of thirty-one, so please try and reserve judgement to the end.
One of the first things I noticed when I was in Mexico was the amount of Coca-Cola people drank. No matter age, gender or wealth, everyone seemed to be drinking it almost constantly. Even the indigenous Tarahumara people of which the majority of them still live in caves and practice Transhumance came into the towns and with the little money they had bought Coke. Statistics show that Mexicans actually drink more soda than nearly anyone else in the world. In 2012 their three top daily sources of calories were all from high-calorie drinks. This addiction to sugary drinks means they also have the world’s highest death rate from chronic diseases caused by consumption of sugary drinks. This death rate is nearly triple that of the second country, South Africa. In some kind of twisted irony, the excessive consumption kills double the amount of Mexicans as trade in the other kind of coke that Mexico is famous for…
This consumption may be deadly but it also has large economic implications. FEMSA is a Mexican multinational beverage and retail operator, however, the most important fact is that it also runs the largest independent Coca-Cola bottling group in the world. This isn’t necessarily surprising considering how much is consumed. Coke controls 73% of the Mexican market compared to only 42% of the US one from which the product originates. This market share grows more symbolic with the ex-president of Coca-Cola Mexico being Vicente Fox. Fox was the President of Mexico in 2000. The importance of this grows when it was revealed in 2006 Mexico’s National Survey of Health and Nutrition that diabetes – the country’s leading cause of death – had doubled since 2000.
Just by using the example of Coca-Cola the influence of such an iconic American company is having by using capitalism, globalization and cultural imperialism.
The second key thing I noticed was the amount of crops being produced in a country with such a critical water shortage. Even in December Northern Mexico has temperatures of 30+ degrees and so the amount of water needed to grow fruit and vegetables is tremendous. However, when going to a local supermarket the amount of produce on display was sparse. This is because trade is highly important for Mexico’s economy with them being a part of many free trade agreements including, and most notably, NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). With 90% of Mexico’s exports going to the U.S.A (who takes the majority) and then Canada. It is not just the cliché avocados and corn which Mexico exports but also consumer appliances: in 2008, 1 in 4 consumer appliances sold in the United States was of Mexican design. Those stores I visited (mentioned earlier) were majority branches of American ones, which isn’t surprising considering that the Walmart Mexico division is the largest outside of the United States with as of 2016, 2,402 stores.
Through capitalism Mexico is dependent on the United States buying their goods and services, through globalization Mexicans consume American goods and through cultural imperialism a Western particularly American Hegemony continues.
Thirdly, I noticed the amount of American brand cars on the road. I visited the Copper Canyon (a series of massive canyons in northern Mexico, apparently 7 times larger than the Grand Canyon) and was driven in Chevrolet – a subsidiary company of General Motors. This prevalence is due to the fact that since the 1930’s General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, “The Big Three”, have operated in Mexico. They are the largest automakers in the United States and Canada. Therefore, Mexicans are drinking American products, buying them from American stores, exporting their own products for the same stores across the border, building and then, possibly driving American branded cars.
This means their economies are inextricably linked with 1.8% of Mexico’s GDP in 2015 coming from remittances from the U.S.A. This goes farther with Mexico’s stock market as due to the high volume of trading in Mexican equities through ADR’s; a stock that trades in the United States but represents a specified number of shares in a foreign corporation (Mexico is highly dependent on the US). As of January this year there are currently 27 Mexican companies trading on the US OTC (Over-The-Counter) Markets. On the stock-market it’s also in tourism, 7.2 million Americans visited Mexico in 2014 which was the largest proportion of travellers from one country to do so. 1 million Americans also live in Mexico. I predominantly stayed in a town called Alamos, with a large minority of the residents being American ex-patriots. In fact, I stayed with some.
However, it isn’t just economic factors in which America has influence over Mexico, it’s through Cultural Imperialism too. Just by looking at the current top 40 with only 9 not being American artists. Advertising in magazines, on television and billboards also portrays women and men who have more Western European features, with blonde hair and blue eyes; not typical Mexican ones… Whitewashing in the beauty and advertising industry is a huge issue globally, however, with Coca-Cola advertising encouraging the consumption of it in order to emulate your American neighbours- I believe a dangerous line starts to be crossed.
Accusing America of Neo-colonialism is quite bold, except the influence of American companies through capitalism and, globalization is undeniable, it means a large percentage of Mexico’s GDP is dependent on the United States purchasing their goods and services. These same companies also provide valuable jobs. Therefore, they could easily influence policy decisions using trade and employment as coercion. The pervasion of American culture in Mexico is also high. Thus, they are also being influenced through cultural imperialism. If, by using capitalism, globalization and cultural imperialism, a developing country can be effected then it is Neo-colonialism.