Managing the relationship between Mexico and the United States has never been easy for either country. In the year 2000, however, there has been progress in the way the governments have dealt with each other compared to the past 150 years.
The content and repercussions of the only two agreements ever signed between the two countries could help us understand the depth of the attitudinal change in the relationship. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo had an enormous cost for Mexico. With it, Mexico not only lost half its territory to the U.S. but also gained a deep mistrust of its powerful neighbor. The 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, on the other hand, has allowed Mexico to triple its exports to the U.S. in only six years. NAFTA has helped Mexicans develop a hitherto unknown confidence that they should be treated as equals to the mighty neighbor.
The saying "Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States," which so aptly captured the apprehension Mexicans felt, has been replaced by a new attitude: A dignified sense of cooperation pays more dividends than the traditional confrontation. The economic, political, social and cultural differences between the two countries are enormous. And all these pose a tremendous challenge for leaders, here and there, who have to formulate policies and chart the political course that the relationship will require in the future.