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A new day of old ways in Mexico?

Photo by John Moore / Getty Images

In Mexico — as with much of Latin America — power follows power, and after what must’ve felt like 12 long years, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) is back in Los Pinos.

Enrique Peña Nieto, the 46-year-old former governor of the state of Mexico, was inaugurated on the first of December amid massive protests both in favor and in opposition of the new president and the party he represents.

During his inaugural address, he promised to lead the nation “where it needs to go.”

Mexico’s new chief executive faces a laundry list of issues, of course, from a drug war against powerful cartels that has cost 60,000 lives since 2007, to a relatively stable yet fragile economy much too dependent on informal work.

Last month Shannon O’Neil, senior fellow for Latin American Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote a great blurb on the perception crisis confronting the Mexicans, one that paints America’s neighbor to the south as a backward, “gangland gunbattle,” instead of what it’s actually closer to being: “Canada on the Rio Grande.”

As O’Neil writes:

“The neighbor Americans believe they have to the south, and the Mexico that has developed over the last twenty years, are two different places. As Mexico’s incoming president Enrique Peña Nieto meets with President Obama this week, the biggest challenge facing relations today may be our skewed perceptions.

In Americans’ psyches, drugs dominate. When advertising firm GSD&M and Vianovo strategic consultants asked Americans to come up with three words that describe Mexico, nearly every other person answered ‘drugs,’ followed by ‘poor’ and ‘unsafe.’ Other questions reveal Americans see Mexico as corrupt, unstable, and violent, more problem than partner. Americans had more favorable views of Greece, El Salvador, and Russia.

These perceptions reflect the Mexican reality that dominates headlines: soaring crime rates and gruesome murders in a war against drug traffickers. But this window into Mexico overlooks an economic transformation and deepening ties with the United States that reflect a dramatically different country.”

Peña Nieto must also contend with Mexico’s fading role as a leader in Latin America at the hands of growing economic powerhouse Brazil. Fortunately for the new chief, Mexico’s economy is expected to expand at an astounding rate of 4 percent in 2013, which is twice as much forecast for Brazil.

Still, many Mexicans at home and abroad are waiting to see just what kind of PRI has returned to power in the beloved patria, whether this is the corrupt and repressive party that ruled Mexico from its birth in 1929 to its historic loss in 2000 — the party that Peruvian Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa labeled “the perfect dictatorship” — or whether this really is a new, much more democratic PRI. Will Peña Nieto continue his predecessor’s bloody military-style campaign against the drug cartels, possibly resulting in 60,000 more lives lost? Or will he and the PRI revert back to the double-dealing that maintained a black harmony between drug dealers and civil society?

As always, only time has the answers.

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. Probably not.

  2. More corruption and more demands to the US while they still send their registered citizens here to take resources and jobs from Americans and to send back $$$$ back home.

  3. nope. same old crap, new packaging.

  4. Probably not. Pinches fresas. You should check out his daughter’s twitter account. She’s the “princess of Mexico.”

  5. Calm down Mario. You’re Cuban. At least your people are granted asylum upon touching the beaches of Florida. Where’s your outrage there?

  6. I truly wonder how some people get through the day, what with all the misplaced anger and sound-byte prejudice bubbling just below the surface, ready to spew forth even when completely pointless and off-topic.

  7. We will see….more than likely nothing will change….smh

  8. sam cruz says:

    presidencia comprada…..from a failed presidency to a one that got sold out

  9. The handfuls of Cubans that escape on rafts is far smaller and not as harmful as the estimated 2,700 illegal aliens who sneak across the border each day bringing identity fraud, violent drug gangs, and taking away jobs and resources from legal US citizens.

    When Cubans came to the US, the assimilated into our society, the wanted to be American, they (the majority) gave their loyalty to this country. They wanted to learn our language and did not expect special treatment. Illegal Hispanics on the other hand (the majority) give no loyalty this country, they dont want to be American they just the benefits America offers they dont want to assimilate they want to conquer. They expect us to bend over backwards to accommodate them instead of them bending over backwards to accommodate us.

  10. Mario you have been brain washed by Republicans, go back to Cuba if you don’t like what is happening in America.

  11. now for on-topic, I think this presidency could have some uplifting changes, as the economy has improved a bit. The scarcity of jobs and narco problems really need focused. I do how that they have a good work reformed as well as removing the Teachers’ Union as well as other unions, because that is what causes a lot of the job scarcity. People should feel like they can gain jo9bs by working hard and being qualified and no by connections within the unions.

  12. I love it when Obama loving communists tell me to go back to Cuba when I expose the harm they are doing to the United States. They get all patriotic when in reality they are the real enemies. Wasn’t even born in Cuba, am from Atlanta Ga. And NYC. Of course I don’t like what’s happening in America, it’s starting to look like the Cuba my parents fled from.

  13. Hey I am from Atlanta, GA too. I feel that born citizens for forget the hardships of our parents, and act as if we know what it is like to be a first generation immigrant. You know what the Latino community really needs, “LEADERS”, that is why we leave our countries, because we have no leadership. If people like us took the time to teach people English, pay taxes, ect we would help the new immigrants legal or illegal. Mario, maybe you should stop crying about it or posting hateful stuff and help out!!! Maybe give free English classes and teach about culture. So Mario instead of putting other underneath us because we feel we have a little bit more of the upper hand let us be leaders. Is that a deal? because your first comment is the type of stuff that makes leaders in Cuba or other Hispanic countries, just putting people down dude. And that is why our countries don’t progress.

  14. If Mario can’t tell the difference between the United States and Cuba then he really should reassess his views and get out of his bubble once in a while. He calls Obama supporters “enemies” and Americans “communists”? Someone should have a psych eval immediately ! Lol

  15. Michael, Americans can be communists too. We have a lot of them in New York City. The CPUSA headquarters is in Chelsea in Manhattan. They were instrumental in helping campaign for Obama in NYC. It’s even on their website – they don’t hide it. And I know the differences between Cuba and the United States.

  16. Wow thanks Mario for informing us that a irrelevant communist group in Chelsea help Obama win New York because we all know that New York is a red state and it would have gone to Romney. Thanks for lnforming us that Hispanics wants to “conquer” America and people who voted for Obama are all communist. Ur logic and empirical arguments are flawless. Mmm psych eval?

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