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Civic Engagement Research Project
The United States’ diplomatic ties shared with its allies are a crucial aspect of the overall health of our country. Healthy relations with allied countries can be massively beneficial to the countries involved. Issues such as a need for trade, a need for companies to create jobs, a need for military equipment, military protection and even immigration can cause a country to seek the help of a fellow country. The United States is undoubtedly one of the most revered and powerful countries because of our diplomatic strength; our military is one of the strongest in the world, our companies provide jobs overseas, and we provide military assistance to our allies.
In the economics phenomenon of “supply and demand” the U.S. consumes goods from other countries; and in return other countries consume American goods. Apple, Google and Nike are American owned companies that provide services/goods to people all over the globe and are major players in consumption. This in return gives American power and prestige to our economy. The economical power of these corporations is well known here in the United States and around the world. Another example of American power is our professional sports teams, these teams have followers all over the world, the NFL, NBA, and MLB sports leagues are either the most profitable in terms of revenue (NFL) or among the most profitable sports leagues in the world.
In diplomatic terms, the United States has allies all over the world, but no country shares the closeness in relation to what we share with Mexico. The relationship we have with India for example cannot surpass the importance of the one we have with Mexico, because of our closeness in proximity we take on a different perspective. Not many other countries have such a direct impact on life in the United States like Mexico. Our culture in many cities can best be described as a “hybrid” between Mexican and American culture. Where holidays such as “Dia De Los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead”, a Mexican holiday in which the dead are celebrated and remembered is a common festivity in many American cities. Also, being bilingual in Spanish and English is an extremely common accolade for many Mexican-Americans.
The relationship the United States has with our southern neighbor is extremely crucial for both countries. Our countries depend on each other for many reasons: Economical reasons, consumer goods, labor, political culture and cultural influences, these are just some of the many reasons why our countries rely on each other so heavily. While the United States reaps the benefits no matter where one lives in our country, the border we share with Mexico relies more on a healthy relationship with Mexico, and for obvious reasons. Businesses on the border rely on trade treaties such as NAFTA to ensure their businesses remain profitable, all while maintaining a relationship with Mexican consumers and companies alike.
Our fiscal actions in the United States affect economies worldwide, due to our country’s important role in them. Because of our globalist approach to trade, our grocery stores have mangoes from Mexico, fish from Chile, our shirts from China, televisions, grapes. Anything you can think of, we have it, and chances are it’s because of foreign trade. Trading with Mexico specifically is vital because of the huge presence it has in world economics. It has the 12th largest economy in the world, and part of the reason why it’s so powerful is because of business and trading with the United States. Mexico is a hotspot for manufacturing companies, often referred to as “maquiladoras” in Spanish, from all over the world and U.S, because of the cheap labor costs these companies have to deal with. Not only is manufacturing a large part of trade between the two neighbors, tourism and fresh produce are also highly desired by the American people. Politics is another major component of the relationship Mexico and the U.S. share, without politics economics cannot be fully implemented nor explained efficiently.
The political atmosphere in the U.S. is felt not only by Americans, but by people from all over the world. Countries keep a close eye on the climate surrounding U.S. politics, what happens politically here in the U.S. creates a worldwide response. Our presidential race is viewed by countless countries and its people, and the aftermath of a president being elected never fails to illicit a response no matter where you live. Even political races, such as gubernatorial and senatorial races are closely viewed, both domestically and foreign-wide. The stakes of politics going a certain direction install some type of emotion from our citizens, our foes and allies; because politics is to be taken seriously, the actions of politicians affect the citizens of a nation on a daily basis.
The senatorial race here in Texas was so closely monitored, not only by Texans, but several news outlets reported that the French, the Japanese and some Middle Eastern countries were biting their nails at the results. Because of the size of Texas’ economy and the importance of the senate race, the world’s eyes were fixated on our political race. Countries that hold hostility toward the U.S. such as North Korea and more specifically, Kim Jong Un, was also reported to be closely monitoring the races. Whether Americans like it or not, or if we agree with it, our political actions here in the United States affect the political and economical climate throughout the world.
Mexico is one of the most attentive countries, concerning American politics. As our policies affect them greatly, whether it be directly or indirectly, our southern neighbor feels the sting or reaps the benefits. Particularly with immigration policies, the United States and Mexico have what it seems to be a “rocky” relationship on the issue at the moment, and have had one in recent years. Though there is a general consensus between the two nations on immigration, illegal or “unprecedented” levels of immigration most often cause uproar here in the United States. Another issue that holds extreme value in U.S. and Mexican border cities is businesses that conduct their work here can get caught in the immediate crosshairs of any policies concerning both countries. The policies enacted by either country affects this relationship, and the relationship we share is one that must remain healthy and fruitful on both ends.
As we have reviewed in class, Mexico is almost like a sibling of the United States. We are bonded not only by our closeness in proximity, but also in diplomatic and societal terms. Our governmental systems are reflective of the other, our cultures are intertwined, and our political actions directly affect each other, and we end up losing more than winning when one of us is hurting. It’s safe to say that both countries are so alike that they almost share the same “DNA”, our countries are no doubt, bonded at the hip.
The Mexican government follows a very similar government system just like us. They practice a federalist system, which means that power is divided between the state and national government. We have a presidential system, as does Mexico, we have supreme courts, and our Presidents are our “Commander in Chief”. Even our countries share the same name, Mexico’s full country name is “Estados Unidos de Mexico” and in English, “The United States of Mexico.”
As you can tell our countries share many similarities in our governing bodies, even in cultural, societal norms and societal standards, we mirror one another. El Paso for example has an extremely profound Mexican influence in our culture. We are family oriented for the most part, most of us eat more Mexican cuisines than anything else and we are tremendously loyal to our loved ones. These customs are found all over the border, the Mexican influence is a part of our everyday lives and we have embraced it with pride.
The “collaboration”, between these two countries is in fact unique, our politics; not only national politics but local politics affect the well-being of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the U.S. It would not be incorrect to say that politics in American border cities play more of a role in this diplomatic effort than in Washington D.C. Border cities such as El Paso are at the “frontlines” and are more aware of our relationship with Mexico. It would be incredibly difficult to completely wrap ones’ head all the components that surround the friendship El Paso and Juarez share. It is a sophisticated relationship, in simple terms, if the United States and Mexico are siblings, then El Paso and Juarez are twins, when one is affected in say an economical sense, the other feels the sting immediately.
As most Americans know, communities in the U.S. share a strong sense of community. We love our cities and show pride in all that is good about them, El Paso is no different. El Paso is a perfect example of a strong, close community working together for the greater good of its people. People here are welcoming and friendly, always willing to give a hand to you when you’re down on your luck. While the average person here is really friendly, there are members of our community that exhibit a brand of selflessness that is truly worth admiring.
The selfless members I’m referring to are part of the non-profit organizations and other organizations which aim to help the low-income, homeless and other unfortunate members of society. These organizations serve a wide array of peoples’ needs, from food distribution, to medical assistance, low-income housing, and many other services. If it were not for the goodness in the intentions of these organizations, American cities, border cities specifically, would have more issues with the vulnerable members of their societies. Regardless of where you live in the world there is no perfect place to live, even first-world countries have issues in their cities. In the United States, despite our power and wealth as a country, many cities/towns are plagued with issues that can be described as “regressive”; this is especially true for many border cities.
Community organizations are extremely vital for El Paso and other border cities, because U.S. border cities tend to have many issues. These issues include: large numbers of impoverished families and individuals, high levels of teenage pregnancies and high unemployment. Non-profit-organizations and other sorts of these groups help to remedy these issues as best as they can. Local community organizations attempt to make their presence well known here in El Paso, and more often than not the local community recognizes their efforts and tries their best to give support to these groups, by volunteering or donating money. We El Pasoans for example, are quite involved in our communities, if you were to ask any person on the street if they know about a local non-for profit; chances are they’ll know at least one.
This community organization’s main goal is to eradicate hunger, an issues that still affects many families worldwide and on the borderland. Chronic hunger is something that no child, family or anyone for that matter should endure; thankfully “The Kelly Memorial Food Pantry” is putting a serious hurt in El Paso. This organization strives to tackle hunger one day at a time, their mission as stated on their website is: “Our mission is to give a sense of food security and hope by providing nutritional basics and encouragement to our clients. We work hard to meet the needs of our clients and send them away with a full basket of healthy food.” (About us: Kelly Memorial Food Pantry ) While reading the mission statement, one can certainly tell that they truly care for what they do.
The Kelly Memorial Food Pantry prides itself on feeding the less fortunate, not only do they serve a noble cause, their role in public service in El Paso is impressive. It has the pride of being the largest food pantry in the city; that is an admirable feat, considering that El Paso is Texas’s fourth largest city with a population of roughly 700,000. To put a clearer image of how important The Kelly Memorial is to El Paso, they service around 2,500 families a month, which equates to around 30,000 families yearly.
The next organization I chose is “Project Vida”, this organization provides an array of social services for the low-income members of El Paso. At a first glance, the services page on the Project Vida website seems a bit overwhelming, as they provide many services from health to housing to child development. However, I will be focusing primarily on this organization’s medical assistance to low-income areas in El Paso. In terms of health-care, Project Vida provides health check-ups, dental care, and women’s care, such as breast cancer screening, to name a few of their medical services. Since Project Vida has a large number of services it offers, its goal is to provide great care for El Pasoans in all areas of their services “underrepresented” areas. When I say “underrepresented” I mean a lack of necessities such as clinics in an area, that area is more than likely impoverished. The Project Vida mission statement is rather vague but it speaks volumes of their intentions: “The mission of Project Vida is to identify the comprehensive vision of the community for its future and to develop community-based structures and programs to implement that vision in light of the needs and direction of the wider society.” (What We Do: Project Vida , 2015)
Health issues such as diabetes, plague the Hispanic population on the borderland in upsetting numbers. “People in the border region are at greater risk for diabetes and for developing its complications. The mainly Mexican-American population in the Rio Grande Valley has two to five times as much diabetes as the general population, as well as more severe complications, such as kidney failure, blindness, and amputations.” (Mondragon & Brandon, 2004) Breast cancer is another illness that most people, including those who live in the borderland, don’t know are a serious public health concern in border communities. As Mondragon and Brandon mentioned in their article, most people on the border face these health scares because of their financial situation.
All humans have the international right to migrate when their life is in danger, also known as an “asylum seeker”, their ability to migrate properly is one of the various focuses of the next organization. The “Las Americas Immigration Advocacy Center” specializes on supporting immigrants through the legal journey they face. The goal of this organization is to assist as many immigrants as possible, regardless of their personal situation. According to their website, they have helped over 26,000 individuals, that’s a considerable amount considering that El Paso is the second largest port of entry to the United States, San Diego being the largest. Las Americas Immigration Advocacy Center plays an important role in not only the community, but also the countless number of immigrant lives.
Their mission statement is: “Las Americas’ mission is to see this vision realized by providing high quality legal representation to immigrants and by advocating for human rights.” (Our Mission: Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center , 2018) Las Americas Immigration Advocacy Center helps a wide array of immigrants, from asylum seekers, to crime victims, to battered women, and many other groups of immigrants. The website of Las Americas does not state whether the services are free of charge or of low cost, but we may infer either considering that most of the people they do assist come from impoverished backgrounds.
It was a tough decision to choose which organization I believe is the most effective in its goals. All three seem to be achieving success in their respectable goals, and all have great messages. If I had to choose one of the three organizations for their effectiveness I would have to go with the Kelly Memorial Food pantry. This is because of the number of people that depend on them, servicing as many families as it currently serves is a feat worthy of the publics’ admiration. Also the message the organization conveys about eating healthy eating, not only are they trying to tackle hunger and poor food choices, but they’re also educating. The Kelly Memorial Food Pantry is also a non-for-profit and at the volume it operates at shows that it truly does play an important role in the public, El Pasoans are able to volunteer and help this organization run at a productive level.
In feeding the less-fortunate the Kelly Memorial Food Pantry only gives healthy food to its clientele. This organization hopes to tackle this form of oppression low-income people face. A serious lack of healthy food alternatives puts this economic class at many disadvantages, meals such as peanut butter sandwiches and vegetables are the healthy alternatives to eating fast food. The Kelly Memorial Food Pantry tackles the issue of hunger and its nutritional value makes this the most effective organization in reaching its goals. “The overabundance of fast food and lack of access to healthier foods, in turn, have increased African American and Latino communities’ vulnerability to food-related death and disease.” (Freeman, 2007, p. 2) Andrea Freeman includes in her article that fast-food does not only appeal to all members of the lower-income group, but this is especially the case for minorities. She even mentions how important local a local food bank in Oakland, California is to the community’s health: “To counter these circumstances, three community activists founded the People’s Grocery. The Grocery runs a Mobile Market: a truck stocked with fresh organic produce and other healthy products that travels through the neighborhood like a bookmobile or ice-cream truck.” (Freeman, 2007, p. 35)
Local organizations in El Paso not only have a profound influence on our community, but also in Mexico. This claim is supported by the obvious affect that the United States and El Paso have on Mexican politics. Mexican cities on the border have a tremendous amount of American influence; these cities depend on trade and commerce directly. Mexican citizens come and shop in cities such as El Paso, for items that may not be available in their country, such as name-brand stores. Hotels, restaurants, and other local businesses profit tremendously from Mexican commerce. Mexican consumers come to the U.S. and embrace our capitalist economy, and this alone may affect their political system.
While shopping and consuming items from businesses in the U.S. may affect the Mexican peoples’ approach to capitalism and consumerism, (thus potentially affecting their political system) this is not the only area where we influence Mexican politics. Local organizations such as “The Kelly Memorial Food Pantry”, “Project Vida” and “Las Americas Immigration Advocacy Center” may provide new, innovative ideas for Mexican politics. For example, A food pantry that provides monthly, healthy food can be an interesting option for the Mexican government to subsidize and or promote. Most importantly, an immigration advocacy center is something Mexican politicians/government need to address desperately.
I believe one of my classmates brought up in class that the Mexican government did not have a fully functioning, efficient, asylum program. Not only does this need to change, but organizations such as the immigration group I mentioned can help “pick up the slack” of the government’s shortcomings’. All migrants, because of international law, have the right to claim asylum in another country due to the dangers they face in their native country. The migrant caravans that are currently waiting for asylum in the United States or in Mexico could receive advice, or legal representation from lawyers, who in this case, are qualified to practice law in Mexico.
- About us: Kelly Memorial Food Pantry . (n.d.). Retrieved from Kelly Memorial Food Pantry : https://www.kellymemorialfoodpantry.com/aboutus
- Freeman, A. (2007). Oppression through Poor Nutrition . California Law Review, Inc , 2.
- Mondragon, D., & Brandon, J. (2004). To Address Health Disparities on the US-Mexico Border: Advance Human Rights. JSTOR, 182. Retrieved from JSTOR.
- Our Mission: Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center . (2018). Retrieved from Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center : http://las-americas.org/about-us/our-mission/
- What We Do: Project Vida . (2015). Retrieved from Project Vida : https://www.pvida.net/what-we-do/
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