Two different languages, two different races, two different territories, two different pasts, two different governments, two different evolutions, two different cultures, two different countries. Yes, its more than obvious that the United States of America are a lot different to the United States of Mexico. Although the official names sound alike, their meanings are actually way too distant from each other. But how two neighbors can be so different? How can it be possible that two countries that are together, geographically speaking, grew so apart from each other. These contrasts are not new, they started way way back, even before English and Spaniards conquered the new world.
In order to understand the present we have to start by understanding the past. So let me take you way back to a world a lot different to ours. A world where races didn’t was a cause for killing, of segregation and for going to war. A world were everything was for everyone, a world with peace, a world with no hunger, a world without political conflicts or UNAM problems. I’m talking about a period of time where the New World was not even New, it was not even known. Settlers, native people established in two completely different regions. One was warm and wet, where plants could grow easily and were you could establish yourself, and the other one was arid, sometimes hot, sometimes cold, a territory where life was difficult and establishment was a lot more. There we can clearly notice the first important difference between the U.S. and Mexico, one inhabited the north and arid part, Arid America (U.S.) and the other on the southern and comfortable part, Mesoamerica (Mexico). The native Mexicans discovered agriculture due to the conditions of their land, and this made their growth easier and faster, in the other hand the States were considered hunters and nomads.
Then came the Europeans to corrupt but also to help a lot this part of the world. With the ships coming from Europe to this “new” land, it not only came diseases and new governments, it also came a new way of living, thinking, and acting. But despite all of the differences, these two lands have something in common: they were conquered. The two countries that conquered them were different from each other since the beginning, making the differences between U.S. and Mexico even more marked. Spain, who conquered Mexico, was influenciated by two cultures: the Muslim and the Catholic which bonded in order to create a unique culture, which conserved traditions form both. In the other hand England, the one that conquered U.S., had a culture and religion based on Protestantism.
In this exact moment we can understand what the Mexican writer, Octavio Paz, was trying to explain us the differences on the countries on his essay: “Only two words can describe the different attitudes between Mexico and the United States: inclusive and exclusive” (Paz, 1965). Personally, I believe that the inclusiveness of Mexico can be expressed by the idea of Spanish to conquer and evangelize. Spain came here with the idea, yes, of gaining more land, but they also came with ideas of implanting Catholicism in a country they called “New Spain”. Just by reading this name you can tell that the intention was to create a country that was exactly alike Spain, but the results were a lot different, Mexico is now one of the richest countries in what culture reefers about. It is a mix of two completely different cultures, the Spanish and the Indigenous. New food, new territory, new religion, new traditions, new parties, a new culture, “Mexico is a nation between two civilizations and two pasts” (Paz, 1965).
In the other hand the States, conquered by the English, experienced a whole new culture when they came to America. The English had the idea of expanding and being idenpendent, but they faced and arid zone almost nonpopulated, which contrasts to the wonderful Mesoameica full of culture and civilization. What the English did was to segregate and conquer the native Americas, and this is what makes them an exclusive society, they did not conserve many traditions or religion aspects. You can clearly notice that the Indian element does not appear, and that’s another important difference between the two countries, one was full of civilizations and culture and the other one did not had a clear past, just nomadic people that roamed their vast territory.
In respect of whether they conserved the ideas and traditions their founders had, I think that the fundamentals are still there in Mexico. The religion is as strong and important as it can be, faith is the most important subject in what a Mexican refers. We have to remember that the catholic religion that now rules Mexico came from the Spaniards, as well as a lot of traditions. But let us just stop for a second and think about which ones are the real founders of Mexico, the indigenous people or the Spanish. Personally, I think both are, both established traditions and culture, and this is what makes Mexico so rich in culture, it is a perfect mix between two different kind of people. The U.S., in the other hand, didn’t have any past so the founders are obviously the pilgrims that came down from the Mayflower. And because this people were kind of refugees and wanted to form a new and different country they kind of broke up the bonds that united them to England and started from there what would centuries transform later into the most powerful country in the world. A country that first worked with an isolation policy because of their fears of loosing control over their land. But it was just a question of tie for the U.S. people to start realizing how important was to expand their territory, they gained more and more power every time they acquired new land. And little bye little their fears where gone, so they started leaving the idea of isolationism back and start looking forward to expansionism. They gained a lot of new territory that went from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. They also began conquering territory that was far away of being inhabited; in fact it belonged to another country. Such is the case of California, ceded to the United States in 1848 by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and Texas acquired in 1836, although it was recognized by the Union until 1845. An the list can go on and on: Alaska, Puerto Rico, etc., they even wanted to incorporate Cuba to their territory. But the important thing I want you to notice here is not how many new land they acquired, but how society and government changed throughout time, and passed from being an isolationist country to being the most expansionist the continent ever knew. This is why I consider that U.S. didn’t conserved at all the ideas of their founders, maybe some of them are still alive, but in general the ideas and traditions that rule the States nowadays were created by the Americans throughout time and not by the first pilgrims that set a foot on that country.
The two countries analyzed here grew clearly apart but the reasons why this happened can’t be expressed in just a paper, they are countless. But we can say that the destiny of this two lands was never meant to be alike, each one has different cultures, languages, territories and races. But they will have to learn how to work things together in order to improve their way of living.
Bragdon H., McCutchen S., Ritche D,, “Histroy of a Free Nation”. 1994
“Mexico”, Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 98. Microsoft Corporation. 1998.
“United States”. 1999. Found at http://www.eb.com
“Pilgrims”. 1999. Found at http://www.infoplease.com