America's Mexico?
June 26, 2006 6:23 PM   Subscribe

Where does Mexico end and the USA begin?

Seems to me the official border doesn't really count for much, especially given the population density of Mexican-Americans in the south part of the USA.

So where does the "Mexican" part of the USA end, and the... er?... "American" (¿ European American/African American ?) part begin? I presume there is more or less a demarcation line where, traveling north from the border, one observes a change from a majority Mexican theme to the culture, to a majority non-Mexican feel.
posted by five fresh fish to Society & Culture (29 answers total)
 
I live perilously close to the official border, and I can say with certainty that the official border really is the border. There is a giant difference between the world on one side and the one on the other side. Giant.
posted by JekPorkins at 6:34 PM on June 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


I just don't think it works like that. Immigrants don't come by osmosis, they come by transportation methods that follow major highways and routes, and they have to go where there are jobs for them. That is much more likely to be L.A. than a tiny Texan town right by the border.
posted by crabintheocean at 6:37 PM on June 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


Mexico ends at the border. There is a gradual change in population ratio the further north you go. There is a large Mexican population in much of california/arizona/new mexico/texas/nearly all states on/near the border.

I really am not quite sure where you are going with this question.
posted by sophist at 6:40 PM on June 26, 2006


And there are significant Mexican populations, in majority-Mexican neighborhoods, in cities throughout the US, if that's what you mean by "a majority Mexican theme".
posted by mr_roboto at 6:46 PM on June 26, 2006


So where does the "Mexican" part of the USA end, and the... er?... "American" (¿ European American/African American ?) part begin?

Canada
posted by doctor_negative at 6:49 PM on June 26, 2006


Yeah, there's the border and it is very real and then there's New Mexico, where Mexico kind of filters out just shy of Albuquerque's south valley.
posted by FlamingBore at 7:03 PM on June 26, 2006


The border is not continuous - not just one line. Intead little blobs of Mexico bud off to wherever illegal shit jobs.

"meat packing" (mexican OR hispanic OR latino) 160,000 hits.

textile workers (mexican OR hispanic OR latino) 966,000 hits.

What other industries (other than migrant agriculture) create hotspots?
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 7:29 PM on June 26, 2006


There is a large Mexican population in much of california/arizona/new mexico/texas/nearly all states on/near the border.

'xactly. And I'm sure they have a cultural environment that is very similar to that they'd have in Mexico proper. So where does that cultural "space" diminish noticeably? Where is it more like Mexico than it is USA?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:10 PM on June 26, 2006


You guys are totally forgetting your own history in that a lot of Southern USA was a part of Mexico to begin with:

The U.S. government sent troops to Texas in order to secure the territory ignoring Mexican demands for U.S. withdrawal. Mexico saw this as a U.S. intervention in internal affairs by supporting a "rebel" province. In the war that ensued, the United States kept over half of Mexico's territory, including land comprising the present states of Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah. Mexico lost nearly 2,000,000 km² after the war and received $15 million for the lands from the U.S -Wikipedia

So you could probably use those states as part of your dividing line.
posted by furtive at 8:12 PM on June 26, 2006


Here's an awesome map.
posted by furtive at 8:28 PM on June 26, 2006


The border counts for everything. On one side, being Mexican is normal. On the other, it's something that armed agents of the government are on a constant lookout for.

San Diego, San Antonio, El Paso are not Mexico Junior. Being in a part of the US with a latino minority or even latino majority and strong anglo minority is Not. The. Same. as being in real no-shit Mexico.

And I'm sure they have a cultural environment that is very similar to that they'd have in Mexico proper.

Seems to me you should look into that instead of just being sure about it. I suspect you're very wrong.

I imagine you can find "a Mexican cultural environment" in a limited way anyplace there's a community of Mexican emigrants. This has nothing at all to do with proximity to the border and everything to do with proximity of other Mexicans. In the same way, you can find a Chinese cultural environment in any Chinatown in North America, but that doesn't mean that China hasn't stopped at the borders of China.

The difference between Mexicans and Mexican-Americans is similar to the difference between Germans and Americans of German descent, or between Americans and Canadians descended from British loyalists.

It might help if you had something more specific in mind. For example:

Where does Spanish-language cable stop? It doesn't, AFAIK. Every cable system I've seen has galavision, or univision, or both. Perhaps there's a locally run system somewhere in New Hampshire that doesn't.

Where does Spanish-language radio stop: rural areas, where radio in general stops. Otherwise, you can probably find at least one Spanish-language radio station in most big American cities.

Where does Spanish-language free-to-air tv stop: This was new to me when I moved to D/FW. Didn't have it in north FL, or Virginia, or RDU.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:03 PM on June 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


What ROU_X said. I am having trouble understanding your question.

You do realize that there is an entire community of "Mexican-Americans" who dont speak much Spanish and whose families have been here for centuries, living in the SW part of the United States. I use quotes because they are Americans and have a distinct and vibrant community of their own.

I know this because I'm a first generation. My parents were born and raised in Mexico and didnt move here until I was almost 5 years old. Their culture is still tied to country of Mexico and other recent emigrants. I've met many people from the old-generation-Mexico, whose great-grandparents had cattle ranches in Texas and, honestly, they are a distinct culture.

Your question seems to ignore that first cultural group entirely (the one I am not part of) and thus does them a great disservice. Your brush strokes are too broad.
posted by vacapinta at 9:16 PM on June 26, 2006


Having lived nearly all my life in SoCal, I'll tell you that the border is a massive cultural divide, and that north of the border the cultural map is divided into very discrete pockets. For example, Santa Ana has a huge Mexican population, and there are huge stretches of the city that may as well have been airlifted intact from Mexico City. At the same time, there are pockets of Santa Ana that are as white as white can be -- Mater Dei High School is possibly the whitest private high school in America. Go a few miles south and you'll hit master-planned super-suburb Irvine, which used to be incredibly white and is now ultra-multi-cultural (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Iranians, Jews, Pakistanis, Indians, etc). Take one guess who mows the lawns in Irvine.
posted by frogan at 9:16 PM on June 26, 2006


Or, put another way, Mexico and the U.S. have been "integrating" for hundreds of years. The result has been a continuum of cultures, not ones with distinct boundaries.

There are Mexican-Americans in the U.S., living in Mexican-American communities who would undergo culture shock if you put them in Mexico.
posted by vacapinta at 9:20 PM on June 26, 2006


So you could probably use those states as part of your dividing line.

Wow. That was a huge land grab! I had a notion that Mexico had lost land, but hadn't realized how much.

I've met many people from the old-generation-Mexico, whose great-grandparents had cattle ranches in Texas and, honestly, they are a distinct culture.

And that is what I'm talking about. I didn't realize the original-Mexico-now-America culture is distinct from Mexico's culture. I suppose there would have to be differences in government, city, school, and church environments.

there are huge stretches of the city that may as well have been airlifted intact from Mexico City

OTOH, perhaps not.

These questions all stem from watching some Mexican-American on Colbert Report. He used some very savvy language to indicate his disregard for American ownership of land that was originally Mexico's.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:35 PM on June 26, 2006


You might find it interesting to know that the INS runs inspection stations on I-5 and I-15 north of San Diego.

That said, and despite the strong Mexican influence in San Diego, there's absolutely no question that it is an American city, not a Mexican city.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:09 PM on June 26, 2006


Your question seems to ignore that first cultural group entirely (the one I am not part of) and thus does them a great disservice. Your brush strokes are too broad.

Not to mention those immigrants who are not actually from Mexico! Which are pretty numerous and assuming they're all Mexican is a good way to entroubulate yourself ya know.
posted by furiousthought at 11:53 PM on June 26, 2006


You might find it interesting to know that the INS runs inspection stations on I-5 and I-15 north of San Diego.

I'm told this is related to a treaty / policy that allows Mexican nationals easier access to border areas, but only to border areas. The extra inspections are in theory to control access from the border areas to the rest of the US.

They're still size extra creepy when you run across one.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:31 AM on June 27, 2006


I'm told this is related to a treaty / policy that allows Mexican nationals easier access to border areas, but only to border areas.

No treaty, just geograpy. There's a huge border with Tijuana south of San Diego, but no easy way north out of San Diego except for these two roads. It's easier to catch people this way.
posted by frogan at 12:55 AM on June 27, 2006


The "American" part pretty much goes right down to the border and stops there hard and discontinuously, so you're wrong about that. The "Mexican" part, well, it's hard to say, as there are Mexican communities in lots of places. You can point at San Antonio and San Diego and L.A. and say "wow, there's a strong Mexican element there", and Kansas City and say "er, not so strong there."

I don't really think you'd get a useful line. There seems to be something sort of basically ignorant about this question that's hard to address.
posted by fleacircus at 1:25 AM on June 27, 2006


The U.S. government sent troops to Texas in order to secure the territory ignoring Mexican demands for U.S. withdrawal. Mexico saw this as a U.S. intervention in internal affairs by supporting a "rebel" province.

Course, the "Rebel" province had broken away nine years earlier, defeated General Santa Ana and the Mexican Army in the field, signed a treaty with Santa Ana proclaiming Texan independence, which Santa Ana then refused to acknowledge after the fact, hence the "rebellious" nature of Texas. And just to clearify, while the United States did force Mexico to cede over the aforementioned land, it wasn't exactly brimming full of Mexican citizens. So while there was a historic background for Mexican culture, due to American migration into the new territories, it remained more of a faint legacy than a strong vibrant force to shape future generations.

I doubt that its far off the mark to say that there are now more individuals of Mexican heritage living in these regions today than ever had in the past.
posted by Atreides at 5:16 AM on June 27, 2006


If you're talking cultural "influence" instead of geo-political, then it's harder to map.

I grew up in SoCal but now live in Washington, DC. My friends in L.A. are surprised that Spanish is the defacto second language here in the nation's capital. Most Latinos here, though, are from Central America, rather than Mexico.

If you want to "map" the intersections and mix of both the Latino and "American European" cultures, a good place to start would be by studying the farm labor and other migration patterns from the south northward. You might find pockets of Mexican culture in Michigan but less in, say, Kansas.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 6:16 AM on June 27, 2006


fff, I see you're in Canada, so the Quebec situation may be clouding your mind. There is no equivalent in the US to a large, cohesive area dominated by a "foreign" culture that works hard to maintain its own distinctiveness. Mexicans in the US are much more like other immigrant groups in Canada; sure, they tend to congregate in neighborhoods and speak a different language at home, but there is no sense of a "separate nation." The fact that much of the Southwest used to be part of Mexico is interesting and provides much fodder for resentment and analysis, but is basically irrelevant to what you're talking about. As others have said, this is completely wrong:

And I'm sure they have a cultural environment that is very similar to that they'd have in Mexico proper.


Their "cultural environment" is American, with an added topping of salsa (which the Anglos love too).
posted by languagehat at 6:18 AM on June 27, 2006


A cultural environment may seem similar but with all the real differences such as laws, standard of living, etc there is a huge difference between life on either side of the border. Milwaukee has a large population of mexicanos and if you go on the south side, you would think you are in Mexico culturally. I can go in the large groceries there and not hear any english and find things I would normally find in Jalisco, Oaxaca, or Chihuahua. Nearly everyone on the street for miles around is Mexican. But the surroundings are different and is obviously south side Milwaukee.

There is a bigger mixture of all Mexicans north of the border which you don't find as much south of the border where it is more regionalized. Mexico is like America where there is a strict regionalization from south to north and east to west but when you find communities of Mexicans outside of the country there is less regionalization. So yeah, there really is a huge difference across the border to more than the casual observer.
posted by JJ86 at 6:43 AM on June 27, 2006


there is no sense of a "separate nation."

Aztlán.
La Raza.
posted by meehawl at 7:25 AM on June 27, 2006


So what was the guy on Colbert railing on about? He seemed pretty adamant that the US States bordering Mexico could be considered more Mexican than American.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:05 AM on June 27, 2006


Have a link to it Five Fresh Fish?
posted by Atreides at 8:37 AM on June 27, 2006


fff, surely you must realize that some guy railing on Colbert is not likely to be an objective source of reliable information. He was wildly exaggerating to make a polemical point.
posted by languagehat at 8:50 AM on June 27, 2006


There seems to be something sort of basically ignorant about this question that's hard to address.

I'm not so sure. Taking the long view, nation-states with clear border demarcations is a fairly contemporary situation. Used to be (and it's still true, to some degree, depending on where you are) that "the frontier" was a broad region with characteristics of both places, with its own distinctive rules and attributes not necessarily matching those of either side.
posted by Rash at 8:54 AM on June 27, 2006


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