Commentary: Image of Mexico is impacted by U.S. racisim

SAN DIEGO -- It wasn't surprising that the Mexican government would hire an American public relations firm to improve its image in the United States.

SAN DIEGO -- It wasn't surprising that the Mexican government would hire an American public relations firm to improve its image in the United States.

Nor was it surprising that Mexican President Vicente Fox tapped my friend, Dallas-based political consultant Rob Allyn, to be Mexico's goodwill ambassador. Allyn worked on Fox's 2000 presidential campaign, after which a Dallas magazine dubbed the consultant "Mr. Mexico."

What was surprising was that a simple business deal would result in so many people becoming so unhinged.

Suddenly, the Republican strategist is being inundated with angry and insulting e-mails, calls and nasty comments posted on Web logs. Immigration restrictionists are threatening to picket Allyn's office and asking that "patriots" boycott his firm.

From those cable TV shows that bottom-feed off the immigration issue, I glean that Allyn is doing a "PR campaign for illegal immigrants" and generating public support for a guest worker plan backed by the Mexican government.


Not quite, Allyn told me from his office in Dallas.

"We've been hired to promote the image of Mexico," he said, "and specifically to let people know the facts about the real Mexico and where Mexico stands today."

If Allyn wants to know what Americans think of Mexico and Mexicans -- and for that matter, Mexican-Americans -- all he has to do is read my e-mail. But it's not pretty.

In the words of one reader: "Mexico has nothing that any red-blooded American would want. Mexico is a filthy, unlawful country which is trying with all its might to influence the U.S. to change its laws to benefit illegals."

The way the consultant sees it, "perceptions lag reality" and Americans don't know as much about Mexico and Mexicans as they think they do.

I'll buy that. But that works both ways. Mexicans don't know as much about the United States as they think they do. And that goes double for Mexican presidents.

When I suggested that Fox had done himself no favors by labeling as "shameful" U.S efforts to curb illegal immigration, Allyn declined to comment but said he'd pass on my concerns to his client.

So let me add this: Most Americans don't like it when Mexico meddles in the internal affairs of the United States -- especially since Mexicans bristle when Americans meddle in the affairs of Mexico and especially since there wouldn't be so many illegal immigrants in this country if the Mexican government took more seriously its obligation to provide opportunities for its own people rather than relying on the billions of dollars that immigrants send home in remittances.


For Allyn, there's a lot of positive news south of the border, including "that Mexico is a democracy today, with clean elections, that the Mexican government has made huge progress in cleaning up corruption, and that there is economic stability."

There's also trade. According to Allyn, Americans export $111 billion in goods each year to Mexico.

"Mexico is America's second-largest trading partner (after Canada)." he said.

"Mexico is a huge customer for us. We should treat it with respect."

Good luck with that, amigo. For many Americans, Mexico serves only one purpose and that's to provide something to which they can feel superior.

Allyn thinks the immigrants get a bad rap.

"I continue to be astonished at how people can work up so much animosity toward hard-working, family-oriented people who are enduring huge hardships to seek a better life," he said. Some of that has roots in something that has been part of this dialogue since the advent of immigrants: racism.

Mr. Mexico is right on the money. And often, those who can't see it just don't want to.


Ruben Navarrette's e-mail address is .

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