Faculty Board Highlight: Pablo Mijangos y González

Meet the newest member of the Texas-Mexico Center Faculty Advisory Board, Dr. Pablo Mijangos. Dr. Mijangos is a historian of politics, religion, and the law in modern Latin America. He completed a bachelor’s degree in law in Mexico and a doctoral degree in history from the University of Texas at Austin. He answered some questions for the Center, specifically about the current context of U.S.-Mexico relations.

Currently, a lot of people think that the U.S. and Mexico are not as close as they used to be in times like the 90s or early 2000s. From a historical viewpoint though, would you say U.S.-Mexico relations are currently in dire need of being revitalized?

We need to distinguish the different layers of this relationship. One of those layers is the diplomatic interaction at the level of national governments. At this level, it is true that there has been some hard rhetoric, first from former U.S. President Donald Trump and then from Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Looking closely, however, I do not see a substantial change in the basic terms of the relationship as NAFTA defined them in the early 1990s. From the Mexican perspective, sometimes it seems as if President López Obrador would like to reduce American influence in Mexico and restore the “special relationship” of the 1940s and 50s, but the two nations have reached a much greater degree of interdependence than at any time in history. It is impossible to go back in time. Populist presidents will become history someday, and the U.S. and Mexico will continue sharing one of the world’s most dynamic borders and also many problems that require binational cooperation, such as migration control, the fight against transnational organized crime, water management along the border, and the energy transition.

“…the two nations have reached a much greater degree of interdependence than at any time in history.”

We have presidential and congressional elections coming up this year in both Mexico and the United States. At this point in time, do you think there are any specific areas of the U.S.-Mexico relationship where we might see closer cooperation?

Dr. Pablo Mijangos

I would pay attention to three things in particular. First is the binational management of global migration flows. As we know, migration has become a top concern of the American electorate, and the U.S. needs Mexican help to prevent a major crisis at the southern border. Mexican candidates know this, and they will use the Mexican National Guard’s cooperation in stopping migrants as a bargaining chip for obtaining American concessions (as President López Obrador did). Second, Mexico is facing alarming levels of violence from criminal organizations, and there is a severe concern in the U.S. for the fentanyl epidemic. Both countries have no choice but to seek closer cooperation in this area. And third, there is a shared interest on both sides of the border in promoting “nearshoring,” which can be an instrument to foster economic development in Mexico and reduce costs for global American companies.

What do you think are the strengths that Texas provides in the current context of the U.S.-Mexico relationship?

Despite the xenophobic and jingoistic rhetoric of some local political actors, we cannot understand the prosperity and socio-cultural dynamism of contemporary Texas if we don’t fully weigh the presence, labor, and economic output of millions of people of Mexican origin who live here. One of Texas’s most significant competitive advantages vis-a-vis the rest of the U.S. is its immense border with Mexico and its formidable binational workforce. In this respect, Texas can be a thermometer and a facilitator of U.S.-Mexico relations. If the relationship between Texas and its southern neighbor is handled with intelligence, pragmatism, and good faith, the relationship between both countries will benefit immensely.


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