Vanishing Frontiers: The Forces Driving Mexico and the United States Together
(PublicAffairs, June 2018)
A nuanced, story-driven narrative about the deeply intertwined business and cultural relationship between the United States and Mexico, and the need to tear down, rather than fortify, walls
A certain narrative about the relationship between the United States and Mexico has taken shape over the last twenty years. Many believe that our trade and immigration policies have undercut American labor, and that Mexico itself is a place where drugs and violence are rampant. They believe that these two countries, living side by side, are about as different as can be. But as Andrew Selee shows, the demographics, economics, politics, and culture of these two countries have more in common than meets the eye.
Vanishing Frontiers is the story of the cultural and economic intertwining of these two countries. Beloved US brands like Sara Lee and Thomas’ English Muffins are owned by Mexico City-based Grupo Bimbo. Forty percent of the manufactured goods that flow across the border with Mexico are products that US and Mexican firms assemble together in shared supply chains. As immigration from Mexico has reached an all-time low, a million Americans–retirees, job seekers, and more–live in Mexico, almost as many expats as live in all the countries of the European Union combined. Meanwhile, more than a tenth of all Americans now trace their heritage to Mexico, and they are among the fastest-growing consumer segments for everything from prime-time television programs to the Super Bowl.
There has been a dramatic change in the way Mexico and the United States relate to each other, but few Americans have noticed the depth of this change. As Selee shows in this important and timely book, the US-Mexico border is a seam that weaves together the two economies and cultures, not a barrier between two radically different societies.
Andrew Selee is president of the Migration Policy Institute and former executive vice president of the Woodrow Wilson Center, where he founded and directed its Mexico Institute. For five years in the 1990s he lived in a shantytown in Tijuana, Mexico, helping to start a community center and home for migrant youth. In the quarter-century since, he has witnessed firsthand the dramatic transformation of this city specifically and the country as a whole. Dr. Selee writes a regular column for Mexico’s largest newspaper and has written op-eds for the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times.