Recent political rhetoric filled with such hot button words as “drugs,” “immigrants,” “the Wall,” and “terrorists” serves in place of diplomacy that represents the interests of the United States while remaining respectful toward other nations. This blather is the result of loose-lipped politicians who prefer media quips to thoughtful commentary about policy. Although the United States is a leading producer, a desired location, and a major, if not the greatest, market, these politicians are not using the wealth of knowledge available to push the United States toward progress. Rather than raise questions that could lead to meaningful solutions, many of the nation’s leaders for the most part prefer the far easier approach of grandstanding.
While the nation’s political leaders focus their energy on showboating, it is important for citizens to remain informed. For anyone concerned, or just curious, about topics that hit close to home, such as events happening south of the border, there exist outstanding sources of information almost completely ignored by policy makers. For anyone seeking reliable information, complication comes from the information and misinformation deluge caused by Google and other computer search engines. Is there an ark in this flood? Yes, and many of the Noahs who created it are practitioners of Latin American studies. These are not policy wonks, but individuals skilled in asking questions, analyzing responses, and crafting conclusions. The results are usually accessible, often free from jargon, and intended to elucidate a problem, issue, or difficulty—provided their results are published as books, articles, or encyclopedia entries either in print or online, because this means the research and analysis has been vetted by peer reviewers. Moreover, publishers are committed to communicating with the professional, student, and, preferably, general public. While television, radio, and newspaper reporters provide sound bites, authors of published works must be serious and to consult them readers must be serious—this seriousness is defined as a willingness to invest some time and thought to the process.
Something that requires a willing attitude and time investment does not have to be dull, pedantic, or boring.
Something that requires a willing attitude and time investment does not have to be dull, pedantic, or boring. Rather it most often leads to fascinating discoveries with practical applications. Mexicans have created an electoral democracy without solving the issues of corruption, the rule of law, and, personal security. Roderic Camp has written about this and related it to migration issues. The role of such critical individuals as Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas has also been scrutinized. Other pertinent topics include human rights and student movements, social media and political organizing, and in the process reveal the secret to excellent fish tacos, music of religious practices, social media and youth politics. These are all topics that directly or indirectly reveal a good deal about Mexico and that must be understood to develop reasonable formal relations between the United States and the neighboring government.
Interested individuals can also search out major research centers. For example, the Mexico Institute, a part of the Woodrow Wilson Center, located only blocks from the White House and the Capitol, has published recent studies on violence, corruption, and democratization and hosted roundtable discussions of outstanding experts on topics such as NAFTA, drugs, and migration. Under the capable leadership of Duncan Wood, the Mexico Institute addresses major issues involving the United States and Mexico; these are discussed, video-streamed, and published for anyone, including policy makers, who are interested. This is but one of the sources of reliable, thoughtful discussion of contemporary issues. Other such institutes exist for Latin America and other parts of the world.
Reliable information can provide the reader with a life boat in the ocean of tweets, websites, and internet sources that often represent nothing more than the screed of individuals with a keyboard and a desire to shout. Some persons prefer video to text, and judicious searches for respected investigators lead to presentations on YouTube and other video-streaming services. Certainly a little commitment will pay dividends for the interested individual. Sports fans provide a valuable example. Many astonished fans addicted to Latin American sport have sorted through Internet advertisements and half-baked websites to locate reliable information on Paris Saint-Germain because Brazilian soccer star Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior has moved there from Barcelona. Following the travels of sensational players provides an example of the patience and skill needed for anyone who wants to understand the politics and economics of Latin American nations, often confronted by U.S. governmental policies, within the high tide of internet sources.
Featured Image Credit: 1744 Map of America titled “A NEW and ACCURATE MAP of AMERICA.” drawn by Emmanuel Bowen. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.