MEXICO CITY—The announcement that Donald Trump has become the presumptive Republican candidate for president following his resounding victory in Indiana’s primary is being met with amused approval in—of all places—Mexico City. Forget the man in the street in Mexico City selling a Donald Trump piñata. Despite official protestations to his anti-Mexican rhetoric, Mexico’s elite may actually favor Trump.
When Donald Trump descended the escalators at Trump Tower in New York to announce his candidacy for president on June 16, 2015, one paragraph in his speech stood out: “The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems … When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
Mexico’s Foreign Ministry condemned such a characterization. In the months that followed, one former president lashed out at Trump. Vicente Fox made headlines when he blurted out, “I’m not going to pay for that f---ing wall.” Mexico’s sitting president, Enrique Peña Nieto, was more diplomatic. He complained to the media that Donald Trump is damaging bilateral relations: “Whoever insults or speaks badly of Mexico doesn’t know the country. Whoever speaks badly of Mexicans doesn’t know Mexicans.”
Trump’s ascendance continued throughout the primary season with such astonishing speed that Mexico was forced to replace its ambassador in Washington, sending Carlos Sada, a tougher, meaner bulldog, to speak up in defense of Mexico’s interest. "We have been warning that our citizens have begun to feel a more hostile climate," Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu told reporters when the new ambassador’s appointment was announced.
Mexico’s elite is aware of the disappointment that comes from exuberance of diversity. More than a century ago it experimented with “inclusion” and “diversity.” Mexico had a black president (Vicente Guerrero), two Native American presidents (Benito Júarez and Porfirío Díaz), and mixed race president (Lázaro Cárdenas). They all disappointed.
True, Mexico has never elected a female leader, but ask the Brazilians how happy they are with Dilma Rousseff, and you’ll see that you don’t need to be a man to be a loser. The theatrics of official “outrage” at Donald Trump may mask the relief among some of Mexico’s elite that Mexico could do business with him.
Mexico’s elite has no respect for Hillary Clinton. As Secretary of State she ignored Mexico. Her promise to continue Barack Obama’s “legacy” is a promise of continued neglect. Not to mention, as First Lady, she didn’t divorce a man who humiliated her before the world.
Affluent Mexican’s admiration for Donald, meanwhile, extends beyond the promise of making deals. Mexico’s elite shares his contempt for the multitudes of mixed-race masses that cross the border illegally and don’t have enough sense to learn English, get an education, and put their affairs—and lives—in order.
This isn’t to say that Mexico is “racist.” Mexico doesn’t acknowledge race—but it is beholden to class. Since colonial times, Mexico’s elite have used phrases to divide people into two groups: gente de razón and gente sin razón. Reasonable people versus unreasonable people. Reasonable people get an education, work hard, and move ahead. Unreasonable people don’t see the value of an education, squander their time, and think it’s a good idea to risk crossing the Arizona desert to go pick produce in California or wash dishes in New York.
When Donald lashes out that Mexico is “not sending its best,” Mexico’s elite finds no quarrel with that assessment. When Donald wants to build a wall, Mexico’s elite hopes it’s a beautiful wall—and visible from the first class cabin at a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet on their jaunts to and fro.