Mexican dream tied to American Dream

Jorge Castaneda

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

BILL RADKE: Mexico's government says emigration dropped 25 percent in the year that ended last August -- mostly due to a lack of jobs in the U.S. Even with the drop, about 300,000 Mexicans a year make that trip.

This week, we're bringing you a series called "Next American Dream." We're joined by former Mexican Foreign Secretary Jorge Castaneda
Mr. Castaneda, what does the "American Dream" mean to Mexicans today?

JORGE CASTANEDA: I think the American Dream was and is very much alive and well in Mexico, in Central America and in the Caribbean. In the sense that people believe that if they leave those countries and go to the United States, they can have a much better life for themselves and for their children and for their family than the one they enjoy in their own countries.

RADKE: How has the global recession affected Mexicans' take on the American Dream do you think?

CASTANEDA: People are still leaving Mexico to go to the United States to find work, to find jobs. And they are not returning from the United States, those who are there, because they can't find any work. They are finding work that pays a little less well than it used to. They know that they can still make 8 to 10 times more in the United States than in Mexico or El Salvador or Honduras. And they know also that they are in a better situation in terms of finding a job in the United States than with the mass levels of unemployment that they are now experiencing in their own countries.

RADKE: What would you say is the Mexican dream?

CASTANEDA: The real Mexican dream, not the false one, not the one that the intellectuals like myself make up, but the real one is that people leave for the United States, find a well-paying job, improve their income level slightly over time, eventually obtain papers, bring their family or create a family, build a family in the United States. And then later on in life, depending on their age and how they do, etc., maybe go home to Mexico to retire. But to retire at an early age, at 50ish or something like that. I think that to a large extent that is the Mexican dream. Because the other one is that they could find the same sorts of jobs in Mexico that they find in the U.S., and that hasn't happened for the last 100 odd years, and will not happen at least for the next 15 or 20 years.

RADKE: Jorge Castaneda is a former foreign minister of Mexico, now a professor at New York University. Thank you.

CASTANEDA: Thank you very much.

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