You Can’t Build a Wall on Common Ground by Tom Darin Liskey

US President-elect Donald Trump is starting his four-year term with some of the lowest approval ratings seen by an American president-elect in decades. Just south of the border in Mexico, Trump’s image has been taking a beating for a lot longer. And I mean that literally. Demand for piñatas bearing the real estate mogul and TV personality’s well-coiffured comb-over have been soaring ever since he vilified undocumented Mexican immigrants as criminals, rapists, and drug dealers during the 2016 election.

 “They sell out faster than we can get them,” Carmen, a salesperson in one of Mexico City’s many piñata stalls told me. “We just can’t keep them in stock.”

Carmen wasn’t exaggerating. I spent an entire afternoon prowling every dimly lit piñata shop in the historic district in hopes of finding at least one to photograph. All I came up with was nada. With Trump’s swearing in at hand, the surge in demand for trumpiñatas (as I like to call them) helps to underscore the newly fraught relations between Mexico and the US.

That’s a shame because the US and Mexican economies are more intertwined than ever. Venerated traditions like custom boot making continues to thrive in places like Texas because of the expertise of Mexican craftsmen working here. At the same time, Texas and other US states export billions of dollars’ worth of goods and services to Mexico. More to the point, Mexico is the United States’ third largest goods trading partner, with an estimated $531 billion in goods exchanged during 2015, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative. Even Mr. Trump turned to Mexico at one point to manufacture some of his brand-name clothing.

Perhaps more important, Mexico and the US Southwest share a common history in more ways than you might imagine. Mexican field workers picked cotton with newly arrived Czech, Polish, and German immigrants in Texas after the US Civil War, and an unexpected cross-pollination of musical traditions occurred. Mexican stringed instrument musicians incorporated elements of oompah-loving European brass bands into their songs, thus helping to lay the foundations of the music we know as Mariachi. It is also worthwhile to mention that Mexico, seeing German Catholics treated as second-class citizens in Protestant-dominated nineteenth century America, invited these celebrants to Mexico where they could worship openly. Just recently, a Mexican diplomat reminded me over lunch that the Mexican Revolution was hatched in a San Antonio, Texas, hotel.

“We care what happens in Texas (and the US)…because modern day Mexico can trace its revolutionary roots to the hospitality (that former president and reform zealot Francisco Madero) found here.”

Rather than build a wall, Trump should build on common ground. Look, Trump and his supporters like to talk up his business acumen, but for a man dead-set on implementing policies that could potentially stifle commerce and the flow of border-jumping ideas, our new president is going to be bad for business.

After a two decades-long former career as a journalist in Latin America, I should be used to politicians like Trump, those who offer rhetoric rather than results. I travel to Mexico a lot for work. In my down time, I walk around with my camera. Sometimes I’ll sneak into a quiet church to watch people or strike up a conversation with someone on the corner. I like to get to know people and their opinions. I guess I still have the journo bone in me. But rather than give you my opinion on the common ground we share with Mexico, I thought I’d simply show you.

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For more of Tom’s “micro bios,” follow his adventures on our Change Seven Instagram account here.

Tom Darin Liskey

Tom Darin Liskey

Tom Darin Liskey spent nearly a decade working as a journalist in Venezuela, Argentina, and Brazil. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi. His fiction and non fiction have appeared in the Crime Factory, Driftwood Press, Mount Island, The Burnside Writers Collective, Sassafras Literary Magazine, and Biostories, among others. His photographs have been published in Hobo Camp Review, Roadside Fiction, Blue Hour Magazine, Synesthesia Literary Journal,and Midwestern Gothic. He lives in Texas where he tells his children that he has done worse things for less money.

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