The NYT published a story on Sunday that USians are fleeing the United States for Mexico City - and judging by what friends and associates are saying from other areas in Mexico, other tourist destinations are getting their share of gringos, as well. This is, of course, a foolish decision in both personal and public health policy - neither of which are my goals to evaluate (read "shame") today.
As horrible as this story is in terms of public health, there is a shred of hope in this story. Consider what that first paragraph just said: People from the United States are fleeing to Mexico during a global health crisis because they feel they will be safer. Indeed, Mexico jumped to the third-most visited country in the world in 2020 (up from #7). Add to that, after living in Mexico for several months, many of them are planning on staying permanently. In short, young people imagine Mexico to be a safe place, and after visiting, they judge it to be a welcoming and comfortable place to live.
Here is the good news: Despite the last 6 years of Mexico trashing and the near apocalyptic tone of "Mexico is a failed state" from the press, young USians are finding in Mexico a world that is preferable tot the United States. One hopes that positive aspects of Mexico are ones that they will look to recreate in the United States. Additionally, with this increasing number of people spending time in Mexico that have never before been there, one hopes that they will speak out about improving relations between the US and Mexico. That the NAFTA opened up the free flow of goods and capital, but not people and wealth between the US and Mexico was an opportunity lost. As more and more USians stop seeing Mexico as a "failed state" or a nightmare location, perhaps we can grow closer together under a new generation of leadership.
Here's the bad news: Note that above I said "imagine" when I mentioned what young people know of Mexico. During the current pandemic Mexico is not a safe place to be - not because it is Mexico but because traveling is not safe. Affluent USians have no idea to the extent to which they are contributing to the health divide between haves and have nots in many regions of Mexico, particularly as health resources are being so heavily taxed. Additionally, while these travelers seem to understand that violence in Mexico is neither endemic nor targeted at all people, they don't seem to understand the types of violence that do exist in Mexico that are real issues - particularly for women and the poor. And finally, not fully understanding the impact that "expats" have on Mexican housing and food prices means that where US migrants were previously welcome, they might be less welcome in the future if numbers continue to rise (particularly if they spread Covid-19).
Here's the hope: Mexico and the United States are already far more closely united than most in the US (or even Mexican conservatives) are willing to admit. While we will probably never achieve completely open borders with a free flow of people, ideas, jobs, etc., one hopes that this "fleeing to Mexico" is a sign that we are ready to put away the nightmare of Mexico trashing from the last 6 year.