MEXICO CITY — Democrats had gathered here for a “Hillary Clinton Victory Party” at a popular barbecue joint. But Donald Trump's historic, upset victory early Wednesday sapped their enthusiasm.
Americans in the group said they’ve always felt welcome in Mexico, even as Trump unleashed tough talk about America’s southern neighbor, calling some Mexican migrants “rapists” and robbers and promising to build a border wall paid for by Mexico to stem illegal entries. Some wonder how they will be treated here now that Trump has won the U.S. presidency.
“They don’t blame us for Trump,” said Rosa Baum, a San Francisco native who works with a human rights group. “They’re often expressing empathy.”
Jennifer Long, a teacher from Kansas, recalled positive attitudes toward Americans in Mexico during the Obama administration. “I’m nervous because I never thought the American people would vote for someone that is … anti-everyone,” Long said.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Wednesday congratulated the United States for its electoral process but stopped short of congratulating Trump, whose August visit to Mexico sent Peña Nieto's popularity tumbling.
"I trust that Mexico and the United States will continue tightening their links of cooperation and mutual respect," Peña Nieto tweeted.
Trump is the most openly anti-Mexico U.S. leader since President James Polk, who waged the Mexican-American war, said Christopher Albi, a history professor at the State University of New York-New Paltz. "But Trump will find the two countries too intertwined to want to hurt Mexico," Albi said, adding that such actions "hurt the U.S., too."
Trump’s victory, given his attacks on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), sent the Mexican peso tumbling to an all-time low before it recovered slightly. The Mexican economy has benefited greatly from the trade pact, which Trump said costs American jobs as factories move to lower-cost sites south of the border. His NAFTA bashing helped the peso fall nearly 10% this year prior to election night.
Analysts said there are few good options for the Mexican government, though Bank of Mexico governor Agustín Carstens told Milenio TV there are contingency plans.
“The government can’t really do anything at this point but wait,” said Esteban Illades, editor of the Mexican magazine Nexos. “I think the entire country is shocked. “We thought they (American voters) were more responsible.”
Some took to Twitter to express worry for their country — and the world.
“A civilized and democratic world will have to once again confront EVIL,” tweeted Mexican historian Enrique Krauze, a Trump critic. “Once again, with blood, sweat and tears, it will be defeated.”
A rising tide of protectionism in the United States, as evidenced by Trump's victory, is causing concerns that Mexico will fall into a recession.
“In the short term, markets would probably go haywire in the midst of a mass confusion in terms of what his presidency would actually mean,” said Jonathan Heath, an independent economist in Mexico City.
Mexico and the U.S. have increased cooperation in areas such as security and combating drug cartels, while Mexico has detained and deported record numbers of Central Americans trying to cross through Mexico to reach the U.S. border. The U.S. has provided technical assistance in areas such as implementing a fairer judicial system.
“It’s a terrible feeling of uncertainty,” said Armando Regil, director of a think tank focusing on youth issues. “We cannot change geography. We’ll have to find new ways to understand each other and get along.”
“We have to look for dialogue, but we have to let it be known we will not tolerate more insults or rude remarks,” Regil said.
As the peso sinks, American imports will become more expensive, which could reduce demand among Mexicans seeking cheaper foreign competitors.
“Right now, all bets are off,” said Ralston Darlington, president of the Democrats Abroad chapter in Mexico City. “We need to reassure Mexicans that not all Americans are anti-Mexican or racist,” Darlington said.
Others fear mass deportations of undocumented immigrants under a Trump administration. “How could you create new jobs for 2 or 3 or even 4 million of deportees?” asked Rodolfo Soriano-Nuñez, a sociologist in Mexico City.
Trump’s promise to build a wall is considered a non-starter in Mexico. But Soriano-Núñez said, “If they actually go for the wall, the pressure will be very hard on the Mexican government” to resist.
Ironically, Trump’s emergence comes as surveys show Mexicans increasingly cast aside anti-American attitudes. Some wonder if that will endure. Mexicans regularly patronize U.S. chains such as Starbucks and Walmart, watch Netflix shows and speak ever more English.
“It’s so sad to see an ideology that’s so demeaning to the Mexican population,” said Elizabeth Téliz, a university student. “We’re so close. We should have good relations.”