The neighbor Americans believe they have to the south, and the Mexico that has developed over the last 20 years, are two different places. As Mexico's incoming president Enrique Peña Nieto meets with President Obama this week, the biggest challenge facing relations today may be our skewed perceptions.
In Americans' psyches, drugs dominate. When advertising firm GSD&M and Vianovo strategic consultants asked Americans to come up with three words that describe Mexico, nearly every other person answered "drugs," followed by "poor" and "unsafe." Other questions reveal Americans see Mexico as corrupt, unstable and violent, more problem than partner. Americans had more favorable views of Greece, El Salvador and Russia.
These perceptions reflect the Mexican reality that dominates headlines: soaring crime rates and gruesome murders in a war against drug traffickers. But this window into Mexico overlooks an economic transformation and deepening ties with the United States that reflect a dramatically different country.