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Wooed by Mexico

Author: Shannon K. O'Neil, Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies
April 19, 2013
Zocalo Public Square

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As my plane touched down at Benito Juárez airport in early 1994, I didn't know that it was the start of a 20-year relationship with Mexico.

I was coming to work at a boutique investment bank, the first paying job I was offered that would allow me to live in Latin America. I wasn't an obvious choice for the city or for the profession—a liberal arts degree holder who grew up in the rural Midwest. Still, there I was, playing international banker in this teeming city of 20 million. I dove into the hubris of it all, poring over balance sheets and building financial models to pass judgment on Mexico's publicly traded companies. I followed global financial markets, trying to match our traders' exuberance as they lobbed Cetes and Tesobonos, Mexico's peso- and dollar-denominated bonds, back and forth.

Being a foreigner in Mexico in the 1990s had its advantages. My status as a novelty—both a professional woman and a foreigner—opened doors that would have remained shut for most 22-year-olds elsewhere. I was able to meet the CFOs and CEOs of the companies I was covering and to attend high-powered meetings and meals. And I could pretend not to speak Spanish when pulled over for a bribe.

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