POTUS Biden, Americans, and Canadians Must Help in Turning Mexico Into an Economic Power

by Bobby Reyes

Former President George W. Bush, former Mexico’s President Vicente Fox and former Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, right, stand in front of the Chichen-Itza Archaeological Ruins in Mexico, March 2006. | White House photo by Kimberlee Hewitt via Creative Commons

On April 2, 2014, I had the honor of meeting with former President Vicente Fox of Mexico in an event sponsored by the Milken Foundation in Santa Monica, CA. Mr. Fox, who was the guest of honor, said in his speech that Mexico would become the fifth-biggest economy in the world by 2050.

I was the first in line in asking the former Mexican President to sign his new book, Revolution of Hope. When I informed him that I am a Filipino, his eyes brightened, and he said that Filipinos are some of the closest people to Mexicans. I said, “Yes, Mr. President, Filipinos are like the first cousins of your people.” And I also remarked that the nearly four-million Americans of Filipino descent and Overseas Filipinos would help his country become an economic powerhouse even earlier than 2050.

I respectfully suggest that President-elect Joe Biden and his incoming administration may do their very best in helping Mexico become an economic superpower. Suppose Mexico became the world’s fifth-biggest economy. In that case, many North-American problems from immigration to illegal drugs to universal-health care coverage to homelessness – to name a few, would be easier to solve in partnership with Mexico. And in turn, a prosperous Mexico — with the help of its North-American partners that are the U.S. and Canada — can do more in assisting, in turn, all the struggling countries in Central-and-South America and the Caribbean.

“Suppose Mexico became the world’s fifth-biggest economy. In that case, many North-American problems from immigration to illegal drugs to universal-health care coverage to homelessness – to name a few, would be easier to solve in partnership with Mexico.”

And Hispanic Americans, including Filipino Americans, can invest in the Mexican quest to become the world’s fifth-biggest economy. They can help in making it happen sooner.

Here is the beginning of the Filipino-American friendship: On Nov.19-20, 1564, a third Spanish expedition of 500 men led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi departed Barra de Navidad, in the Province of Jalisco in present-day Mexico, for the Filipino archipelago. The islands were earlier named Filipinas in 1543 by the Spanish explorer Ruy Lopez de Villalobos, who commanded the second expedition. It arrived in Cebu on February 13, 1565, and annexing it with hardly any local opposition. My educated guess is that more than half of the 500-man crew was Mexican. And when some of the galleons returned to Mexico, the Mexican crew members were replaced by Asian-Indio (aka Filipino) sailors and carpenters that volunteered for the new jobs. Spain needed the Mexicans to maintain its governance in the Filipino archipelago. And the Filipino sailors on the Spanish galleons were the first Overseas-Filipino workers (OFW).

“Perhaps a President Biden may adopt Mexico’s turning into an economic superpower and the economic empowerment of Central-and-South America and the Caribbean. And officially call it the Biden Doctrine.

Eventually, in the nearly-240 years of the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade, some of the Filipino sailors settled in Mexico and got married to Native-Mexican Indian brides or jumped ship after it reached the port.

And thus, at Mr. Biden’s inauguration as the President on January 20, 2021, it will be just 24-days short of the start of the 456th year of the Filipino-Mexican ties of friendship and cooperation. And the 450th anniversary of the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade was the only cargo-and-passenger link between North America and Asia in the 16th-and-17th centuries. It ended only in 1821 when Mexico became independent from Spain.

Perhaps a President Biden may adopt Mexico’s turning into an economic superpower and the economic empowerment of Central-and-South America and the Caribbean. And officially call it the Biden Doctrine.

A Filipino-American foundation and its visionary president have already announced a project to help develop Mexico — in collaboration with Mexican partners. The FPACC Foundation, Inc. is joining its president, Numeriano Bouffard of Orlando, Florida, in creating a 1,300-hectare site to become a Pueblo Filipino, geared to become the ultimate retirement center for retiring Americans of Filipino descent and their in-laws and retirees of any nationality. The FPACC is the acronym of the Federation of Philippine-American Chambers of Commerce.

Mr. Bouffard invited this journalist cum community leader to contribute inputs to the Pueblo Filipino. It can become a retirement oasis and a cultural, historical, educational, and entertainment/sporting center. It can also help construct more-affordable housing units for those in need, especially for military veterans — often forced to live in the street.

In turn, Pueblo Filipino invited me to join the project, some descendants of the Mexican-American actor Anthony Quinn, who was the first minority actor to break the Hollywood glass ceiling. One of Mr. Quinn’s first major roles was the 1945 film, Back to Bataan, where he played a Filipino guerrilla soldier’s part. The Quinns can help in putting up a film studio on the project site. It can do historical films on the three Spanish voyages that reached the Philippines in 1521, 1543, and 1565 — as commanded by Fernando de Magallanes, Ruy Lopez de Villalobos, and Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, respectively. It can do documentary series about the Mexican-American, Spanish-American, and Filipino-American Wars. And about the exploit of Mexican pilots who volunteered to join the U.S. military to liberate the Philippines during World War II.

“The World Health Organization has announced the requirement of at least 6-million nurses by 2030. And now, probably more nurses are needed given this current pandemic. A nurse (from a low-income family) to work in the U.S. and other industrialized nations can elevate her (or his family) from poverty to the middle-class.”

I suggested to Mr. Bouffard another idea to initiate a joint Mexican-Filipino task force in collaboration with Mexican nursing colleges. Their graduates can field bilingual-speaking nurses who can fill up the world’s needs for more nursing professionals. The World Health Organization has announced the requirement of at least 6-million nurses by 2030. And now, probably more nurses are needed given this current pandemic. A nurse (from a low-income family) to work in the U.S. and other industrialized nations can elevate her (or his family) from poverty to the middle-class. More than 500,000 Filipino nurses proved it, and other medical professionals worked or are working in the U.S.

And in the world of sports, perhaps Mexico and the U.S. can help train Filipino athletes. The Philippines has not won any medal in the Summer Olympics in nearly six decades. Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose grandfather was a Mexican soldier who volunteered to join the U.S. Army, spearheads the 2028 Olympics scheduled to occur in this city. Garcetti saw action in the Philippines during World War II. And Mayor Garcetti is the recognized Father of the Historic Filipinotown in the 13th District of Los Angeles.

(More on the suggested Biden Doctrine and the Pueblo Filipino by next Wednesday.)

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