University of Arizona historians asks why Mexico is poorer than the U.S.





From the time he was a child, Oscar Martinez says, crossing back and forth across the bridge, he wondered about the disparity of wealth between El Paso and Juárez.

The contrast was stark, and when he asked why, the explanations made no sense.

Those answers – corruption, a legacy of inferior administration from the Spaniards, and even a cultural tendency toward laziness – still make no sense, he says. So he’s putting in his two cents.

Martinez, 67, is a regents professor of history at the University of Arizona, Tucson. He’s finishing his latest book, titled “Why Mexico is Poorer than the United States.” It makes the case that there is a logical, empirically measurable set of answers.

“It is greatly exaggerated that Mexico is a rich country with regard to raw materials and resources. The reality is that Mexico is one of the poorest countries in terms of land,” he said. “The difference is the United States has the best space on the planet.”

Martinez said his neighborhood in Juárez was humble, and his father was often away working illegally in the U.S., leaving his mother – who was very strong, he says – to raise five children. From his parents, he learned a work ethic that some Americans think is their unique cultural advantage.

Martinez teaches the history of Mexico and of the border. His research focuses on the political, economic and social history of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands....



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Stuart Nixon - 5/26/2010

Two of the countries suffering the greatest destruction during World War II--Germany and Japan--are today major industrial powers, even though they have nothing approaching the land or natural resources of Mexico. So it hardly seems logical to blame Mexico's problems on inadequate or inferior space in which to farm. Clearly, something else is at play. I trust Professor Martinez will address those other issues.

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