Mexico & the United States

Mexico and the United States: Migration, Politics, and Culture

Undergraduate Seminar, 4 credits

Spring 2018

pedro_bill
Illustration from a children’s book. The two boys holding hands in the middle are Pedro (from Mexico) and Bill (from the United States). Source: Flack, Marjorie, and Karl Larsson. Pedro. New York: Macmillan, 1940.

Course Description

Today, there is more uncertainty about the future of Mexico-U.S. relations than at any other time in living memory. It is critical to understand this bilateral relationship not only because it is in flux, but also because these two countries are so deeply connected. Mexican migration to the United States is the most massive flow of immigrants in modern history. No country has more consulates in another country than Mexico has in the United States. Trade between these countries is crucial for both economies. The people of these two nations constantly share and adapt each other’s cuisine, music, language, and holidays. But despite proximity and interconnection, tension and violence are also near-constant features of interactions between the two countries. How has this peculiarly close, unequal, and ambivalent relationship between Mexico and the United States in the past two hundred years? By the end of this course, you will be able to offer some answers to this thorny question.

In this class, we will explore three interrelated dimensions of the bilateral relationship: migration, cultural exchange, and international politics. In addition to reading scholars’ accounts, you will examine primary sources during every class meeting. Over the course of the semester, you will work with newspaper articles, photographs, political cartoons, archival documents, children’s books, and other types of historical material. You will practice writing about primary sources in a class blog and in your final project.

The course is divided into 4 units, spanning from nineteenth century to the present day, although the bulk of the course focuses on the twentieth century. We will cover periods of great tension between the countries, such as the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), but we will also examine moments when friendlier relations prevailed. We will look at Mexican migration over the past 150 years. We will also note the intensity of cultural exchanges between the countries, particularly during the twentieth century, that have spanned from fine arts to fast food. Finally, we will talk about the economic ties that have long linked Mexico and the United States, including the 1994 signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

To learn more about your options for the final project, click here.

To explore some of the primary sources you will see in this class, click here.

For a syllabus, write to me: rgn2109@columbia.edu.

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