Mexico's perceptions of the United States have changed very little during the past five decades. What has undergone a total transformation, however, is the atmosphere in which they are formed. This change reached its culmination with the defeat of the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) at the polls on July 2, 2000, and the presidential victory of Vicente Fox. The end of the PRI's dominion after 72 years of authoritarian and often viscerally anti-American rule would seem to augur well for improvements in Mexican-American relations, and in many ways it does. But along with political change has come a new and more self-confident spirit of Mexican nationalism that will pose challenges for the United States.
In order to peer into the future, however, we must first reenter the past. Our two countries have a long common history, stretching back to the 16th century, that has profoundly influenced Mexican society and its attitudes toward the United States.