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Together toward a brighter future

Discussing Mexican-U.S. relations is always difficult because of their complexity.

We share the longest border in the world, with 1 million daily legal crossings each day. With Canada included, we share the biggest trade area in the world, even larger than that of the European Union. Mexico and the United States exchange $140 million in trade goods every minute. We have more than an economic link.

A million U.S. citizens reside in Mexico and 35 million people living in the United States have Mexican roots, and most of them are American citizens, or have a legally authorized immigration status. We share food, cultures and the arts, ranging from tacos to Carlos Santana or the movies of Mexico director Alfonso Quaron.

Our relations go beyond the agenda between our two federal governments.

Recent days have brought some tension to our relations, but with this tension, comes a great opportunity. We are taking time in both our countries to reflect on what kind of relationship we want to have, and how to make it better.

At this precise moment, I feel obliged to offer a Mexican point of view about what kind of relationship we think we should have.

First of all, we are neighbors, we are going to be neighbors forever, or at least as long as we live on this planet. That’s a fact we cannot change, and we each need to find a way to profit from it. At least we should be good neighbors.

Arizona Gov. Paul J. Fannin said 60 years ago, “God made us neighbors, let us be good neighbors.” He knew that being good neighbors wasn’t easy. Is being just good neighbors what we want? Are we good neighbors? Can we be more than just neighbors?

The world is changing faster than our ability to understand it. No country can face the future alone, not even the wealthiest one, not even the one with the biggest economy, not even the United States. If “two heads are better than one,” then two countries together can do better than one alone.

We need to take the next step, we need to be friends, we want to be friends, and we will be friends. Aristotle defined friendship as the sharing of common goals for mutual improvement and achievement.

Friends treat each other fairly. Friendship does not insure against differences, passions, or rough moments, or even occasional anger with each other. Friends work things out.

Friends tell each other the truth, so we need to begin by knowing each other better, and by telling each other the truth. For years, there has been a shared temptation by our public officeholders to blame the neighbor instead of taking the blame for their own actions. We’ve had presidents who blame the United States for Mexico’s violence, poverty or unemployment. We should not fall into that trap. It leads nowhere. Often no one is to blame.

If we feed the blaming spiral, we will really upset each other without finding a solution. We need to move forward.

It’s true that we share a lot of common problems -- political, economic, commercial, migratory, social, environmental, energy, technical, borders and security. We need to recognize that Mexico is indeed responsible for part of what happens in the United States, just as the United States is responsible for what happens in Mexico; we share the same future.

It is time to change the approach. If we are going to build a friendship, we need to focus on our goals and dreams. Working together and dreaming together, we will realize that we have the same dreams.

We dream of a land where poverty has been overcome, of a region that lives in peace, free of domestic and foreign threats. We dream of a better future for our children, of a region where human rights are fully respected. We dream of a region where an individual’s future isn’t bound to a cradle, where children face a better future. We dream of a region where human rights are fully respected, and our future is bright, not scary.

Our relationship is so important that we cannot let two presidents carry the burden of building it. It is up to us, the real neighbors, the citizens of both countries, to start building individual friendships, friendships between families, cities, states, companies, and two nations walking together to a brighter future.

The Mexican author Angeles Mastretta wrote, “We won´t achieve anything by fighting separately, to fall defeated together.”

The future of North America as a region is in both our hands.

— Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, 61, was elected to the Mexican Senate in 2012. He holds two master's degrees from Southern Oregon University, is a former president of the University of Guanajuato and governor of the State of Guanajuato. He is married to Faffie Siekman. The first of their 10 children was born in Ashland when Romero Hicks was an SOU Amistad exchange student.