Some Mexicans look at Donald Trump and say 'give him a chance'

Despite the chaos he's created for their country, some Mexicans cling to the hope that Donald Trump's presidency won't be as bad for their country as they fear.

President-elect's words have already cost jobs, but there remains hope in Mexico that it's all rhetoric

Abraham Moreno with his 'zonkey' in Tijuana, Mexico: he finds the economy is slowing, costs are going up and the city is starting to slide back toward its violent past. Others are more upbeat. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

Abraham Moreno throws a few corn husks onto the sidewalk for his donkey. The fact it's wearing a red headband that reads "Barbi" is only the second-strangest thing about this animal.

It's painted black-and-white, like a zebra. It may seem silly, Moreno admits. But the "zonkey" is an old Tijuana tradition. It wouldn't look quite so depressing, he says, if there were tourists lining up to take pictures with her. 

But since the U.S. election, fewer Americans are visiting. The economy is slowing, costs are going up, and Moreno says Tijuana is starting to slide back toward its violent past.

"Trump doesn't want work to come here," he says. "People are going to be unemployed. There's going to be more robbery, more kidnappings."

Close to 50,000 people cross the border into the U.S. from Tijuana every day to work, shop and visit relatives. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

Mexico's peso has generally been on a slow decline against the U.S. dollar for the past several years. Since Donald Trump was elected, however, the peso's value has plummeted 15 per cent. To stabilize the economy, the Mexican government raised fuel prices by 20 per cent, sparking widespread protests, looting, and mass arrests.

But despite the chaos, some Mexicans are clinging to the hope that Trump's presidency won't be as bad for their country as many fear.

CBC correspondents around the world are watching how people inside and outside the U.S. are reacting to the impending inauguration of Donald Trump. Read our full coverage from: 

Artemio Molano fears he'll no longer be able to work in San Diego — not because he's illegal, but because the wait will be too long to cross the Tijuana border after Trump is in office. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

Artemio Molano is buying a piñata for his niece's seventh birthday. But he noticed one popular blond-headed piñata is no longer hanging in the store.

"You don't have the one of Trump?" he asks a sales clerk, who tells him no.

Ditching the Trump piñata, he says, is probably good politics, especially for those like himself who cross the border regularly for work. President Trump is happening, he says. Might as well get onboard.

"We have to wait and see," Molano says. "Give him a chance first."

Many residents feel Tijuana will be economically devastated by a trade war and tougher border security. Already, some say, they feel more animosity when they cross into the U.S. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

Even before he has been sworn in, however, Trump has already hurt Mexico's economy. His tweets warning companies of a punitive 35 per cent tax if they manufacture U.S. goods south of the border have already scared off some American companies such as Ford.

That may cost thousands of Mexican jobs, and has further hurt the exchange rate, but in a border city like Tijuana, certain segments of the economy have actually profited from the low peso. A win for Trump has been a win for them too.

Genaro Valladolid, in his office at Bustamente Realty Group, pores over the floor plans for a new condo development. For some real estate agents, he says, business is booming, because many Mexicans who live in the U.S. are moving back home, and bringing their American money with them. In Tijuana over the next two years, about 2,000 condo units will go up.

Real estate agent Genaro Valladolid says the low Mexican peso has led to many Mexicans returning home to take advantage of the exchange rate. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

"And that's a lot of construction," Valladolid says. He believes the perception of growing anti-Mexican sentiment north of the border may be playing a small part.

"Do they mention the election? Yes they do," he says. "All those passions that were inflamed during the campaign, you start seeing them, you start feeling them, you're more aware."

However he believes the exchange rate is actually the biggest factor.

"Your dollar just goes farther," he says.

Valeria Santana is optimistic. She says the two countries are 'brothers.' They fight, but in the end they'll make up. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

For those who earn in pesos like 26-year-old Valeria Santana, who operates an upscale food truck, costs are already going up.

Still, she and other young entrepreneurs closely follow U.S. news and have heard even Republican lawmakers admit that a stable Mexico is in America's best interest. She believes, in the end, the ties between the two countries are more important than Trump's rhetoric.    

"We're like brothers," she says. "We are family."

Some, like Moreno, believe that's wishful thinking, given Trump's actions since being elected. The idea of Mexico and Trump's America being 'brothers' is as fantastical and unreal as his zonkey.

"Trump doesn't want Mexican people to work," he says. "They want to put walls up. People will be stuck here. Where will they go? What will they do?"


Kim Brunhuber

Los Angeles correspondent

Kim Brunhuber is a CBC News Senior Reporter based in Los Angeles. He has travelled the world from Sierra Leone to Afghanistan as a videojournalist, shooting and editing pieces for TV, radio and online. Originally from Montreal, he speaks French and Spanish, and is also a published novelist.