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Kansas City’s Role in US-Mexico Relations a Result of 200-Year-Old Mexican Community

Posted By IRC, Monday, May 15, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A healthy diplomatic relationship between the United States and Mexico is crucial for the prosperity of both nations. The various successes of the North American Free Trade Agreement have made Mexico the United States’ third largest trading partner, and the United States Mexico’s largest trading partner, accounting for over 80% of Mexico’s total global trade. Mexican-Americans make up over 11% of the United States 320 million individuals. Suffice it to say, it is imperative that the new presidential administration does everything it can to maintain the special relationship. 


Kansas City has been a center of interest for the Mexican government since the days of the Santa Fe Trail. The first Mexicans to arrive in the area were traders traveling along the trail coming to Independence in the 1820’s and 1830’s. Around the turn of the 20th century, migrant workers from all over Mexico relocated to Kansas City to work for several railroads, including the Chicago–Rock Island and Santa Fe railroads.


Continuing through both World Wars, more Mexican immigrants came to supply the labor needs in the meatpacking and railroad industries. During World War I, when Eastern Europeans were passed over for labor needs, factories and rail yards recruited Mexican labor. In 1942, the United States approved the Bracero Program to allow Mexican laborers to work in the US, and as a result, more Mexicans came to the Kansas City area in search of work.


Most immigrants settled in the Armourdale and Argentine neighborhoods in Kansas City, Kansas, and Westside neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri. Each neighborhood has a number of restaurants serving authentic Mexican cuisine. Cultural institutions, such as the Mattie Rhodes, El Centro, and the Guadalupe Centers, provide various programming that includes art galleries, workshops, and festivals for holidays.



The prosperity of Kansas City has come not only from the cultural enrichment of Mexican immigration, but also from the economic ties between Kansas City and Mexico. Kansas City Southern, whose headquarters are located in Quality Hill, is the smallest of the remaining major North American railways yet the only one to own track in both Mexico and the United States. The railroad and its subsidiaries provide arteries for the flow of trade between the two countries, running a total of $534 billion in 2014.

Recognizing their emigrants finding cultural and economic prosperity in a city greatly contributing to bilateral trade with its northern neighbor, the Mexican government established the only non-honorary foreign diplomatic missions in Kansas City. The Mexican Consulate in Kansas City reflect Mexico’s belief in the region to be economically and culturally important in the overall prosperity of the relationship between it and the United States.


The diplomatic relationship between the two countries maintains their relative ranking of major global actors in terms of trade. On January 25, 2017, President Donald Trump signed a Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements executive order, directing the Department of Homeland Security to commence securing the US-Mexico border by constructing a physical wall. Disputes between the two governments over who would fund building the wall has caused the Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto to cancel a meeting with Trump, leading to diplomatic stagnation. The Republican-controlled executive and legislative branches must be wary of a downturn in its working relationship with another democratic government, or they risk losing great sums of trade.


Whatever the diplomatic situation is between Mexico City and Washington, D.C., Kansas City will continue to provide a venue for Mexican culture to flourish. El Camino Real in Kansas City, Kansas, will keep serving tacos al pastor, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will continue to host the yearly Fiesta Kansas City in Crown Center. 2017 will be another year of growth and enrichment in the Mexican community.


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Peter Fortunato is a freshman at the University of Miami Ohio, pursuing a bachelor's degree in both International Studies and Statistics, while minoring in Spanish.

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Member Spotlight: Treaux Jackson

Posted By IRC, Monday, May 8, 2017

Treaux is new to the IRC and became a member because of his interest and recent studies in Asian languages and cultures. Treaux is a current junior at Blue Valley West High School, leads the BV Chinese Club, and promotes Asian languages through his nonprofit, Fortune Cookie Kid. Treaux is a dedicated scholar who, in addition to an already accelerated class schedule, finds the time to learn Mandarin and Japanese.

Over the summer, Treaux studied in Beijing, China, with Education First and then returned to the U.S. to study intensive Chinese at Stanford High School Summer College in California. He was recently awarded the 2017 Reischauer Scholarship by SPICE (Stanford's Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education) and this spring will attend the virtual online program to learn more about Japan and its political relations with the United States. After graduation in 2018, Treaux plans to study Engineering and East Asian Languages.


Treaux was nominated for the Member Spotlight by Suzanne Jackson. To nominate another IRC member or to share your own story as it relates to international relations, please click here ».

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China and the Two-Child Policy

Posted By IRC, Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A little over a year ago, China’s central government announced the abolition of the one-child policy. Minor easements have weakened the restriction throughout the years, such as allowing rural families a second child and the change in 2013 that allowed a second, if one of the parents is an only child, but the decades-old restriction was finally finished on 1 January, 2016 - the policy now allows two children.


The birth-limiting program was enacted in 1980 to curb the rapid population growth of the time, but fears surrounding China’s current demographic situation inspired the new change. Mei Fong », author and former Wall Street Journal reporter, summarized the problem: “The reason China is doing this right now is because they have too many men, too many old people, and too few young people,” andif people don’t start having more children, they’re going to have a vastly diminished workforce to support a huge aging population.”


Critics are worried that a two-child policy won’t stop what are seen as human rights violations. Keeping the two-child policy means that the government will retain its enforcement tools, including fines and forced abortions.


“Provincial sampling suggests that the Chinese government collects about 20 billion yuan ($3 billion US) per year in family-planning fines,” according to Pei Minxin », professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.



As long as the quotas and system of surveillance remains, women still do not enjoy reproductive rights,” said Maya Wang ». In fact, couples seeking a second pregnancy must still submit an application for a birth permit.


Many argue that the policy wasn’t the main reason for the decline in fertility in these past 30 years. In that time China has seen huge economic growth and some many millions of individuals have climbed out of poverty, which some say is the greater factor at play.


“[T]he most effective path for preventing a population explosion is prosperity. It works much more successfully than sending out police to arrest and fine citizens, something even Chinese officials, to their growing consternation, are discovering. Couples naturally decide to have fewer children as they move from the fields into the cities, become more educated, and when women establish careers outside the home,” according to Frida Ghitis », world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review.


While previous efforts to loosen the policy were expected to cause spikes in fertility rates, China’s younger generation feels that a small family is ideal. Social media response to the two-child system was unspectacular and birth rates aren’t expected to really bloom any time soon. “...more than 20 million young men will not be able to find marriage partners in the coming decades. The most sobering lesson from this tally of the one-child policy’s toll on China lies in the simple fact that the authorities were able to enforce it for so long,” said Pei.

Benjamin Buffa is a senior at the University of Missouri–Kansas City (UMKC), pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in French.

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