Mexico's image has rarely been this deteriorated. Nothing remains of the celebration sparked by the so-called “Pact for Mexico,” a 2012 initiative from the ruling party that served as a global example of political civility by achieving consensus among rival lawmakers to pass the country’s structural reforms.
The international media once used the term "Mexico’s Moment" to sell an idea that the country was finally on the path to prosperity. But it didn't last: the human-rights violations in Tlatlaya, the saga of the missing 43 students, and the real-estate scandals broke the inertia. Now the recent escape of drug lord Chapo Guzmán has reduced Mexico’s image to that of a caricature — and not a funny one.
Consequently, when our government institutions fail to uphold our image abroad, a concept championed by Harvard professor Joseph S. Nye Jr. might just do the trick during a time of crisis. Nye talks about “soft power,” a country’s ability to co-opt people rather than coerce them. A powerful source of soft power is culture, which is especially useful in attraction and seduction.
The collective talent of Mexican society and its rich culture can help to reconstruct our image abroad. Take Hollywood for example. Tinseltown, as Donald Trump would say, has been "invaded" by Mexican filmmakers led by Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Emmanuel Lubezki and Guillermo del Toro. There are no Academy Awards without them. In the Cannes film festival edgier Mexican filmmakers such as Carlos Reygadas, Amat Escalante, and Michel Franco have become favorites. Salma Hayek, Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal are other notable Mexican stars. And even the Mexican soaps, which generate intellectual complaints, have hoards of fans in places as far away as Romania.
Fashion brands such as Pineda Covalin and buildings designed by architect Enrique Norten have become global references. The kitchen trinity formed by Enrique Olvera, Mikel Alonso, and Jorge Vallejo run a chain of Mexico City-based restaurants considered among the 50 best in the world. There's even soft power in street tacos and guacamole.
Mexico City is a world leader in annual concerts, theater and museums per capita.
Mexico's soft power is not a matter of vanity, but showing the world who we truly are. A strong soft power that exhibits our country in all its complexity is no longer an abstract concept once in translates into tourism, appreciation for our country, and empathy from investors. The government, too, realizes the influence of soft power, as evident by its so-called Marca País or “Nation Branding” campaign, but it was evident the content did not match the advertizing once the scandals broke out.
Flexing our soft power is not an attempt to cover-up Mexico’s problems, rather an effort to show the country in its true light, beyond the shadows of narco violence, spring break shenanigans, and political corruption.
It's up to Mexican society — those living home and abroad— to magnify this soft power especially in a time of crisis.
Carlos Loret de Mola is an award winning Mexican journalist and popular news anchor of Televisa’s “Primero Noticias.” He has served as a war correspondent in Afghanistan, Haiti, Egypt, Syria and Libya and writes for a number of news outlets on issues ranging from the drug war to international politics. Carlos has broken many influential stories about the operations that led to the capture of some of Mexico’s most wanted criminals. In 2001 he wrote the book "The Deal. Mexican economy trapped by drug trafficking." He is a frustrated chef, runner and guitar troubadour… but he keeps trying.