MEXICO CITY – For a glimpse of the average American’s understanding of the relationship between the United States and Mexico, one only has to watch the critically acclaimed television series Breaking Bad. Set in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a few hundred miles from the border, the series chronicles the rise and fall of Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who becomes a methamphetamine tycoon.
Most of the characters on the US side of the border are portrayed with sympathy and depth. The main protagonist’s step-by-step descent into the drug underworld unfolds with such subtlety that each individual decision he makes along the way seems almost reasonable.
Unfortunately, the other side of the border receives more superficial treatment. In one scene, two Mexican hit men ruthlessly slaughter a dozen innocent compatriots who could bear witness to their border crossing. In another episode, members of the Mexican Federal Police are seen assaulting a drug lord in his hacienda, with the implication that they are only doing the bidding of a rival dealer.
“Breaking Bad” is brilliant television, but it is regrettable that so many Americans see only this side of things. Mexico has profound security problems in some regions, but it is also a country that just might be on the threshold of a huge political and economic transformation. Indeed, for a couple of years now, Mexico’s GDP growth rates have been near the top of the OECD, and recently above Brazil’s.