Refinery29 contributor and Spanish speaker Eve Warlow reports from Mexico City, where she has been living for the past five months. From Mexico City markets selling piñatas in the recognisable form of a man with an orange face and yellow hair, to “Fuck Trump” T-shirts hanging outside a tourist shop on Isla Mujeres, it's clear how the people of Mexico feel about the new president of the United States. In Oaxaca, a city with a history of political protests and demonstrations, a banner draped across a building near the main square reads “Migrants are universal workers. No human in the world is illegal. Stop the xenophobic politics of Donald Trump.” This week, after just four days in office, President Trump set in motion one of his most controversial campaign pledges, one that will hit Mexicans living in both the US and Mexico hard. Once the news of his win had sunk in, a 1,000-mile-long wall – funded by the very people it is designed to keep out – seemed to most to be a pretty unrealistic prospect; an empty promise to win votes. Surely it couldn’t actually happen? But yesterday, Trump stuck two fingers up to his doubters by signing an executive order for the construction of the wall, promising not only that it will go ahead but that Mexico will “absolutely, 100%” reimburse the US for the cost. The logistics of how Trump will “make” Mexico pay for his wall are unclear, although he told ABC News that it could involve a “complicated form”. But if there's one thing uniting Mexicans across the country, it's that they should not be footing the bill – a sentiment summed up in a tweet from ex-president of Mexico Vicente Fox that said: “Sean Spicer, I've said this to @realDonaldTrump and now I'll tell you: Mexico is not going to pay for that fucking wall. #FuckingWall”. “I see no problem with the wall itself,” Hector Morales, a 27-year-old language teacher from Mexico City told me. “Every country has the right to protect their borders. But it's how he plans on building it and how we are supposed to be 'paying' for it that concerns me.” Alex Leyva, a 27-year-old set designer originally from Sonora who now lives in Mexico City, told me she’s worried about how the wall will directly affect her family. "My hometown is a border town with the US and my family still lives there. Complications on the border can affect us because my brothers go to school in Arizona while living in Mexico, and such is the case for many people I know who live and work in both countries. I think that building a wall that prevents access to the country isn’t just bigoted and racist, it’s also thoughtless." At the Women's March in Oaxaca, one of the hundreds of marches that took place across the world on 21st January, I spoke to different Mexican women about their thoughts on Trump and his xenophobic policies. “Unfortunately I think Trump is the voice of many people in the US. It's tragic but it doesn't surprise me because racism is a daily occurrence there”, said 34-year-old Artza Miroslava Calixto Rojas.
“Of course we are very offended, because Mexican people only want to work”, said Oaxaceña Candelaria Dolores Garcia – who wore a Oaxaca Women's March T-shirt and held a placard that read “El dialogo es mejor que la violencia!” (Dialogue is better than violence!). She was at the march with her friend and colleague Rosalinda Leon Monterrubio, who told me: “The purpose of the wall is to separate Mexico from the United States, but why? I do not understand the grudge and hatred this man has against us. We’re very grateful to the foreigners. They are always welcome here in Mexico.” Aside from the cost – Trump's original estimate was around $8 billion but critics say it could be double that figure – there are the logistics of the build and the question of how effective a wall will be in deterring immigration. According to research, in the last 10 years more Mexicans have been returning from the US to Mexico than migrating the other way, and the number of people apprehended trying to cross the border in 2015 had dropped by 80% since 2000. The likely reality is that the wall will serve a symbolic purpose, as most illegal immigrants overstay tourist, work or study visas rather than slip across borders. Drug smugglers, meanwhile, tend to use tunnels. Mexicans both at home and in the United States will be watching closely to see how their president, Enrique Peña Nieto, reacts to Trump's latest provocation and whether his planned visit to Washington next week will take place. The two countries must now navigate a changing relationship, one severely damaged by the US president's vitriolic and hate-fuelled campaign. “Trump's wall not only declares the end of Mexican-American friendship, but also becomes a monument to intolerance, racism and ignorance”, said Paulina Torres Núñez, a 29-year-old industrial designer from Mexico City. But language teacher Luis Nafate from Chiapas thinks his country needs to reassess and unify: “Constructing this wall would be an opportunity to take a look back to our own country, our roots, and our values. An opportunity to pay attention to the virtues we have, so we become a more united nation. A giant opportunity to defeat the wall of selfishness.”
Indeed, the breakdown of existing trade deals could be a wake-up call for Mexico as it moves away from economic reliance on its northern neighbour, leaving it free to reevaluate ties and pursue new trade deals elsewhere. Trump's win has already led to direct talks with China – another main target of the US president's many anti-globalisation rants – with both countries keen to strengthen their relationship. Here in Mexico, there are growing calls on social media to buy products made by Mexican companies, with anonymous messages such as “If you are worried about #Trump and the rise of the dollar, start to consume Mexican goods and services” circulating on WhatsApp and Facebook. Other messages, reportedly generated by the group Anonymous Mexico, are suggesting people buy locally rather than big-name US brands: “Instead of Levi's jeans, buy Montero which are better quality, sold more expensive abroad and are made in Aguascalientes.” “Let's not wait for the US crisis,” says one, “A way of helping to recuperate and fix the country's economy is to buy products with the code 750 because they are Mexican” – referring to barcodes with the prefix 750, an indication that a product has been made by a company registered in Mexico. The emergence of hashtags #yocompromexicano (I buy Mexican) and #hechoenmexico (Made in Mexico), used by local designers, shops and markets to promote their products and services on social media, indicates that this movement is gathering momentum. However, it will take a lot more than buying local products to begin to repair the country's economy. Regardless of who ends up footing the bill for Trump's beloved wall, it's clear he will not be welcomed by the people of Mexico should he ever venture south of the border.