MEXICO CITY — Inside a trendy restaurant on upscale Avenida Amsterdam, a drawing of Donald Trump eating a roasted rat on a stick graced the chalkboard wall.
A few neighborhoods over, a man in a Trump mask walked main drag La Reforma, approaching strangers as a friend filmed reactions of those along the busy business corridor.
It’s safe to say President-elect Trump is on the minds of Mexicans.
Like people all around the world, Mexicans understand their future can depend on who is running their northern neighbor, the world’s most powerful country.
Trump’s upset win in last week’s election sent the peso tumbling, along with the country’s stocks. He continues to dominate Mexican headlines as the country seeks to discern what the future brings from a man who has called Mexicans rapists and drug dealers, promised to expel 11 million people in the U.S. without documentation, renegotiate trade deals and pledged to force the country to pay for the construction of a border wall.
“If he wants the wall, he can pay for it,” Andrea Perez Ayala, who runs a snack stand in Chapultepec Park.
To help finance the wall, Trump has pledged to take a portion of remittances Mexicans in the U.S. sent back home to help support family. The payments measured an estimated $25 billion last year.
Perez Ayala, 40, has siblings in New York, and fears they will be deported by the new president. Since his election, Trump has backed away slightly from his most dramatic campaign promises, telling CBS on Sunday that part of his wall could actually be fencing.
A large portion of the existing border barrier is a fence, white other places have a wall or nothing at all. Mexico has said repeatedly it would not pay for the construction of a wall.
Ibet Gonzalez, 16, said that if a border wall must be built, both countries should have to finance it. She has family in the U.S. — some without papers — who work in restaurants there.
“If you deport them all, who will do the work?” Perez Ayala said of Trump’s vow to expel Mexicans.
Trump also said Sunday he would deport or jail up to 3 million people in the U.S. without documentation if they have committed a crime such as drug dealing or gang activity. According to the Migration Policy Institute, as many people don’t exist: There are only an estimated 820,000 illegal immigrants in the country with a criminal record.
Trump’s promises to both remove people in the country without documentation and build the border wall so no more can enter were among his most popular lines in campaign trail stump speeches. His supporters were undeterred by the enormity and logistical difficulties of both proposals that will make executing them extremely difficult, and they favored his hard stance on immigration.
With the hit to the Mexican economy already apparent following the election, Victor Torres, a 32-year-old who works in technology, thinks that Trump’s business experience will benefit the U.S. economy but won’t necessarily bring Mexico along for the ride.
“I suppose that each president does the same for their country,” he said, admitting the American president-elect isn’t unique in advocating his own nation’s interests.
But it’s his business experience that is exactly Trump’s problem, said Irais Tellez, 27.
“He’s accustomed to power,” Tellez said. “He used racism against Latinos to get more power. His problem isn’t hate for other people, but love for power.”
Tellez said that Mexicans have a lot of opportunities in their own country but if they really want to get to the U.S., a wall isn’t going to stop them.
“Many countries depend on the U.S. and Mexico is one of those,” Tellez said. “We have a lot of problems here in this country and now we have one more,” in Trump.
Diplomatic relations are likely to be strained as a deeply unpopular Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto will have to work with a man who has criminalized a large portion of his citizens. The two met in September when the Mexican president invited Trump to Mexico City, a move widely panned by Mexicans, 74 percent of whom disapprove of him. Residents decried the fact that Pena Nieto did not publicly repudiate Trump’s comments about their countrymen nor deny that he would finance the border wall.
Given the history, Alberto Javier Wohler Granados, a 45-year-old who works in drug rehabilitation, doesn’t think Pena Nieto, who will be replaced following elections in 2018, will get along well with the leader of Mexico’s most important ally and largest trading partner.
The Mexican president called Trump last week to congratulate him on his victory and said the conversation was “cordial, friendly and respectful.” Before Trump takes office in January, the two are also likely to meet and discuss an agenda that will include mass deportations, a spokesman for Pena Nieto said Monday. The Mexican government also announced it is readying a plan to deal with mass deportations were they to occur, and said Wednesday it will create a 24-hour telephone line for questions about immigration.
As Trump transitions into his new role, Mexicans are looking for an indication the president-elect used such extreme campaign rhetoric to earn votes and that he’ll moderate once he understands how deeply the U.S. and Mexico are connected.
“He has to show us he’ll be different,” Gonzalez said.
“He needs to be more humble, more human,” Perez Ayala said.