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Two Nations Indivisible: Mexico, the United States, and the Road Ahead 1st Edition

22 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199898336
ISBN-10: 0199898332
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Editorial Reviews Review

Q&A with Shannon K. O'Neil, author of Two Nations Indivisible

Q. Why should we care about Mexico?

A. Perhaps no other country affects the United States on a day-to-day basis as much as Mexico. The two nations have always been linked by their shared two thousand mile border, but the nature of this relationship has broadened and deepened over the last three decades. Today energy, the environment, corporations, supply chains, people, communities, and security bind the two nations together, making them truly indivisible, and Mexico’s path forward matter more than ever for its northern neighbor. The challenge ahead is for Mexico and the United States to work together to strengthen the good and diminish the bad in this close but still unequal relationship.

Q. So what is happening next door?

A. Mexico has transformed over the last three decades, mostly in good ways. It is now a vibrant, if at times messy, democracy. It has an open and globally competitive economy, and it has a growing middle class. Yet alongside these many positive trends, Mexico faces a crisis of violence. Over the last six years newspaper counts put the drug related death toll at over 60,000, and some independent analysts estimates tens of thousands more. The question now is where will Mexico head – what path will it take in the twenty-first century. Can Mexico reach its real potential – becoming a top ten world economy, a market-based democracy, a strong ally for the United States and a leader among emerging countries; or will it be consumed by instability, corruption, and crime.

Q. What can the United States do?

A. Working together means not just a new set of policies but also a larger shift--to a true partnership. It should start with people, and reforming immigration laws to support rather than shun the binational individuals and communities that already exist¬ and link the two nations. It means embracing and deepening economic ties, recognizing that a rising tide can lift all boats. And it requires shifting U.S. security cooperation to move beyond drug trafficking to focus on reducing the general crime and violence afflicting Mexico’s people. In this the United States will need to take a hard look at its own drug, gun, and money laundering policies, and consider the bilateral effects of domestic decisions.

Q. How will Mexico affect the United States?

A. Whether we like it or not, the direction Mexico takes now affects not just Mexico’s citizens but also Americans. And while there is much to lose, there is much more to gain. In fact, Mexico is less a problem and more an answer for the economic, security, and diplomatic challenges the United States faces today.


"A good political and economic history of modern Mexico, the book will be of interest to those seeking a deeper understanding of the country." --Publishers Weekly

"In delightfully entertaining yet fact-filled prose, O'Neil sketches a persuasively optimistic portrait of Mexico, one at odds with the crime-drenched media reports and alarmist warnings of nativists in the United States." --Foreign Affairs

"Shannon O'Neil's new book about U.S.-Mexico relations is probably the best since 1989's Distant Neighbors by Alan Riding . . . O'Neil concentrates on the issues of immigration, the lack of rule of law in Mexico, and how Mexico has helped U.S. companies become more competitive in the global market, thus adding U.S. jobs. She provides concrete examples and historical context, mixing the stories of individuals deftly with her macroeconomic observations." --San Antonio Express-News

"[O'Neil] provides both a readable recent history of Mexico and a cogent argument for why U.S. policymakers, business leaders and citizens should care about the future of their southern neighbor . . . The book will interest those who are concerned about the future of U.S.-Mexico relations, but it is also an indispensable account of Mexico's recent history-including its processes of democratic opening and political reform. The author manages to cover in less than 200 pages most of the major developments that have shaped Mexico's emergence as a democracy and modern economy, as well as the work that needs to be done to make those changes permanent. And the writer's easy style makes it a quick and accessible-even exciting-read without sacrificing depth." --Americas Quarterly

"Shannon O'Neil's new book Two Nations Indivisible: Mexico, the United States, and the Road Ahead insightfully analyzes and explains the different and at times paradoxical aspects of modern Mexico. Throughout the book, O'Neil livens the narrative with well-told anecdotes drawn from her own experiences in Mexico City and other parts of the country. She distills more than two decades of research into straightforward prose and also shares the stories of the friends and acquaintances she met through the years."

"In her book Two Nations Indivisible, Shannon K. O'Neil dissects the complicated, symbiotic and often testy relationship between the United States and Mexico as they charge ahead in the 21st century." --Texas Tribune

"Groundbreaking." --San Antonio News Express

"Shannon O'Neil's Two Nations Indivisible challenges us to delve beyond how and what we think of Mexico and its splashy headlines. She has written an absorbing book about our two nations' common border and mutual destiny, a critical read to grasp turbulent but pivotal and promising Mexico. This is a revealing, fresh look into a country undergoing transformation, a book brimming with insight and thoughtfulness about a strange and difficult neighbor that many of us claim to know, yet so few of us really understand. I was instantly captivated." --Alfredo Corchado, Mexico correspondent for The Dallas Morning News, and author of Midnight In Mexico

"Shannon O'Neil has combined her deep knowledge of Mexico with illuminating anecdotes and insightful analysis to set out the opportunities and challenges for Mexico and to persuasively make the case that a successful Mexico is of vital importance to the United States. In that context, she thoughtfully explores the policy paths that Mexico and the United States should pursue to realize the potential for Mexico's success that she strongly believes in. And, while this discussion is serious and important, it is also well written and engrossing." --Robert E. Rubin, Co-Chairman, Council on Foreign Relations, and former U.S. Treasury Secretary

"Wedded-for better or for worse. Trade booms, they reshape each other's societies, and Mexico democratizes. Yet, Mexico's thugs get weapons in the United States; U.S. kids get cocaine from Mexico. Shannon O'Neil's smart, articulate, well-researched, and illuminating book sheds light on this binational intimacy, its tragedies and hopes, and sets the path for a better future." --Jorge Domínguez, Professor, Harvard University

"Two Nations Indivisible provides a brilliant, well-documented roadmap showing how and why the United States and Mexico could and should collaborate to solve shared economic, social and security challenges and in doing so advance their respective national interests. Leaders, public and private, on both sides of the border should take note." --Ambassador Carla A. Hills, Chair & CEO, Hills & Company, International Consultants

"Two Nations Indivisible is an in depth analysis of the relationship between two nations that together can play a major role in the 21st century." --Claudio X. Gonzalez, Chairman, Mexico Business Council

"The U.S.-Mexico relationship is as complex as it is misunderstood. Shannon O'Neil provides a lucid and timely correction to the many myths that have long plagued this relationship." --Moises Naim, Senior Associate in the International Economics Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and author of The End of Power

"O'Neil presents a contemporary overview of US-Mexico relations and focuses on the current state of affairs regarding trade, security, and immigration issues... Anecdotes help to present the human face of immigration, the devastating effects of violence, and the challenges that politicians and diplomats face in dealing with the complexities and contradictions of the bilateral relationship at the federal level." --CHOICE

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199898332
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199898336
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #560,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Shannon O'Neil is Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. A noted Mexico expert, O'Neil's work has appeared in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Affairs Latinoamerica, Americas Quarterly, Politica Exterior, Foreign Policy, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. She has testified before the Congress on U.S. policy toward Mexico. O'Neil has taught in the political science department at Columbia University, and is a frequent commentator on leading media outlets. She writes the blog, Latin America's Moment (, which analyzes developments in Latin America and U.S. relations in the region. She holds a B.A. and M.A. from Yale University, and a Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By James D. Zirin on May 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Americans tend to see Mexico in negative terms, and this is not a good thing, argues CFR Senior Fellow for Latin America, Shannon O'Neil. O'Neil, who has lived and worked in Mexico, has watched the country closely for decades. She acknowledges the unfavorable American image that Mexico is a failed state; that the country is a haven for narco-terrorists; that it is flooding the US with illegal workers who stream across the border and deprive our citizens of American jobs. Not so, writes O'Neil in a highly readable and convincing account of the Mexican-US relationship, as it has evolved. There are 11 million Mexicans in the United States, and about six million of them are without papers. Parts, as well as finished goods, go back and forth across the border to the tune of $8.5 trillion in the last two decades. And Mexico has proved itself to be a true democracy. All this makes for "two nations indivisible" that need each other more than ever, and must work to deepen ties. In a scholarly and important book, peppered with some marvelous anecdotes, and written in a muscular style that all literate citizens can readily grasp, O'Neil has written a fine socio-economic baedecker that will be read for years to come by those who want to understand more of why we must encourage closer relations with our neighbor to the south.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By quique on May 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is one of the most objectively written books at least for the last decade. ln two nations indivisible Ms. O'Neil portray a vivid picture of the reality in both countries, historically and economically. In her book thanks to her deeply knowledge of Mexico Ms. O'Neil laid out clear and concise ideas of how moving forward both countries need to work together to face the enormous problems that can't be tackled only on one side of the border.Also as a Mexican living in the USA I can see how many Americans have a wrong picture about Mexico. It is a book that lawmaker in Mexico and the USA should read and take into account, it is definitely an eye opener book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By bloggingsbyboz on May 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Shannon O'Neil provides key insights into why Mexico is the most important relationship for the United States and why the US government and its citizens must look beyond the security issues that dominate the headlines.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Lorenzo F. Lagos on June 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I grew up in Mexico during the 1990s. As I read Shannon O'Neil's arresting narrative about Mexico's transformations in the last 30 years I could not help but reinterpret my childhood memories in a completely different light. The book does an excellent job at tying the threads of the micro-events --or, in my naïve perception at the time, the common occurrences-- that make Mexico what it is today. Each aspect of the social, political, and economic changes are analyzed in depth, and Dr. O'Neil somehow makes it effortless for the reader to recognize the relevance of these events: one never loses the big picture. Very well researched and quite enjoyable - I highly recommend it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Francesca Salerno on June 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Shannon O'Neil explodes many of the myths that have gained currency north of the border, particularly about immigration issues. This was an eye-opening book by a gifted writer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Andrew D. Selee on July 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book about one of the countries that will most define the future of the United States -- Mexico -- yet which most Americans know so little about. O'Neil makes a strong case that Mexico is a country on the rise and that its success will have a huge impact on the United States. The book is well-written and a delight to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By 2goldens on July 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A really good book that addresses the cultural, political and economic issues in the US-Mexico relationship. Whether or not you agree with the author's take, she's done a masterful job of marshalling the facts and arguments, and enables you to thoughtfully reflect on the relationship, its history, and its possibilities.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a book that deserves as many readers as possible. While not flawless (the author thinks NAFA has been and TPP will be good for both nations) this is a well-written book that makes an important point. That point is in the title: we're not twins but we are joined at the hip by being next to each other. O'Neil thinks we can work together and that Mexico can progress into a modern democratic, free-market state along the lines that Spain has traveled. She also sees the possibility of Mexico spiraling into the real failed state some American analysts already think it is.

Perhaps the most valuable chapters are the first ones that describe the history of the two countries, often conflicted and suspicious, but sometimes better. There's a lot of forgotten history that the book covers briefly and very well, in clear and objective writing. One of the reasons more people should read the book is because of the objectivity. Later chapters deal more with politics in Mexico, as the long-lasting dictatorship of the party dominant since the end of the Mexican Revolution slowly lost control. The chapter on the drug cartels describes their rise and some of the danger--the worst seems not to be the violence but what huge sums of cartel money can do to any reform process, corruption continuing to exist on a major scale.

Mexico is already a top 20 economy and O;Neil sees no reason it can't grow to one of the top 10. Mexico is large, and has 110 million people. She thinks NAFTA has been a considerable benefit. She admits that 50 million live in poverty but that means 60 million do not, and the fast growth of the Mexican middle class is under the radar of most Americans.

Chapter 3, "Immigration's Binding Ties" may be the one of most interest to most readers.
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