U S President Donald Trump continues to rail against Mexican immigration, the bugbear with which he launched his campaign in the summer of 2015. But across America’s southern border, the state of Jalisco sees a glass half full.
Last month, anticipating that the new administration would make it more difficult for Mexicans to get visas, Governor Jorge Aristóteles Sandoval Díaz visited more than 40 startups in San Francisco. His message: in Jalisco, high-skilled workers of all stripes are welcome.
The birthplace of tequila, spicy sauce and mariachis, Jalisco has now become known as Mexico’s Silicon Valley. Around a third of Mexican tech businesses are headquartered in the western state, and technology products account for nearly 55% of Jalisco’s exports.
The capital, Guadalajara, is particularly enticing for entrepreneurs. It is one of Mexico’s most populous cities, is home to many English speakers, boasts a dynamic university system and shares a time zone with California.
“We are heavily influenced by the US but we stay open to Mexico,” Eliazar Parra, a computer programmer working remotely from Guadalajara for a company in the US, told El País.
According to a 2015 poll by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 46% of adults in Jalisco know someone who has started a business in the past two years, and 39% think it is a good place to launch a new venture.
“The entrepreneurial spirit is developing strongly because there are the right conditions and great public investment for funding new technology companies,” Jaime Reyes Robles, Jalisco’s secretary of innovation, science and technology, told The World Weekly.
He acknowledges that the new political climate in the US will make the state more appealing to skilled international workers as well as Mexicans who might otherwise have been tempted to move to California.
Adalberto Flores, CEO of Kueski - a Latin American micro-lending firm headquartered in Jalisco - told TWW that Jalisco is witnessing a movement, prompted by politicians, which is attracting talent from home and abroad. He also sees a bright side to Trump’s anger. “In Mexico we love foreigners and embrace diversity, so in the long run I think that it will benefit us”.