The countryside wasn't supposed to hollow out in this way when the North American Free Trade Agreement linked Mexico, Canada and the U.S. in 1994. Mexico, hoping its factories would absorb displaced farmers, said it would 'export goods, not people.'
But in hindsight, the agricultural elements of the pact were brutal on Mexico's corn farmers. A flood of U.S. corn imports, combined with subsidies that favor agribusiness, are blamed for the loss of 2 million farm jobs in Mexico. The trade pact worsened illegal migration, some experts say, particularly in areas where small farmers barely eke out a living."