Flag of Mexico

History of USAID in Mexico

Language: English | Spanish
Development cooperation between the United States and Mexico began before USAID was created. The first formal agreement between the two governments to provide development assistance was through the Mutual Security Act of 1951. During that time, the United States focused on health programs, academic exchanges between U.S. and Mexican universities, food security, housing guarantees, and innovative models of entrepreneurship.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed into law the Foreign Assistance Act, which led to the creation of USAID as the lead agency for all foreign assistance programs. USAID officially began work in Mexico as a continuation of the development programs under the Mutual Security Act, expanding its assistance to include economic growth, technology transfers, disaster relief, and democratic governance.
USAID Mexico Director Tom Donnelly and World Bank President Alden Clausen
USAID Mission Director Tom Donnelly (R) and World Bank President Alden Clausen (L) visit a family planning clinic, circa 1981.

Between 1965 and 1977, USAID did not implement programs in Mexico following a global realignment of assistance efforts. It was not until the late 1970s that USAID resumed its development programming, focusing on population and family planning. Within two years of USAID’s re-entry into Mexico, USAID became the lead donor in the health and population sector, providing assistance across virtually every program area, including service delivery, information services and communication, data collection and analysis, training, operations research, and contraceptive supplies.

A difficult but important moment for American foreign assistance in Mexico occurred in response to the 1985 earthquake. An earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale killed more than 4,000 people in Mexico City. The U.S. response to the tragedy was immediate and massive. Within a week, over 1,000 U.S. disaster assistance personnel from a dozen United States Government agencies, local government, and private institutions were in Mexico City. First Lady Nancy Reagan and USAID Administrator Peter McPherson also visited to express their sympathy for and solidarity with the people of Mexico. USAID demonstrated a tremendous capacity to deliver rapid, essential, and substantial humanitarian aid at a moment of great need.

President Ernesto Zedillo (C) announces the creation of the Mexican Conservation Fund in May 1994.
President Ernesto Zedillo (C) announces the creation of the Mexican Conservation Fund in May 1994. Also shown are Mexican Secretary of Environment Julia Carabias (L) and Mission Director Art Danart (R).

The strong cooperation between the United States and Mexico has produced some key successes over the course of the bilateral relationship. One major success includes the establishment of the Mexican Conservation Fund, which was a new concept whereby funds, for the first time, were placed in an institution that the Government of Mexico did not control. Subsequently, a multidisciplinary group of 21 environmental specialists, receiving joint funding from the United States and the Government of Mexico, carried out an extensive consultation process with over 250 conservation organizations in Mexico. The result was three additional Mexican conservation funds, including the protection of the Meso-American Reef and the Gulf of California. The model has been replicated by more than 20 countries around the world and is now an international best practice.

USAID partnered with the Mexican Red Cross
USAID partnered with the Mexican Red Cross to distribute emergency relief commodities to storm-affected populations following hurricanes Ingrid and Manuel in late September 2013.
USAID Mexico

Another successful model of cooperation includes USAID’s support of exchanges between Mexican and other governments to share information on various best practices to address common development challenges. USAID also invested in university and state-level partnership programs to support scholarships for indigenous populations. Other examples of collaboration include U.S. support to the Mexican Government to control tuberculosis outbreaks along the U.S.-Mexico border, the training of Mexican personnel in wildfire suppression, management of hazardous materials, and natural disaster management.

Today, Mexico is a middle-income country and a foreign assistance provider itself. USAID’s program has evolved from one focused on traditional development investments that reduce poverty and improve health, to one characterized by an equal partnership that strengthens transnational security cooperation, protects human rights, encourages youth and workforce development, and mitigates the effects of global climate change. The United States is proud of its longstanding relationship with Mexico as a neighbor, friend, and partner in addressing common development challenges.

Last updated: October 27, 2016

Share This Page