MEXICO CITY— The wind was already howling when the rain started to fall in Mexico’s capital. A bad omen, perhaps.
A few hours earlier voters were still trying to get their absentee ballots sent through DHL at the U.S. Embassy, but for some it was too late. A competing line for visa appointments looked on with nervous faces, aware of the election at hand.
We headed to an election night watch-party organized by The American Society of Mexico, were an older crowd of Mexican and U.S. expat businessmen were gathered to watch CNN’s John King standing in front of a shifty electoral map.
“There’s many closeted Trumpistas here in Mexico,” jokes Ricardo Garcia, a Mexican wealth-management consultant. Others nod in agreement. If Trump hadn’t insulted Mexican immigrants and promised to build a wall, perhaps the country would be rooting for him, he suggests.
“It doesn’t matter who wins tonight,” he insists. “Mexico is the big loser.”
“Mexico has always kept an eye on the U.S. presidential race,” adds Roger Kenyon, a retired 75-year-old British energy consultant. “Like [former] President Porfirio Díaz once said: ‘Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.’”
As the returns for Florida start coming in, Alejandro David, a 42-year-old Mexican lawyer, starts fanning away a phantom fart. Se están cagando, he jokes. “People are shitting themselves.”
The group orders cuba libres and tequila. It feels like the start of what will be a fun evening, but the mood takes a turn after we leave the gala and arrive at Pinche Gringo BBQ, a Texas-style restaurant that’s hosting a lively watch party with a younger crowd.
The owner of the joint grabs the mic and asks: “Who’s ready for Hillary Clinton?” Loud cheers. “Who’s ready for Trump?” Crickets and a few boos.
People stare at flatscreen TVs and eat pork ribs, washed down with draft beers. The bar owner colors in states red and blue on a chalkboard as the early results come in. Trump wins Ohio.
“In general Mexicans haven’t been as nervous as my American friends. They all thought Hillary would win,” says Jess Ballard, a 30-year-old financial analyst from Dallas who lives in Mexico City.
Her Mexican friend and coworker, 27-year-old Libertad Caro, says the country has been paying attention to the campaign since the early primaries, with increasing dread.
“We’re getting more and more worried as the night goes on,” she says. “That’s why we’re drinking.”
The bar quiets as CNN continues to color more states red for Trump. Wolf Blitzer announces another projection: Trump wins Florida. People are looking at their phones now. The Mexican peso continues to fall against the dollar.
Sensing a shift in the mood, the bar owner mutes CNN and signals the DJ to crank up Fight the Power and Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It in a desperate attempt to liven people’s spirits.
“This is the most watched election that I’ve ever witnessed,” says 24-year-old Mexico City native Andrea Carranza. “He’s so racist and hates us so much. We don’t support Hillary, but we just can’t have him win. The dollar is going to shoot up right away.”
“The lack of backlash against Donald Trump has been mind-boggling,” says Laura Navarro, a Mexican 25-year-old public policy consultant. “I expected the Latino vote to be a new political force in the United States.”
The crowd boos as Trump wins more states, then cheers as Hillary wins the west coast. “Where the fuck is the so-called Latino vote?” someone yells.
“I can’t imagine what America’s image will become if Trump wins,” says Jennifer Long, a high school teacher from Kansas who now lives in Mexico City.
The bar owner grabs the mic and explains the electoral college to confused Mexicans. Trump’s lead continues to grow across the board.
“I’m scared for my own future and that of my family and my friends,” says Alex Rogala, a California native living in Mexico City.
No one knows what to do. Many Mexicans had been planning to celebrate Trump’s defeat at the city’s iconic Angel of Independence monument. But it’s still raining and there’s nothing to celebrate.
All seems lost. But in typical Mexican fashion, humor dies last.
“So who do you think will now have the hottest first lady? Mexico or the United States?” jokes some guy as we pull up our collars and head out into the rain.