"In both countries such distortions have created misunderstandings," Obama said Friday in an address at the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City. "It is time to recognize new realities. ... A new Mexico is emerging. I see it in the deepening of Mexico's democracy. "
In addition, he said, Mexico is creating a new prosperity and becoming a global powerhouse in high-tech innovation, automobiles, appliances and electronics.
Obama was in Mexico for meetings with President Enrique Pena Nieto before traveling to Costa Rica.
And just as Mexico is being transformed, so too, are the ties between Mexico and the United States, Obama told the audience of mostly students.
"In this relationship, there is no senior partner or junior partner, there are two equal partners," Obama said, noting he expects "the great partnership" between the two countries to "grow stronger and broader."
Obama also said the United States has been strengthened by the "extraordinary contributions" of immigrants from Mexico and Americans of Mexican heritage.
Noting U.S.-Mexico ties go back generations, Obama said: "It is critical that the United States recognizes we must reform [the] immigration system. ... I am convinced we can get it done."
Obama listed five areas where Mexico and the United States could "do more," including expanding trade and commerce that create good jobs; collaborating on manufacturing that would lead to the countries' becoming more competitive globally; combating climate change and secure an energy future; collaborating on post-secondary education opportunities and jointly investing in innovation as well as research and development.
"You are the dream. This is your moment," Obama said in closing. "And as you reach for that future, always remember that you have the greatest of partners, the greatest of friends, the nation that is rooting for your success more than anybody else, your neighbor, the United States of America."
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