Dave, without trying to be too pushy, you really owe it to yourself to get an MIM in your hands as a possible first Strat. I have a friend who works for a place called Elderly Instruments in MI, which is a used boutique kind of place, who will flat out tell you that the MIM is every bit as well made as an American Strat, except for the small details, like hardware, rolling the fret ends, etc., all of which a guitar tech could take care of for you. You do need the opportunity to sit down with a few of them to get a feel for the different neck contours, but most of all, when you get a good one it will ring like a bell acoustically. When you find that one, forget about colors or finishes, and think of what you have left over to turn it into a gem. There are tremolo systems like the SuperVee which are basically drop-ins that will solve most of the tuning problems, but you can set up a stock trem to work very well with a couple of $10 tweaks too.
A few years ago, my daughter wanted to learn to play, so I bought her an MIM as a gift after playing five or six of them in the store. She never picked up on it, so I inherited it, and I can tell you that with a little fretwork it is a very nice guitar. The pickups are noisy, but all true Strats are noisy, and I get great tone out of it for recording. For the difference in price between the American and Mexican, you have enough to rework all the hardware, probably drop in a preloaded pickguard with exactly the pickups you like, and have someone dress the frets properly, and maybe send me a bottle of single malt with the leftover cash.
There is a sense of value in owning an American Strat, and they do have better resale value, but I hardly ever buy a guitar with the idea that I would sell it. What's cool to me about a Strat is having it long enough to proudly say I put all the dings and burns in, and wore the finish out playing it. Remember, the $25,000 Strat some collector is buying that's all beat up was probably $250 when the original owner bought it, there's just $24,750 worth of experience in there.