I want to be really clear on one point… this is not the Mexico we visited. When I tell people I went to Mexico – I think this is what comes to mind. We did not spend one minute at a beach.
This picture gives a better feel for the Mexico we visited on 10 day stay.
The majority of our time was spent in some of the poorest areas of Mexico surrounding Mexico City. The states of Veracruz, Guerra, and Morelos. These are the areas where most of the Mexican immigrants in the US are from. There may be a misconception that folks crossing the border are from all over Mexico and that is not the case. Most are from the north or the area around Mexico City.
On our trips to visit the farm workers families we traveled to very poor remote areas of Mexico. In this case the people in the community were considered indigenous and they did not speak Spanish. It felt like they were looked down on by the Spanish speaking Mexicans.
I included this picture to give you a sense of one of the neighborhoods we visited. They recognize the big yellow bus we arrived in – it was a big deal that we were there. They really felt honored that we would come to visit them.
In these communities – there might be two houses located next to each other… you could easily tell who had family members working in the US and who did not.
This is the house of one of the farm workers families. They were very proud that especially the farmers were come to visit. They made huge meals and invited tons of people.
In this house you would find a big screen TV but they cooked over open flame in the back of the house. There was an attraction to the American way of life – motivated to keep up with the neighbors.
All house and business looked like this – rebar. I interpreted this as they are hoping and waiting to build as they get the money.
The most striking experience for me on this trip was the reaction of the farmers as they met their workers’ wives, mothers and children. I think the farmers really felt good that the jobs they were providing in WI were the lifeline for these families in Mexico. It was really emotional for them to see first hand the impact of the jobs they provided. I don’t think they expected that.
Many of the workers had not seen their families for years. The WI farmers brought photos etc from their farms. These two boys are looking at pictures of their dad and uncle. The woman in pink was one of the workers on the farm and she came back to see her son. She is hoping to move her son to the US when she comes back.
As I got to know the farmers on our trip a bit better we talked about how these workers came to their farm. They talked about the need for workers. Could not find enough reliable workers. Employees come with documentation, but the farmers don’t know if it is authentic. Gross pay is about $600 per week and taxes are deducted. Housing may be included. Network of Mexican farmers is very strong – able to find family members etc to work as needed.
We also learned and experienced first hand the reasons why many Mexicans are trying to work in the US. It is tough to make a living in the very rural poor areas of Mexico. For example we met a highway worker that was making $2/day. Compared to the US farm worker making $60/day. As I mentioned earlier is it not hard to notice the difference in the standard of living. It would be hard to scrape by while your neighbor is living large. The families we met with talked about how the workers want to return and do return home, but eventually the money runs out and they have to go back. As the border gets tougher to cross the longer the men are more likely to stay and some talk about moving their family to the US. Highway worker in Mexico was paid $2/day. Very close to family
Back track for a minute to talk about a community we spent a lot of our time – Buena Vista. Population 12,000 about the size of Baraboo.
One thing that struck me about this town… mostly women, kids and elderly in BV. We were told that 60-70% of the men were in the US.
Another thing I noticed about Mexico that I really liked was the sense of community. People were out at the zocolo on a Saturday night. People singing, talking, dancing hanging out. I live in Sauk City on a summer night – I see a few dog walkers and that is about it. It felt really social and community focused.
One issue we talked about was crossing the border. Family members are left in the dark.. They might not ever hear what happened. I think there is a house in Arizona or where ever then you get a ride to the farm in WI – could be expensive. Mexican workers have to pay these debts first and they are expected to help the next person – cousin, brother what have you navigate these issues.
Becoming more dangerous… the number of people killed has been going up substantially. Homicide surprised me… but the border seems like a lawless area… and if you have water and the other guy doesn’t it gets very ugly.
I put this slide it because it seems like the question everyone asks. These are the 11.5 million of unauthorized immigrants residing in the US. Most are from North America, but there unauthorized immigrants come from all over.
Another issue that struck me was this concept of duel identities. When I asked if most of the men from BV that were in the US were legal… people did not really know or care.. It was not a big deal. In Mexico those men who crossed the border to work and provide for their families were seen as heroes. I imagine it would be difficult to be revered in your community and seen as a bad person in another.
One of the last items I wanted to talk about was remittances – money coming back into Mexico from other countries. It is becoming a very big source piece of the Mexican economy if not the major source of income. $23.1 billion in remittances in 2006 Does not take into account money brought across the border and cars. Some companies are sending remittances as building materials.
We saw a lot of cars – Ford F150 with WI plates in the most remote places you can think of.
Central Plateau – largest region The Central plateau has frequent earthquakes. Refer to text P. 120 for details. Mexico has many active Volcanoes. Volcanoes can kill people and destroy property but can also bring great benefits. Eg. Increased Soil fertility and bring precious minerals like silver, copper, gold and lead closer to the surface.
Not all Central Plateau is suitable for Agriculture
The Mexican Farmer’s Story <ul><li>A lot of Mexicans are farmers and want to leave for the wealth in the US </li></ul>Hispanics made up about 40% of all U.S. agricultural workers in 2005. (Census Bureau)
The Mexican’s Story <ul><li>Difficult to make a living in Mexico. </li></ul><ul><li>Benefits of working in the US are obvious. </li></ul><ul><li>Workers typically want to return to Mexico </li></ul><ul><li>Becoming more difficult to cross the border </li></ul><ul><li>More likely to move family to the US </li></ul>
Crossing the Border <ul><li>Cost about $5,000 to $8,000 dollars </li></ul><ul><li>Borrow money from community members </li></ul><ul><li>Hire a “coyote” or smuggler to get across the border </li></ul><ul><li>Nearly 500 die crossing the border each year </li></ul><ul><li>Expected to help the next person </li></ul>
Crossing the Border <ul><li>Main causes of death at the border: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Hypothermia </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dehydration </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sun stroke </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Stinging by poisonous insects </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Drowning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Car Accidents </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Homicide </li></ul></ul>US Border Patrol Statistics
Unauthorized Immigrant Population <ul><li>11,550,000 unauthorized immigrants residing in US (arrived 1980-2006) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>8.4 million from North America </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1.4 million from Asia </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1.0 million from South America </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>0.5 million from Europe </li></ul></ul>Department of Homeland Security
Duel Identity <ul><li>In Mexico these employees are seen as as providers, responsible and hardworking </li></ul><ul><li>In US they are seen as illegal. </li></ul>Salgado de Synder, 1996
Remittances $23.1 billion in remittances to Mexico in 2006
Summary <ul><li>Impact of US dollars on Mexico was prevalent </li></ul><ul><li>Many opportunities for cultural miscommunication </li></ul><ul><li>Mexican people were outstanding </li></ul>