Saturday, May 01, 2010

red flags at the mall

It is May Day.

Revolution Day for those of a Red bent.  A day for the proletariat to wave clenched fists in the air before crawling into their Volvos and heading home to suburbia.

Not so in the United States.  

Today is Law Day.  A day where we take advantage of the fruits of private property and individual liberty by completely ignoring the fact that it is Law Day.  After all, if you can't enjoy personal liberty, what good is it?

But May Day may not have that same scent of exceptionalism to many Mexican families who rely on the American economy to supplement their family income.

One of the less-noticed results of the American recession is the decrease in money that Mexicans, working in the United States, send to their families in Mexico.  Since the recession began, the remittances have declined each year.

The remittances in 2009 declined 15.7 percent from 2008.  So far, in 2010, the remittances have declined a further 11.98 per cent from 2009.

Those figures matter to Mexico -- a lot.  After oil receipts, the remittances are Mexico's second largest source of legal hard currency.  They equal almost the profit that comes back to the Mexican economy through illegal drug trafficking.

But all of that is simply large dollar amounts.  Let's put the situation in human terms.  Money from relatives abroad is 19 percent of the total income for city families, and 27 percent for their country relatives.

As a result of the recession, Mexican families have seen their remittance income reduced by about 27 percent.  Some families have simply reduced their spending.  Others have sought work within Mexico.  Ironically, some Mexican workers have returned home from the United States only to discover that their old jobs in Mexico are now filled by illegal immigrants from El Salvador.

No one knows for certain what the impact has been on illegal immigration from Mexico into the United States.  Anecdotal evidence in my village is a lot of young men have returned and are now working locally as taxi drivers and construction workers -- biding their time to head north for The Better Life, where they can readily obtain things they can only dream of in Melaque.

Mexico is celebrating the centennial of it revolution this year.  The singular historical event that defines Mexico.  It would be a cruel twist of fate if young men, who have earned a living for their families in the United States under the rule of law, would be tempted to think of May Day as a time of red flags.

Nothing is more dangerous than a frustrated middle class.


Tancho said...

"filled by illegal immigrants from El Salvador."
Wow, interesting. Payback time...but I think the Mex Gov will do more about it than NOB.
I have never understood the draw of the trek north, while so many people are looking for reliable workers down here.
It will probably never change. But when I talk to them up North, they all want to return for the easy life south...go figure.

Steve Cotton said...

Tancho -- Most of the young Mexicans who have been north tell me they do it for the big bucks. But each of them mentioned two other factors: the thrill of the risk and the feeling of being in Las Vegas no matter where they live in The States. As long as those last two draws are there, young Mexicans will risk any border crossing.

Leah Flinn said...

What I find perplexing is, many people who return at some point to Mexico have do not have much to show for their time up north. My husband was frugal with the money he earned - bought property, built houses, invested in sibling education. Tangible, wise investments. I'm realizing he's the exception amongst many who fill their families houses with flat-screen TVs and designer wardrobes, financing huge, expensive parties. Maybe they want to send Las Vegas back to the pueblo?

I haven't seen people protesting or even understanding what Labor Day really means, even to Mexico, here in Veracruz. Maybe it's different in other parts of the country.

Laurie said...

Remittances are the second largest source in Mexico. Number one in Honduras. Sad times here, too.

Leah Flinn said...

Just got back from the centro in Veracruz. Forget what I said about protesting - there were hundreds marching down there, mainly unions.