Indigenous towns of Mexico survive with remittances from the United States

Comachuén, Mexico (AP) — High in the pine-covered mountains of western Michoacan, in Comachuén, an indigenous community of the Talasco tribe of approximately 10,000 inhabitants, as immigrants working in the United States sent money to their homes. The entire town has survived. ..

The money, known as remittances, continued to feed the family after local woodworking sales fell 10 years before the pine lumber shortage began. This money allowed the family to stay in Comachuén instead of moving to other parts of Mexico for work. It, and the fact that children spend most of the year with their mothers and grandparents, has helped maintain Talasco among almost everyone in the town.

Traditional textiles, woodworking and construction live primarily because such companies are funded by immigrants who send money to homes to build homes here. Many things here — churches, bullrings, charitable donations — are paid by immigrants.

The Mexican government believes last year’s remittances will exceed $ 50 billion for the first time. However, whether remittances allow the family to survive or make sufficient progress so that the child does not need to relocate depends on the person’s plans and prospects.

Komachuen’s cold winter morning is a return to another era. Men have returned to town due to the seasonal decline in farming in the United States.

Many workers from Komachuen get a temporary US work visa for H2A, while others go without paperwork. Hundreds of men work here each year in the same vegetable fields in northern New York, planting onions and harvesting pumpkins, cabbage and beans. Porfirio Gabriel, the organizer recruiting workers to go north, estimates that one farm alone has brought $ 5 million to the town in three years. This is the largest single source of income to date.

When passing through a narrow street, residents greet each other in pure petcha. At one end of the town, three drivers drive a team of cows through the streets to the surrounding hills, carrying freshly cut pine trunks in narrow carts. The tree trunk is placed on the street in front of the buyer’s house and cut down in the backyard workshop.

The whirlpool of a wooden lathe mixes with the screams of a man carrying a brick, sand and gravel wheelbarrow into a half-built house. Komachuen comes to life in winter.

Trunkirino Gabriel — a common name here — creates a decorative wooden spindle on a primitive lathe. The 59-year-old does this only during downtime from working in the United States to keep his family business decades ago alive. The 5 pesos (25 cents) he earns for each is just a subsidy.

He says there is a shortage of wood and it is unclear how long they can do it. “More people are clearing the land and planting avocado trees,” says Gabriel.

Gabriel has resigned to work in the United States as much as possible. He sends about $ 7,500 each year from what he earns from working in the field. The money is mainly used to fund the education of his child and pays private college tuition so that his eldest son can become a registered nurse.

His hope is that his children will have a college degree and will not have to relocate. “I’m paying for their research, so they don’t have to do what we had to do,” says Gabriel.

The economy here mainly includes immigrants who sell to other immigrants, except for bookshelves and spindles that are shipped to nearby towns for assembly on shelves.

Jose Gonzalez, 55, works in a corner shop that has been modified, stored, and expanded with the money he earned from working in the United States for over 10 years.

“But that wasn’t enough to meet our basic needs,” says Gonzales, who has the harsh, thoughtful look of an indigenous training sergeant, he was doing woodworking. After working in a Mexican field for a while, he had to relocate. Today, his well-stocked store sells canned foods and food to immigrant families.

Omar Gabriel, 28, sells sand, gravel, cement and rebar to immigrants building and expanding homes in Komchuen. In the neighborhood. He has a plan that does not include going north forever to plant onions every spring.

His money from US farming will be used to expand the family company Don Beto Materials and pay for his brother’s college education as an architect. The family just bought a used bulldozer with the money he earned in the north. Earlier, they bought a dump truck.

“My goal is to work as a full-service construction company (in the United States) for another five years, from blueprints to excavation and construction, and raise enough capital to make the company successful,” he says. increase.

But even if Gabriel no longer needs to relocate, his business probably always relies on a stable stream of immigrant customers with dollars in their pockets.

The next generation is the key. Can the influx of remittances allow young adults in Comachuén to build a life in Mexico instead of leaning forward in the US field?

Andrés Reyes Baltazar, 20, is studying business administration at a public university in the capital city of Morelia. During the winter vacation, he helped his father, Ascension Reyes Julian, 41, in his family’s furniture workshop. There he makes a huge wooden cupboard that is 6 feet wide and 8 feet high. (Many Mexican homes do not have closets.)

My father has been working north since 2011. Because in the furniture industry, “sometimes we have customers, sometimes we don’t.” Reyes Julian spends much of her New York money on her son’s education.

Andre dreams of using his education to build a business. Perhaps it is to buy a truck to reach a wider market and lower the price of furniture. Making a finished product offers a better margin than making furniture parts, and the Reyes family is still one of the few doing it.

But when he was asked if he would one day go north and work in the United States, Andre avoided it. “Maybe so, but first I’m going to finish my education.”

Andrea Sanchez, 21, speaks perfect English. She moved to California with her family in 2002 without paperwork with her family, and she studied at an American school until sixth grade.

When her family returned to Komachuen, she said, “It was a big shock … it was really different.” Ten years later, she learned to love her hometown. Even if she doesn’t have the big house or well-maintained garden she saw when she was young. “This is a house. This culture calls on me.”

She is studying here to become a teacher and is helping her mother in the family’s traditional embroidery business, but she still dreams of returning to the United States someday.

“If that’s possible, I’ll do it,” she said, adding, “I’d rather do things legally. That would be my goal.”