research institute for compassionate economics

¡Saludos! from Mexico

Written by Diane Coffey on January 15th, 2011
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¡Saludos! I’m writing from a small city in the state of Puebla in Mexico. I’m here to learn more about collecting survey data, but for now I’d like to share some impressions of the two mountain towns that I have visited in the last few days.

The first has paved roads, a pretty park and plaza, and the cement houses are, for the most part, modestly sized. The government offices appear to be open and functioning, though few people in the town say they receive health or pension benefits from the government. Of course, there are disparities—I spoke with both a family that runs a well stocked hardware store and a widow who makes a living growing corn and turning it into tortillas that she sells by the kilo—but the people in this town seem, for the most part to eat well and enjoy basic amenities.

The second town, a few miles up the mountain, seems quite a bit more disadvantaged in some ways. Only the main roads are paved; walking on side roads that dead end in beautiful views of the mountain sides leaves my pants dusty to the knees. Twice—once yesterday afternoon and once this morning, our group visited the local government office, and twice we found the offices empty and locked, despite a sign on the door claiming that they were “ABIERTO,” or open. Noises of children playing and reciting could be heard outside the school but I also saw many who had clearly not been to school that day. Interestingly, there seemed to be more cars and trucks in this town than the first, and there were certainly more large houses under construction. Some were so large that they reminded me of houses I’ve been in Arizona or New Mexico. (Often, when you see large houses under construction in rural Mexico, they are being financed by “migradolares,” or money made working in the United States.)

The surveyor that I walked around with today told me that he thought that it might be precisely because of the second town’s marginalization that more people migrated to work in the United States from this town than the first. While we won’t know the causes of migration for sure, we will, over the next couple of days, know whether it is true that more people from the second town are migrating than the first. We’ll also be able to talk to some migrants about their motives and their goals. I hope to come away with a better understanding of how it came to be that there are empty, half completed, Phoenix suburbs style homes standing at the end of dusty mountain roads in rural Mexico.