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LibreOrganize 0.6.0 - Documentation

Mexicanos in the US and their Home Towns

from the Sept. 15, 2021 Bulletin

immigration immigrant rights corruption cross-border organizing

Valentin Ramirez left México in his teens after the maquila he worked for shut down without telling the workers — or paying their last wages. Ramirez has been working the past 30 years in San Diego’s hotel industry, but spending most of his energy on organizing other Mexicanos. His goal: to sharpen the political consciousness of his fellow migrants.

 

What changes have you seen since coming to San Diego?

 

The number of Mexicans has skyrocketed, especially from Oaxaca. A million people have left Oaxaca over 30 years. Today, here in San Diego, we have more tortillas sold than hamburgers. Some schools have only Mexican children.

Many of the Mexicanos in San Diego come from small villages, and they often form organizations to help people back home, is that right?

 

I come from a small town myself, of about 800 people. Now that town has only about 400 people left. Mexicanos in the US don’t just help their families, they help their villages. I started a network of clubs named for the small places the Mexicanos in the US come from. These clubs raise money for improving their hometowns.

The clubs also put on fiestas and cultural events to bring the people together and to fundraise. They celebrate, for example, Oaxaca’s Guelaguetza festival — which I support — every year in San Diego, Los Angeles, and other places.

How do these clubs relate to the Mexican government?

 

PAN and PRI had a Tres Por Uno— 3 x 1 — program.  If people in the US knew their home village needed something, they could apply. The US Mexicanos, the federal government, and the state government would each put in a third of the money needed.

 

People in the US had to raise the money first, and going through the process would take about two years. Say the project cost $3,000 and people in the US raised $1,000. If the project’s cost rose over those two years to $3,300, the community would need to raise another $100 before they could get the match. If they didn’t raise the money, nothing would happen. If three miles of road needed repair and they only raised enough for one mile, not even one mile would be repaired, all or nothing.

 

Corruption made things worse. If a repair did get made, the contract often went to a friend of the governor’s, at inflated prices followed by poor workmanship. States and municipalities headed by PAN turned out to be more likely to participate in the program, and the PAN grabbed more electoral support by funding more projects.

 

To me, Tres Por Uno was exploiting citizens working abroad. Yes, those of us Mexicanos who live in the US want to contribute and we will always send remittances. But a development plan based on remittances doesn’t solve México’s economic problems. The AMLO government canceled Tres por Uno. That made some clubs mad, because they had become used to that old system.

 

But without funds from Mexicans in the US, doesn’t that leave the villages worse off than before?

 

No. Before, if a school had been built with a club’s support, every person in the village had to work six days a year to maintain it. I say to the club leaders: “You don’t see everyone in the US having to do the work themselves to keep the school buildings in good repair!” Now the Morena government is paying for maintenance.

 

In a Morena program for farmers, the government will “lend” five cows. When the cows reproduce, the farmer gives five cows back to the government and those can then be lent to someone else. Another Morena program, the Sembrando Vida — Sowing Life — project, helps poor rural communities restore the soil and grow healthy foods.

 

Higher old-age benefits in México, meanwhile, now have more Mexicanos returning to México to retire. With that has come a decrease in the number of clubs, and some of the people I talk to don’t like that. But with an improving economy, I like to point out, we don’t see as much need. The decline in clubs shows that things are improving.

 

What are you hoping your network of clubs can do?

 

We share ideas and information via the network. People in our hometowns sometimes don’t know about the new social benefit programs or how to apply. Instead of just fundraising, we can give them that information and help fill out the forms.

 

Most of the people in the United States active in the clubs don’t support Morena, partly because they get their news from traditional conservative Mexican TV. As they get better information about what’s happening, I hope to create more unity and support for the Fourth Transformation among those Mexicanos working hard in the US to support themselves, their families, and their villages.

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