Sunday, July 22, 2007

Emigration: some Mexican views

I write a lot about immigration into the United States on this blog. I am very aware of and sympathetic toward the millions of people who are driven by economic desperation to cross the border from Mexico into the United States to find work. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has decimated traditional Mexican agriculture, flooding the country with U.S. crops; big corporations' search for ever cheaper labor has sent factory jobs to China and Central America. So hungry men leave in search of work to feed the women and children left behind.

In Mexico City's Museo Nacional de Antropologia, a large area is devoted to showing how various subgroups of the Mexican population have preserved their customs and way of life. The focus is on those of predominantly indigenous descent.

Many of these displays end with a note about the effects of ongoing, increasing, out-migration. Here's most of one:

The [Purepecha] Family
The family is the basic unit for the organization of the social relationships in each domestic group, extended family, district, town, region, and even among those who have emigrated.

... Purepecha is reproduced and renewed when the family builds a house, works the land, manufactures goods, prepares traditional food, educates small children, marries, worships the dead, holds religious positions, and in general, keeps alive "the custom" and "the belief" that rule the thought and behavior of the Purepecha people.

It is the responsibility of the organized groups of families to keep traditions alive. The principles underlying their organization can [must] overcome such trials as the separation of the family due to the absence of some of its members or the lack of interest of many young people in participating in the system of the positions. [The Museum's English with my interpolation and emphasis.]

And here is yet another such anthropological description of social havoc.

The Family in the Pueblos
The nuclear family or domestic group is the center of social organization in the pueblos, traditional communities. Its unity and cohesion are essential to survival and cooperation in the community. ...

Generally, the family is the unit of production and consumption. Within the group, each member has a particular standing and job in accordance with age and sex. ...

Traditional rituals reinforce the links between families when needed to meet the many challenges to the life of the community as well as proscribing roles in various civic and religious duties.

These arrangements have been strained by constant emigration and abandonment of the community by some men and even complete nuclear families. [My very free translation and my emphasis.]

What looks to some in the United States like an invasion looks to many in Mexico like the death of ancient ways of life.


sfmike said...

I don't know if you've ever traveled in Mexico with a Chicano/a, but it is beyond eye-opening. The Mexicans, by and large, HATE them. "They can't speak Spanish and they can't speak English" is the condensed version but it goes way beyond that.

Mexico is a very old, deep culture as you well know and their feelings of contempt for those who abandon it are very strong.

Kay Dennison said...

I presently work at the Hispanic Center in my city. Most of our clients are Mexicans or Guatemalans -- most of them are migrant workers. They are kind, polite, respectful people who send money back home to help their families despite the little money they earn. Right now we're buried because of the Mexican Comsul coming next month and we are helping them with the paperwork they need. Their patience with this amazes me -- not to mention my rusty Spanish! They smile and tell me it's okay and that they appreciate how hard I'm trying. I am learning a lot and so are they.

Some of the churches here are holding services in Spanish and helping them uphold their traditions and culture. It's important to them.

janinsanfran said...

Mike -- I have not had your experience of traveling here with a Chicano/a, but one of our friends is a Honduran with over 20 years residence, yet she feels most at home in Chiapas and perhaps Veracruz because these places are somewhat oriented to Central America where she comes from. Yes -- Mexico is way deep; I can't imagine really having much idea what is going on.

Today we heard Bishop Raul Vera, Mexico's only liberation theology-oriented bishop, preach, among other things, on emigration and immigration. He urged a fair US immigration reform/procedure -- and that Mexico should understand and deal fairly with Central Americans driven into Mexico by the same poverty that drives Mexicans north. I will probably do a whole post on this, but hearing this emphasized again how much the forced movement of people uprooted by global economic forces is daily, felt, reality here.

Related Posts with Thumbnails