Forced Cycles of Migration

By Daisy Hernandez May 13, 2008

This week, Racewire contributors will be liveblogging at the Transnational Assembly of Remitters and Families in Mexico City. I read about towns like Piaxtla, Mexico when I was in graduate school. These are towns that have been mostly emptied of people, whose young and able-bodied have been forced north looking for work. In Piaxtla’s case, the town has about 2,000 people and according to one resident, last year, there were about four births…and17 deaths. Its people are struggling with globalization. You have to see these places for yourself to actually get it. There’s only so much a book, even a well-written one, can convey about the impact that so called free trade agreements are having on communities. I’m in Mexico City at a conference on immigrant families and remittances called the Transnational Assembly of Remitters and Families. The event kicked off Monday night with community organizers and migrants who have come here from more than a hundred countries to talk about how globalization is impacting families and what we can do to build stronger communities. On Sunday, a small group of us went to Piaxtla and another small town Boqueron about five hours from Mexico City. Floriberta Var Campos, an elder in Piaxtla who works with the town’s women and the elderly, is worried. "Here there isn’t work or resources especially for single women," she says. So single women go north. And increasingly grandparents are being left behind with grandchildren to take care of. The elders do what elders do: they grow older, they start to lose their hearing, they need someone to take care of them. But that generation is up north. Women like Floriberta are left to take care of the elders…to the degree that they can. The people who spoke to us are clear that the forced migrations have brought their towns economic benefits but a devastating disintegration of families. In Boqueron, I was struck by how empty the town is of traditional families. There are elders of both genders and younger women with their babies but very few men and women in their twenties and thirties. Boqueron is a bit special. They have been able to organize themselves and use the money their family members send back home to continue work on a well that would give the town more water…but also to build a basketball court and baseball field. Standing on the basketball court with an awesome view of the town and surrounding hills and countryside the challenges felt clear to me: how to turn the money coming from up north into viable businesses in Mexico so the cycle of forced migrations can be stopped.