Thursday, January 31, 2008

The landscape of Mexico is visually stunning. There is a mixture of old and new in the architecture that is fascinating. However, it is becoming more homogenous with the increased usage of American influenced architectural design elements. These elements that are added to the new homes being contructed with remittances from migrant workers are designed to bring pleasure to the eye, but are hardly practical. At times, for example, there are driveways built simply for the illusion of having a driveway. It is not functional but it is there. There is also an increase in the idea of personal landscaping. THe upkeep of one's yard so that it is presentable or comparable to your neighbor's yard. There is pride in having a perfectly trimmed bush or a blooming flower garden, but in Mexico most homes have been built behind walls so these added elements for curb appeal become redundant.
While travelling in Mexico I became accustomed to seeing skeletons of homes being constructed everywhere I looked. I wondered who was building them and why they looked as if they were taking so long to be completed. I soon discovered that these homes were the homes of migrant workers away in the U.S. They took so long to construct because whenever they could they would send money back for pieces of the construction to be complete at a time, the did. The idea of having money to build a house is one reason why so many workers travel north looking for work. In the Mexican economy there is no room for loans or borrowing. if you are not rich or inherit a home chances of you building one are very slim. Many of the people I spoke to wanted to work in the U.S. specifically to save money for a home for their family.
While in the pueblas, one can easily discern which families are receiving remittances and which are not. It becomes obvious when you look at the homes. Inevitably, a newer home is from the money of a migrant worker. Also the construction of alot of the homes inside the pueblas begins with the addition of another story. This story is built directly on top of the older ground story. The materials used, the architectual style and design elements are all different from the previous, indigenous design. There is no attempt to create cohesiveness, only to make it bigger and therefore, better.

This is the family of Eduardo. He lives in a very small town outside of Tlaxcala in the state of Mexico City, D.F. He was a migrant worker who worked in the agricultural industry of Ohio and other states. He moved back to Mexico to be closer to his extended family. He owns a greenhouse and is working on setting up a bigger one with a friend of his. He learned about greenhouses while working with famers and other migrant workers in the U.S. It was a struggle for Eduardo to make it to the U.S. at first. He had to hire a coyote, swim the Rio Grande and survive a 5 day trek through the desert. Once he was working he made enough money to send back to his wife so that he could construct the greenhouse he has now. He also opened a store that sells paper and other school supplies. His wife runs this business. The family is pictured in front of this business.

The landscape of Mexico is changing. The physicality of U.S. influence can be seen here in the use of greenhouses. This technology and knowledge was brought to the small towns by migrant workers from the U.S. After learning on the job, the workers return with this knowledge and share it with their communities. Greenhouses now line the countrysides. From the mountains to the plains, everywhere in the distance you will notice the long, white structures. They are helping to bring work back to towns where the agricultural industry is suffering.

In the puebla of San Miguel Aquamente nearly half the population leaves every year, 800 people, to find work in the U.S. During my visit I met these two men who were walking down the road. They were the first men I had seen there all day. I stopped them to ask about the town and if they had ever been to the U.S. Miguel laughed and pointed to is baseball cap that he was wearing. He said that of course he has been there. He had worked there for several years in California. He moved around to various professions but enjoyed the food industry the best. He worked in a friend's taqueria just outside of L.A. Juan also worked in the U.S. for a short time. He got injured while working constuction and had to return to Mexico. Both men would like to go back to the U.S. because they feel there is no work for them in their town. They also want to build houses for their families.

These photos represent a large segment of the varied Mexican landscape. This field of corn on the outskirts of San Miguel Aquamente is struggling, as Efrain, a soil scientist at the local univeristy pointed out. He points to the untamed land and picks up large rocks to demonstrate the condition of this field. It has been extemely neglected and will produce very little corn this year. The reason is that in San Miguel Aquamente, a town with population 1600, nearly half the population (around 800 people) leave every year to go to the U.S. Therefore, the young, able-bodied men are all working in the U.S. and are not there to toil in the fields. This leaves San Miguel Aquamente in a situation that most small pueblas in Mexico are facing currently. The local agriculutral industry is fading away because there is no one left in the towns to work in the fields to make a successful crop. However, due to the failure to produce crops, there are no jobs available in agriculture for the young men to even find work. This cycle continuously perpetuates itself in small towns in every state in Mexico.

This photo is particularly interesting. I was stopping for gas on the side of the road outside of a small puebla near the state of Michoacan. There I noticed these large slabs of bricks. When I approached them and read what was written on the palettes, I was surprised to see that these bricks were shipped from Heath, Ohio. We have a large clay deposite in that part of the state therefore Ohio is a large producers of bricks. How interesting that the bricks being used in the construction of the new structure above are from Ohio. It represents the argument that the money that migrant workers make in the United States and send back to Mexico (remittances) seems to find itself being spent on U.S. goods or services. This phenomena is partly due to the economy becoming increasingly globalized, and partly due to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
NAFTA has opened up the Mexican economy to become bombarbed with cheap American products including bricks, rice and corn. With prices far below market value in Mexico, these are the goods that the people then choose to purchase. In return, there is a loss of industry and jobs. Requiring an increased migration north and into the U.S.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

These images are of a type of Mexican UDF or 7-11 on the right and a traditional taqueria type restaurant on the left. Oxxo is a chain convenient mart that sells everything from biggie pops to batteries to tequila. The man who owns this particular store located in Tlaxcla was a former migrant worker orginally from Mexico City. He worked in California in the agiculture and construction industries. He liked certain aspects of the United States so much that he decided when he came back to Mexico the final time that he would open his own convenient mart. His entire family now works there with him. He is happy he is back in Mexico now. His store does very well. He is near is family and enjoys his culture. Ironically enough, sometimes he misses the coveniences of the United States.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

When the media (news outlets ie. Fox News, CNN) portray migrant workers as the new terrorists it becomes reminiscent of how they used to portray them as the drug lords smuggling drugs into our country at every opportunity during the Regan administration and through the Clinton administration. It is a way of justifying the increased use of militarization on the border and creating an unjustified frenzy among the people of the United States. They do this by utilizing the colors on the terror threat color chart we have all become so accustomed to seeing. The yellow stands for 'Elevated' and the 'significant risk of terrorist attacks'. This is the color the media uses when it runs stories about migrant workers. They use very large yellow font in an attempt to create a connection with the 'Elevated' risk factor and migrants from Mexico.