The boycott has come and gone, with marches "a la marcha" in Chicago, Denver, Houston, and LA, and marches que se esfumaron in Dallas and Phoenix. Mucha solidaridad. Lots of closed businesses and restaurants. Lots of customers and workers staying home. Bien. ¿Y ahora qué? Como siempre, even in the best and most detailed media coverage, the heart of the matter went untouched. Nadie habla del gobierno de México y su propia responsabilidad para su propia gente.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 78 percent of immigrants residing in the U.S. without documentation are from México. That's 9.36 million souls, as the maps of old used to say. Time and again, we are told they come here to realize the "American dream," to seek "our better way of life." ¡Que no! They come because they cannot survive in their homeland. No one leaves their home and family behind to work as a day laborer except in the face of dire necessity. These immigrants do not come here on a pleasure trip. They come to try to survive.
In México, a licensed nurse can expect to make $6 an hour, an experienced journalist up to $14 an hour, a school teacher with more than a decade of experience $5 an hour. And that's if they can find work at all. These figures are not estimates: they come straight from the 2006 Diario Oficial de la Comisión Nacional de Salarios Mínimos de México. These are not summer jobs or entry-level positions, but careers that require substantial education and preparation and pay $6 to $14/ hour. Unemployment is at 14%, with underemployment as high as 25%. The Fox administration has been a brutal disappointment to Mexico's hardworking middle and lower economic "classes." NAFTA has failed the country's people, if not its larger businesses. Walmart rises in the shadow of ancient pyramids.
As we, yet again, face strident debates over immigration and the rights of undocumented workers, I am struck, yet again, by the history of inept diplomacy and dysfunctional working relations between the U.S. and México. Why don't our governments make it a national priority on both sides of the border to address the crushing poverty that affects our countries so profoundly? Neither nation has made the strides in these areas that need to be made, yet these strides are profoundly possible. In just the first two months of 2006, the U.S. and Mexico's import-export business totalled more than $50 billion. With so much business between us, it would seem logical and straightforward to address these fundamental economic problems--the problem of survival for millions--as neighbors with mutual interests.
En fin, the boycott made an interesting and undeniable statement. But the core of the problem remains untouched. The problem begins in México. It cannot be solved inside the U.S. alone. Ask the Mexican father living in the U.S. who hasn't seen his children in two years. Ask the injured Mexican laborer who can't get medical care. Ask the Mexican mother who lives in fear that she and her children will be deported back home where she cannot find work even as a maid.
Note to those in power: Time for a new paradigm. Legislation won't fix this broken wheel. Note to those marching: Neither will a boycott on either side of the border. Will México's July elections provide a new administration that will truly and significantly accept responsbility for its own people? Will the U.S. play an appropriate role in helping this to happen? Esperamos con esperanza.
Post and image, Copyright 2006, Ysabel de la Rosa
Image: Sculpture Garden, Museo de Arte Moderno, México D.F.