LatinaLista — Why do Mexican migrants spend thousands of dollars, and almost always, risk their lives just to illegally enter the United States?
The full answer is complicated but in the book Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migrants by Sam Quinones and published by the University of New Mexico Press, the reasons become a little clearer.
Working in Mexico City as a freelance journalist for the better part of ten years, Quinones got to meet many of the country’s poor who struggled to earn a few pesos building Mexico City’s skyscrapers and cleaning the homes of the wealthy.
These same people were also the ones drawn to the possibilities that stories from family and friends working in the United States provided with tales of earning enough in the United States to provide all the material goods that would never be afforded in a lifetime of peso salaries.
Quinones follows the select stories of certain Mexican migrants who all find success, to a degree, in the United States.
For example, the story of Delfino is about a boy who first left his rural mountain village at the age of 12. He travels to Mexico City and later to the United States to earn money to give his family what his drunk father can’t.
Or in the story titled “The Tomato King,” AndrÃ©s BermÃºdez, Mexican-born but US entrepreneur, leaves the comfort of his American lifestyle to return to the Mexican village where he was born to run for Mayor.
In story after story about the migrants, Quinones not only ferrets out how migrating to the United States changed these people and the towns they were from that were lucky enough to be on the receiving end of thousands of dollars in remittances but also how the immigrants impacted life in this country and changed themselves in the process.
Yet, there was always one constant in these migrant stories: the people wanted to go home.
“I noticed Mexican immigrants also sought to return home. Immigrants to the United States in other eras might have wanted to go home, too, but they faced arduous journeys. Mexicans’ homeland is close, at peace; transportation is cheap and dollars buy a lot. Thus they send money home constantly and return often. Gardeners, drywall hangers, and factory workers spend lifetimes earning dollars in the United States while they build sparkling houses in their villages back home and dream of returning to them for good…
I also saw that while immigrants sought to return home, they just as fervently sought to escape Mexico — or at least the official Mexico that the world knows. This Mexico finds many ways to strangle the poor’s aspirations, and therein is the cause of the country’s poverty.”
But while the cause that drives most migrants to cross the border is noble, there is also the inescapable criminal element that Quinones uncovered by way of Chihuahua, Mexico in a drug ring comprised of Mexican-German Mennonites.
It was an encounter that unnerved the author to the point that it marked the last chapter in both his book and his years living in Mexico.
The immigration issue is indeed complex but by learning about these stories, hopefully, a clearer insight can be gained on just how interconnected are our two countries and how dreams for a better life serve as reason enough to risk hardship, violence and death.