Can the US do without Mexicans for a day? Can Mexico?
By Patrick Osio, Jr.
Do you recollect the movie, A Day Without a Mexican? You probably dont because not many saw it, though it was somewhat successful in heavy Latino communities when it came out last May. It was a comedy with a moral message aimed at provoking appreciation what would happen to the growing fields, restaurant kitchens, hotel rooms, etc. if suddenly one day there were simply no Mexicans to do the work?
The movies marketing hype promoting a controversial film, many said, was better than the movie itself. That same hype was played out in Mexico. There the movie was met with oohs and ahs, and some giggles and even laughter. But in trendy theaters in the upper scale neighborhoods the movie was met with an almost stone silence with occasional nervous giggles. What would happen if their Mexican workers suddenly disappeared?
The real theme of the picture should have been what would happen if suddenly there was no one willing to act in servitude? In the US, we mostly see in that situation illegal immigrants willing to do whatever their patron demands of them, working under the most terrible of conditions for far less than prevailing wages were they US citizens or legal residents.
But that is also the way it is for millions in Mexico.
In Mexico an overwhelming percentage of homes with monthly incomes in excess of $1500 US-dollar equivalent have house maids. Most middle class and all upper class homes, condos or apartments for rent are built with servants quarters. Live-in maids are the norm. They clean, wash clothes, cook, run errands, and baby sit. These homes wouldnt know what to do without such service.
Beyond the home, the more affluent are largely dependent on hundreds of little services provided by very low wage workers. Even pumping gas while men might in a pinch serve themselves, women would cringe at the mere thought. And like in the US, restaurants busboys, cooks helpers, janitors, window washers, construction laborers, parking lot attendants and on the list goes are low paying jobs serving in much the same manner as they do in the US albeit for a lot less compensation.
So a day without such workers is not a comedy in Mexico and its beginning to happen in many places.
Already an oft heard complaint from housewives is the inability to find live-in maids, chauffeurs, and general help including handymen for small repairs. They are either finding better paying jobs or migrating to other cities where there are better opportunities or determined to cross into the US where they have heard that the US cannot be without a Mexican worker for a day.
A most telling occurrence is taking place in the central state of Zacatecas. The Christian Science Monitor* ran a story relating how bean, onion, garlic, tomato, and chili crops needing harvesting in farm fields have to attract poor Indians from throughout Mexico seeking seasonal work because the local men are all gone to the US.
The migrant workers live packed in houses shared with dozens of others. The pay is around three times better than where they are from (thats what attracts them). But to the dismay of many locals many are staying instead of returning home after the growing seasons because, life is better here.
Many of the migrant Indians, a complaint goes, dont even speak Spanish, and they are accused of causing problems, and just like in the US, they are also accused of most crimes though proof is rarely existent. With these changes comes the thought that maybe locals are resentful that these strangers are earning money in their town.
And like in the US, many outsiders are taken advantage of, live in substandard conditions, and are shortened on their wages.
In the end it is not about Mexicans it is about poor people migrating a few hundred or a few thousand miles in search of a better life. And its about the abuse and disrespect of the poor, even by the poor.
*Christian Science Monitor article on Mexican migration within Mexico at: http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/1008/p07s01-woam.html?s=hns