Mexico has a per-capita income of about $9000 USD/year (even less in some regions of Mexico), while in the U.S. it is $37,800. The unemployment rate in Mexico is only 3.3%, but their underemployment rate (those who are employed but not getting enough work to sustain themselves) is upwards of 25%. About 30% of all U.S. foreign-born immigrants are from Mexico. 30 billion dollars in remittances were sent to Mexico from the U.S. in 2002. Mexico has around 150 billion dollars in external debt. Mexico has undergone extensive economic restructuring in the past 30 years, with over 500 amendments added to law which have centralized power within the government and presidency. The laws have also favored industry over the people. From 1982-1988, the unemployment rate soared to 17%. The outcome was a crash in the value of the peso in the mid-1990’s, at which point the national debt skyrocketed as well. In 1994 (the year Juan immigrated), the U.S. began the process of blocking the most used passages in from Mexico, leaving migrants with no choice but to take the route of harsher desert terrain.
About Michoacan, Mexico
Michoacan (where Juan is from) is in the south of Mexico on the west coast, and is one of the country’s leading agricultural producers. They produce avocadoes, oranges, and grapefruit, among other things. However, it is also a very impoverished area, with the average person making less than $500/year.
Michoacan is also known as a favorite spot for monarch butterflies, an attraction that brings many tourists. However, the poverty and desperation of locals is forcing them to destroy monarch hibernation grounds. This is a problem that locals are working with scientists on to fix, because neither party wants to see the monarchs disappear from the area.
Michoacans are also striving to make the tourism of their popular beaches and forests profitable for local communities.
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