Migration & Culture/Koptiuch
Nogales Fieldtrip Reports

Nichole Olsker

A border city incapable of sustaining its growing population.  The twisting, climbing roads lined with small, dilapidated buildings, makeshift neighborhoods, and maquiladoras intertwine throughout the city revealing the heart of the border.  People from all over Latin America populate this growing city.  The border is alive with activity whe5ther it be the man working along side the road or in the maquiladora; the woman who sells tortillas to cars stopped by border congestion; children returning home from school sessions; foreigners subjected to tourism; the men, women, and children preparing to cross the border, or who are returning from US deportation.  The sound of silence echoes in the midst of the growth while industry pollutes the air and poverty touches the soul of the people.  This place is Nogales, Mexico.

This realization of border life did not come from books and articles; it came from immersion.  Words cannot capture the disparity of Mexico, only experience can tell.  Surrounded by the reality of life in a third world country, I was able to make a connecti9on as to the cause of immig4ation in the United States.  The poor social, political, and economic conditions of Mexico reflect in the people’s willingness to risk everything for emigration.

Undoubtedly, struggles with political turmoil change the face of a country.  Historically, Latin America is haunted by political oppression.  The governments of Latin America have failed the people, thus leading to the epidemic of migration.  However it is comforting to know that a new face in the midst of disparity may give rise to humanity once more in Mexico.  The transition in government from dictatorship to democracy is promising in Mexico.  One such hope was made visible in the transformation of the Mexican border patrol, Grupo Beta.  A government agency once tied to corruption is now returning to the aspirations of its existence.  Grupo Beta’s mission is to provide for the migrants.  Now armed with first aide kits, clothing, and discounted bus fares rather than guns, Grupo Beta seeks to provide knowledge of the journey ahead.  In essence, they are protecting the rights of migrants.  They seek to change the face of emigration.  It is my hope that this newfound compassion has a rippling effect upon this country.  The eradication of political conditions that lead to Mexico’s status as a third world country may, in fact, revitalize the country.  It is my hope that this revitalization process will initiate a reversal in exportation of the country’s most valued commodity, its people.

Observably, the economic status of Mexico is the consequence of capitalism.  The subjection to the capitalistic movement resulted in Mexico becoming a third world country.  The presence of maquiladoras control the economy of Mexico; thousands of people depend upon the employment of foreign businesses, whose mer5e presence in their country is due to their poor economy.  Dismal pay and lack of benefits further perpetuate the poverty level in Mexico.  Meanwhile, businesses and corporations profit from their poverty; the money is not being distributed or circulated within the community, let alone the country, so the poverty level in Mexico continues to rise.  Furthermore, Mexico competes with US economy in terms of consumption.  Capitalistic influence is draining Mexico.  Inflation forces this third world country to adhere to capitalism, despite its stark economy.  In other words, the peso competes with the US dollar.  For example, pinto beans, a basic component of Mexican diet, cost N$10.50 (pesos).  If that cost is related to the hours worked, it would mean that the worker must work approximately three hours in order to afford 2 kg of pinto beans.  In comparison to US wages that same 2 kg of pinto beans would cost $15.21.  Thus, Mexico is immersed in capitalism.  One solution I pose in response to this capitalistic reliance upon underdeveloped countries is the establishment of strict regulatory guidelines of global business.  The world needs to recognize the disparity created through corporate and business freedoms.  Thus, global awareness can create a need for regulation.  With regulation comes distribution of wealth.  Therefore, I feel regulation will lead to a decline in migration.  However this is not to say that I do not acknowledge the magnitude of this response, or the fact that the distribution may once more be politically manipu7lated back to present day status.  However, it is in my belief that life is deserving of dignity and with dignity comes subsistence for all rather than a few.

Once more, the social consequences of political and economic hardship ache in the hearts of the people.  In visiting a Colonia in Nogales, the desperation for life is projected in the mere image of the neighborhood with homes build of cardboard and scraps of wood, no running water, and poor sanitation.  It is of no wonder the people flee their homeland in the hopes of obtaining a better life.  This brings me to a newfound perspective; migration is a phenomenon rather than a problem.  Those who feel that immigration imposes upon them view immigration as a problem.  However, these people fail to view migration as a phenomenon; human rights give way to the need to sustain life through migration.  Awareness allows for this perspective to be obtained, and it comes through education and immersion.  Thus, the challenge does not lie in deciphering between the causes of immigration; it lies in the act of doing something about it.

Symbolically, the border between North America and Latin America reflects the separation of third world from first world.  With this said, the crossing of the border into Mexico comes without stipulation due to the dependency upon the American dollar; however, the crossing into the US brings about challenges of legal or “alien” status as a result of Americanization.  Life then becomes dependent upon this border.  In conclusion, life as I know it cannot be the same.  I can no longer hide behind ignorance.  So the question is, what am I going to do about this travesty upon humanity that my government created?

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