July 15, 2004


Mexico's cash cow: families in New York (Monica Campbell, 7/16/04, CS Monitor)

At 3:45 a.m., when even New Yorkers are curled up in bed, Eloy Gil and his common-law wife, María del Carmen Vásquez, are just starting their 18-hour day.

Within the hour they are on the subway heading downtown from their Bronx apartment. Mr. Gil gets off in midtown and heads for the Sheraton Hotel on 7th and 53rd, where he has waited tables for 11 years. He is never late. He makes $28,000 a year plus tips. Despite the full schedule, he also sings boleros at hotel parties for extra cash.

Ms. Vázquez continues on to Brooklyn to La Piaxteca, the restaurant she and Gil own, where she helps Gil's brother Felix open for breakfast. They serve up signature dishes from their hometown - homemade tamales, fresh sweet bread, and cow tongue.

At the end of his 10-hour shift, Eloy heads over to Brooklyn to help close up the restaurant before getting back on the subway for the 90-minute ride to the Bronx. It's past 10 o'clock when their heads finally hit the pillow.

All this to help keep their family in Piaxtla, Mexico - and the Mexican economy - afloat.

Each month the Gils wire between $100 and $200 back to Piaxtla. It's just some of the $13.3 billion sent home by Mexicans last year, up from $9.8 billion the year before, according to the Bank of Mexico. It reports that remittances are already up 22 percent this year.

The cash flow represents Mexico's biggest source of foreign investment and second-highest source of income, next to oil.

So important are remittances to the country's economic growth that President Vicente Fox, who calls Mexicans living in the United States "national heroes," is looking for ways to make it easier for immigrants to send cash back home.

Of course the nativists never pause to consider how unstable Latin America would be without the remittances and what that instability would mean to us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 15, 2004 8:54 PM

It is not racist to resist colonialism or ethnic cleansing.

Our open border policy allows corrupt elites to remain in power without reforms, while draining latin america of its most ambitious people. This is neo-colonialism, not friendship.

Posted by: John Doe at July 16, 2004 1:08 AM

Yeah, it's not that they're beaners it's that we get all the good ones....

Posted by: oj at July 16, 2004 7:48 AM
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