October 13, 2004


Money From Salvadoran Immigrants Aids Farming Cooperative Back Home (Krissah Williams, October 8, 2004, Washington Post)

Marta Sonia Ayala hunched over a metal table in a room that resembles a large restaurant kitchen, scooping heaps of a light brown powder into plastic bags. Later, she placed the bags of frijolito -- beans ground into flour -- in a heat-sealing machine, placed colored labels on them and shipped them to 22 stores throughout the country where they would sell for $1.35 a pound.

At the end of the month, Ayala and 47 other workers will each collect about $120 for their work. "Now I have my salary secure," Ayala said. In this rural town, few people earn steady paychecks.

Ayala's job is part of an experiment in changing how Salvadoran immigrants in the United States help people back in El Salvador. The intent is to redirect some of the estimated $2 billion that Salvadorans abroad send home each year -- with less going to such things as clothing, home improvements and soccer fields and more going to support businesses that can create jobs.

"Our country is now surviving because all the families are just waiting for money, and I hate to say it but [many] of these people don't work. We need to change that. The people who are sending this money are in my generation. The younger generation is not going to do that," said Elmer Arias, a Northern Virginia restaurant owner and president of the Cuscatlan Latino Center, a group that has donated $10,000 to the cooperative here.

"We need to invest this money in a more productive way," Arias said.

Arias said the Cuscatlan Latino Center, an Arlington-based alliance of 10 Salvadoran immigrant groups known as hometown associations, is planning to expand into other kinds of businesses, including, perhaps, a bakery and a chicken farm in El Salvador. It is also trying to persuade Salvadoran groups in Los Angeles and Las Vegas to participate in similar projects.

Always amusing when nativists think we'd have less of an immigration problem if we kept folks like this out, despite what it would mean to the economic situation in their nations of origin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 13, 2004 7:54 PM

There must be billions of dollars just from Northern NJ going to Latin America. Almost every Hispanic insurer, real estate guy or travel agent has remittance capacity.

You are correct OJ in theory. The problem is that much of the money gets siphoned off by the local thug-in-chief at the home front.

Posted by: Bart at October 14, 2004 12:12 PM