Of course, the rise of Emperor Tangerine to power has enormous implications for every person on the planet. Given his incendiary rhetoric about Mexico, that very much includes our southern neighbor. Figuring out what everyday Mexicans think about this is important, so this dispatch from Oaxaca, a state with very high migration rates, is valuable.
Hernandez, a veteran border crosser, having made the journey 18 times, has a brother and son in California.
“What would the United States do without Mexicans?” she posed. “Who else would pick the crops? Who would build the homes?”
Mexico too depends on those crops, those homes.
Its citizens in the U.S. sent back nearly $25 billion last year, its second-largest source of foreign income, after manufactured goods and ahead of oil. Much of that ends up in impoverished rural communities like the ones here in the southern state of Oaxaca, which for decades have dispatched young and old to El Norte in a deep-rooted ritual of economic betterment.
The cash they send home builds homes, funds small businesses, refurbishes churches and schools, and provides sustenance for multitudes.
It’s evident in the expansive, half-finished homes dotting the countryside, the Mexican version of McMansions. “They are waiting for more dollars from the north to finish,” people explain.
Actually closing the border would devastate the Oaxacan economy, which is pretty marginal even with remittances. Unfortunately, there’s about as much denial in Mexico as there is in the United States about what Trump means.
Most everyone in the area appears to have heard of Trump and his threats — his bellicose pronouncements about Mexico have been major news south of the border. But there is a pervasive sense that Trump is bluffing — or will have little appetite to pursue his far-reaching immigration agenda once in office. Or that he will inevitably fail.
“It’s all campaign talk,” Rolando Silvaja Jarquina, a retired teacher, said on a Sunday at a busy market in the courtyard of Tlacolula’s 16th century Catholic church, the Assumption of Our Lady, known for a baroque chapel featuring likenesses of beheaded saints.
Each Sunday, producers of local products, including foodstuffs and handicrafts, descend from ancient hillside settlements to sell their goods in Tlacolula, an animated market town about 20 miles southeast of Oaxaca city, the state capital.
“Both countries, Mexico and the United States, benefit from trade, from immigration,” Silvaja said as a band played in the plaza. “Why would Mr. Trump want to make Mexico his No. 1 enemy? Don’t you want your enemies far away, not next to you?”
Not if your goal is fascism. Of course there’s the issue of whether the U.S. can even really stop immigration on its southern border.
“What’s his name, Trump?” asked Hernandez, sipping a beer. “There are too many people from here already in the north, too many more who want to go.”
Miguel Angel Lopez, 43, who said he first went to the United States in 1989, found work in California restaurants and returned here almost two decades later.
“People will always find a way to go to the north,” he said. “This Trump can say what he wants, that’s fine, but the reality in Oaxaca is what it is. The men here go to the north to better themselves, to help their families here. No wall will stop them.”
That’s probably true, but there’s no question that the growing militarization of the border even under Obama has made it much harder to cross and has led to a big decrease in people coming back to Mexico to visit. That means parents die without seeing their children one last time. It means that young children can go years without seeing their parents. It means that husbands and wives may spend years apart. The human toil of immigration, even under a just system, is very real. Treating immigrants like criminals is just heartbreaking when you consider the effect on them and their families.