Deportation Town: Xicalcal, Quiche, Guatemala

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Picture: Associated Press

The Associated Press has an article about a town in Guatemala that is getting inundated with deportees after the New Bedford raid.  It's good to see journalism that focuses on the root of the problem. 

Nativists are probably cheering the return of all these migrants.  To do so is short-sighted.  If the U.S. is suffering during this economic downturn, Guatemala is suffering worse.  We no longer live in a world where problems fit conveniently into national borders.  It is the inability of Guatemala to provide for its people that has forced people to migrate to the U.S. in the first place.  U.S. support for many of the brutal policies that have ravaged Guatemala makes the U.S. partly responsible.

Deporting tens of thousands to Guatemala when jobs are being lost makes absolutely no sense.  It's forcing the country backwards.  It was the absence of jobs in the first place that forced people to migrate.  I dream of the day when we approach this issue from a global perspective.  It's the only way. 

Below are some of my favorite passages from the article:

XICALCAL, Guatemala (AP) -- For years, the only people in this valley were those too old or too young to make the trip to the United States. Now the village bustles again with deported workers.


Thousands of workers found themselves jobless and gave up on the American Dream, returning to hometowns now struggling to feed the returning populations. One of these is Xicalcal, a collection of homes down a forgotten dirt road in Guatemala's Mayan highlands.

The area was among the hardest-hit during Guatemala's civil war in the 1980s, and many people fled as soldiers and militias killed anyone suspected of being a leftist guerrilla. A few ended up in the industrial port of New Bedford, where the fishing and textile factories rarely asked for work papers.

Over the years, hundreds followed, some paying smugglers as much as $6,000 for the trip.

As money flowed back, Mayan women replaced their delicate, hand-embroidered blouses with polyester tops. Men wore ballcaps with "Old Navy" scribbled across the front. Crude huts gave way to three-bedroom concrete homes. But mostly the town emptied, and homes ended up half-finished, rusty rebar reaching for the heavens.


Back in Xicalcal, hardly a day passes without another long-lost villager walking up the dusty path. Several were deported before they had paid off smugglers for their trip north. With the prospect of losing land or homes, they borrowed more and headed north again.

But most are staying these days. Table saws whine through the mountain valley as people finish abandoned homes. Many can't find steady work, and are rapidly using up savings from their time in the U.S.

Victor Garcia, 34, wonders how he'll feed his four young children. When he worked for Michael Bianco, Garcia was able to send home up to $500 a month. Now, he is lucky to earn 40 Quetzales ($6) a day working in the fields.

"I wasn't stealing anything," he says. "I just wanted to work."

Remittances are dropping. Guadalupe Toj is among the lucky few who still lives on money sent home by her husband. He works illegally at a pizzeria in Boston, but she wonders how long that will last.

"There are so many people coming back," Toj says. "Who is going to employ so many people? What will they eat?"

Traci Carl - Associated Press (7 December 2008)

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This page contains a single entry by kyledeb published on December 8, 2008 8:52 AM.

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