Indigenous town in Mexico survives on remittances from US

Indigenous town in Mexico survives on remittances from US


COMACHUEN, Mexico (AP) — In Comachuen, a Purepecha Indigenous community of about 10,000 inhabitants nestled high in the pine-clad mountains of the western state of Michoacan, the whole town survives because of the money sent home by migrants working in the United States.

That money, known as remittances, kept families fed after local woodworking sales dropped off a decade ago when pine lumber started to become scarce. The money has allowed their families to remain in Comachuen rather than moving to other parts of Mexico for work. That — and the fact kids spend much of the year with their mothers and grandparents — has helped preserve the Purepecha language among almost everyone in town.

The traditional textiles, woodworking and construction live on, largely because such enterprises are funded by migrants who send money home to build houses here. Many things here — the church, the bull ring, the charity donations — are paid for by migrants.

The Mexican government believes remittances last year will surpass $50 billion for the first time. But whether the remittances allow families to just survive or progress enough so their kids won’t have to emigrate varies, reflecting a person’s plans and outlook.

The cold winter mornings in Comachuen are a throwback to another era. The men are back in town because of the seasonal lull in agricultural work in the United States.

Many workers from Comachuen get H2A temporary U.S. work visas, while others go without documents. Hundreds of men here work at the same vegetable farm in upstate New York every year, planting onions, harvesting squash, cabbage and beans. Porfirio Gabriel, an organizer who recruits workers to go north, estimates that one farm alone has brought $5 million into the town over three years, by far its largest single...

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