About Secret History

Commentary on Latin America.
Mostly about Mexico - but not always.
Designed to encourage readers to learn about
the apparently "secret history" of 500 million people
spread across two continents
- but not always.
You can always count on a little snark.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mex Mont, or Really Good Beef for those Tacos

Bozeman (MT) Daily Chronicle had a nice (in some ways) article on the presence of Mexican labor in the resort town of Big Sky and in the Bozeman area in general. I was struck by a couple of things.

1) When the author asks why hispanics are not coming to Montana in large numbers, the fall-back answer is "the weather." I'm not sure what sort of magic happens between the winters of Denver and the winters in Bozeman, but it certainly isn't anything that makes Montana winters more brutal. The real story here is jobs, and recognition that Mexicans won't move to where there are no jobs is key to understanding immigration. If it was about weather, Toluca would be depopulated, as would most places in the high sierra from EdoMex to Chihuahua.

2) The similarities that the migrants described when talking about Montana compared to Mexico: beautiful mountains, small towns, farms and ranches, and that rural "lifestyle" that dominates the area. That is perhaps why I like western and south eastern Mexico State so much.

3) The emphasis on the rejection of the presence of Mexicans. This rejection, I would very much be willing to bet, is one not only based in competition for jobs, but also with the indigenous appearance. Montana is an interesting place racially. Never segregated for African Americans, it is a brutally racist place for Native Americans. Indigenous in appearance, Migrants from central and southern Mexico are most certainly running into that same wall. In all fairness, however, as a Montana-born person living in exile in Texas , people from anywhere ***cough cough California*** are generally not welcomed.

4) The "uninviting" nature of the state based on the ability of the ICE folks to enforce laws. I would aver that there is more going on to ICE effectiveness in Montana than just a lower population. ICE can apparently do their job without fences and internal checkpoints.

And finally, I was blown away how yesterday many of the Montana news sources made a big deal out of the busting of 6 Mexicans tied to Pharmaceuticos Collins, a company in GDL supplying chemicals for (wait for it).... meth. Again, we have a local example of how the consumption of drugs in the far-flung corners of the United States ties this nation to drug cartels and it is doubtful we will ever start taking drug uses seriously as a health issue.


El Aguila said...

As I know little about economics, thus the moniker of historian, I will nonetheless try and comprehend the mythical war against drug trafficking. The basic law of supply and demand argues that if there exists a demand for a product, a supply will magically arise. But our government does not understand basic economic principles nor do economists (See today's New York Times, "How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?"). So Instead of working at minimizing the demand, which would also entail spending our tax money in the United States, which would create many jobs, we will give the money to Mexico and Colombia to fight the supply. Money down-the-drain, especially because the war on drugs has failed. As a Democrat I embarrassed by the current administration's commitment to such a waste of my tax money and it's ineffective policy-making.

Ruben said...

When was that article in the Bozeman Comical? I can't find it. I am also reminded driving through the Beaverhead and Madison valleys in the summer of El Bajio. As the Chicano anthropologist in Montana, I am fascinated by race and ethnicity in Montana. I agree about the attitudes toward Native Americans, but have to say I cannot see other examples of overt racism. I think with the Montana "natives" there just hasn't been the experience or opportunity to have formed prejudices about anybody else - except Californians.. hence names like, BozeAngeles. I agree the main factor regarding immigration to Montana is jobs. But there must be somehting under the surface. I am trying to figure out why Idaho and Wyoming have larger populations of Mexican workers. I look at Idaho Falls, Id. and West Yellowstone, Mt., just over 100 miles, but worlds apart.

JHD said...

Curses! I knew I should have included the link, but local papers break links so often I figured it was not worth it. Ran in September 3 or 4. A fairly long story ... contained interviews with construction workers in Big Sky from Michoacan.

I think the big difference between Idaho and Montana has to do with agribusiness and real estate. In Idaho I can come up and work in spuds and service jobs AND get a cheap place to live. In Montana, if I come to work in labor intensive agribusiness my only option is really in Cherries in the Flathead Valley. Is any immigrant from Oaxaca buying a place in Polson or Big Fork? Not a chance. Migrant cherry pickers coming over from Washington and Oregon high-tail it out of the area as soon as the season is over - and the conditions they live in while there are pretty bad. Other ag work in Montana is in the hands of kids (I started farm work for neighbors at 13) and adults (I have three uncles that work as "professional" farm labor). Service jobs are also "farm wife" jobs - there just isn't the need for imported labor.

JHD said...

And Ruben, I'd love to know what you mean by "the" Chicano anthropologist in Montana!

JHD said...

:) :)