Love America? Buy Mexican.

Marketplace Staff Mar 9, 2010

Love America? Buy Mexican.

Marketplace Staff Mar 9, 2010


Kai Ryssdal: When she was in Latin America last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised that the Obama administration is going to do more to fight drug violence. That violence has been a particular problem in Mexico. It has disrupted everyday life in some parts of the country. It’s adding to the strain on the Mexican economy. And it’s affecting immigration here.

Commentator Gustavo Arrellano explains how.

GUSTAVO ARRELLANO: A friend gave me a belt a couple of months ago but not just any length of leather. It’s a “cinto pitiado” — an arabesque piece of art traditional to the Mexican home state of our parents, Zacatecas. Each is crafted over weeks, woven with threads derived from the agave plant. Mine is mid-level nice, and it’s still worth hundreds of dollars. And great to hide the biggest guts, too!

My amigo gave it to me for free under one condition. He asked — pleaded, really — that I tell everyone I could about the cinto pitiado, and urge them to buy one.

Zacatecas is suffering a Gran Recession like us. But there, it’s exacerbated by something far more sinister — the narco wars. Gone are the days when caravans of folks from my family’s ancestral villages drove from Southern California to their Mexican homes and return with their trucks crammed with local goodies. We were just some of the hundreds of thousands of Zacatecan expats who annually injected their home state’s economy with millions.

We can tolerate police bribes, but kidnappings and ransom notes? No.

Even worse, the narco wars have put a chokehold on Mexico’s longtime lifeline to First World status: the money immigrants send back home. It ranks second only to oil as a source of revenue to the country’s economy. Mexicans now have to think twice before wiring cash to their loved ones south of the border. The wrong people may notice and shake them down.

But still, Mexico needs money from its emigrants. Mexicans already have informal economic networks, but perhaps the American government can lessen tariffs on artisan goods from Mexico. It’ll motivate more Mexicans on both sides to create import businesses and lessen Mexico’s current dependence on emigrant money.

Oh, and for the anti-immigrant loons in the audience? What are you doing listening to Marketplace? But seriously: Buying Mexican will keep more Mexicans in Mexico and fend off the invasion. Love America: buy Mexican.

RYSSDAL: Gustavo Arellano writes the “Ask A Mexican” column for the Orange County Weekly.

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