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'Welcome to Juan Aldama, land of beans and corn.' 'Welcome to Juan Aldama, land of beans and corn.'

Emigrants abandon 20 municipalities in Zacatecas but send home millions

State has the third highest emigration rate, behind Michoacán and Oaxaca

Academics and public servants alike admit that emigration has turned at least 20 municipalities in Zacatecas into all but ghost towns.

The representative of the National Immigration Institute (INM) in Zacatecas, Ignacio Fraire Zúñiga, says the state has the third highest levels of emigration in the country, surpassed only by Michoacán and Oaxaca.

“This exodus shouldn’t fill us with pride. People don’t emigrate to another country for pleasure, but rather out of necessity, and it’s not something we desire. [Mobility] should be something optional for people and not an obligation in order to have a better quality of life,” he said.

He said emigration rates are the highest in the state’s canyon country, in towns like Jerez, Tlaltenango, Juchipila, Jalpa, Fresnillo, Nochistlán, Río Grande, Sombrerete, Miguel Auza and Juan Aldama.

And although emigration has been a problem in Zacatecas for years, Fraire says it has also brought economic benefits to the state through remittances sent from the United States.

“The amount of money that comes as remittances is almost equal to what the federal government invests in the state,” Fraire said. “The money that people from Zacatecas send home is the second most important source of revenue, providing a subsidy for our economy.”

This importance is also recognized by Javier Mendoza Villalpando, a state delegate of the Secretariat of Foreign Relations (SRE).

“The total budget for the state is around 26 million pesos [US $1.3 million] and we’re talking about almost 18 million pesos of that coming from remittances,” Mendoza said. “That’s how important our compatriots in the United States are.”

A professor and researcher at the Autonomous University of Zacatecas (UAZ) says that Mexican authorities have not been able to provide the education or work opportunities necessary for its citizens so they are not forced to leave the country.

“For at least 40 years, bilateral emigration to the United States from Mexico has become an escape valve for problems like poverty, marginalization and lack of growth and development, which are the consequences of the neoliberal economic model,” Rodolfo García Zamora said, using the catch phrase preferred by President López Obrador to describe Mexican governments of the last few decades.

Contrary to Fraire and Mendoza, García claims that the remittances have not been a benefit to Zacatecas, but rather a palliative for the state’s social, economic and labor deficiencies.

“In Zacatecas we have a 100-year history of international emigration, and the billions of dollars that come in annually haven’t been able to rectify the marginalization and lack of employment,” he said.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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