I normally try to avoid political topics on this blog. But you don’t have to be in San Miguel long to recognize that politics is a significant part of the expat life here. And the dominant political persuasion is very liberal. There are at least two liberal groups, The Center for Global Justice and Occupy San Miguel, that have weekly programs. Today while Susan walked, I attended a talk on climate change by the former group. Without going into any deep discussion of the talk, Elizabeth Warren was too pro business for this group and Hillary was lumped in with the Republicans.
Yesterday we went to a movie and discussion on The Other Side of Immigration. This movie was not sponsored by either of the above groups. The contention of the movie is that the majority of Mexican immigrants to the US are farmers from rural Mexico. And guess what the movie says is forcing them to come to the US to try to make a living. NAFTA! The small farmers in Mexico cannot compete with the large mechanized farms in the US, so they cannot sell their crops at a profit. Furthermore, crops are subsidized in the US and the Mexican government cannot afford to help their farmers. Grains and strawberries have particularly suffered under NAFTA.
I was shocked to hear this. On the ride out of Toluca we saw plenty of factories of American companies that had moved manufacturing to Mexico. Clearly, a number of factory jobs have moved from the US to Mexico under NAFTA. In the discussion period, one member of the audience from Canada had a plant in Mexico. He struggled to find qualified workers for the plant. He said it took six months of training before the workers were qualified and then they wanted to leave at melon picking season. He had come up with incentive plans where the workers were paid substantial bonuses each year if they didn’t leave. However, one woman in the audience thought we were really on to a good thing if people could work in the plant most of the year and pick melons when they wanted to! It was said to be a cultural thing that farmers in Mexico only want to farm. The problem I have with that is that some of the case studies in the movie went to Chicago where I suspect they did something other than farming.
On another topic, I have been deeply moved by the events in Paris. I think one of the reasons that it has affected me so deeply is that we spent a month there last year. I recognize some of the places in the news. I stood in some of those places. I am reminded of these words by Mark Twain:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
I personally find that I develop some sort of affinity for the people of countries I visit. Events that transpire there are much more meaningful to me. Even though our cultures may be quite different, most of us want the same things for ourselves and our families. Our culture does not have a monopoly on good ideas.
I apologize for burdening you with all this philosophy, but it is what is on my mind today. Next blog will either be on the party we are hosting tonight for three other expat couples or the precolumbian site we visited yesterday.
Je suis Charlie