Letter from Oaxaca — From the July 2014 issue

Good Pilgrims

Why Mexican immigrants are moving back home

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As you leave the Valley of Oaxaca and wind up the narrow switchbacks of unpaved mountain road, the sun loses its lowland sultriness and grows sharp. Roadside stands appear, selling small peaches, and bantam villages pass into and out of view, offering glimpses of hanging laundry, calla lilies in mossy streams, and men joking around in half-built houses. Farther inland, their language switches from the romantic lilt of Spanish to the tonal precision of Zapotec.

Crammed in the back of a taxi colectivo, a bare-bones Nissan Tsuru that held a few other passengers and their striped bags of city bounty, my husband, Jorge, and I watched the glitter of the valley fade and the perpetual fog of the cloud forest close in. Our destination was only fifty-five miles from the city of Oaxaca, but the trip would take more than three hours. We were headed to the village of San Pedro Cajonos for its annual fiesta, which included a basketball tournament Jorge planned to photograph for a documentary project. I had taken a semester off graduate school to accompany him on his travels. We had spent much of the winter attending fiestas in villages throughout the Sierra Norte, a historically impoverished region in the center of Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s southernmost states.

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lives in the United States and Mexico. She is the founding editor of Vela, an online magazine of non-fiction writing by women.

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  • Razon77

    Romeo in the article comes across as intelligent and enterprising; just the type of young person we need in our country. However, one item from the article is somewhat glossed over. Menkedick referred to the Social Security number that Romeo used on his tuition form as having been “flagged”- a euphemism for stolen from someone else. If Romeo also used this number when reporting his income for tax purposes, then he caused financial damage to the person to whom this number was actually assigned. And yes, Romeo would have known the utility of this number. There is an equivalent of a social security system in Mexico: the Clave Unica de Registro de Poblacion (CURP). The irony is that Romeo found someone to pay for a college education, where as the true holder of this SS# may have become disqualified from Pell grants and subsidized Stafford loans due to Romeo’s theft. Also, not to downplay the generosity of the people of San Pedro, but a quality Jesuit university education is worth more than uncountable cold beers and tortillas wrapped in cloths.

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