Business & Economy

Remittances a lifeline for millions of households in Mexico

By Mariana Gonzalez-Marquez

Tepatitlan, Mexico, Feb 2 (EFE).- Tepatitlan resident Carmen Serratos uses the money sent by her brother in the United States to take care of their mother and make payments on land where her sibling plans to build a home when he moved back from Texas.

For people in the surrounding Altos de Jalisco region, heading north of the border to earn money is a hallowed tradition.

And all four of Serrano’s brothers followed that well-worn path over the course of the last three decades, she told Efe.

Last year, the more than 38 million Mexicans in the US sent home $51.6 billion in remittances, breaking the record set in 2020, and just over 10 percent of that total went to Jalisco, one of Mexico’s 32 states.

Remittances have become Mexico’s second-largest source of hard currency after auto exports and some 10 million families depend on the wire transfers to keep their heads above water.

In light of that, it’s not surprising that President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador regularly refers to Mexicans working abroad as “heroes.”

The money sent home is equivalent to 4 percent of Mexico’s gross domestic product, deputy central bank chief Jonathan Heath said Tuesday on Twitter.

Around 55.7 million Mexicans, or 43.9 percent of the population, live in poverty, according to official figures.

Data indicate that only India and China – each home to more than 1 billion people – receive more in remittances than Mexico.

Carmen’s brother Ricardo, a locksmith, wires her roughly $350 a month, enough to support their ailing mother and to buy a plot of land for him in anticipation of his eventual return.

“He left for there, like everybody who wants to get ahead, to have something, because you earn very little here,” Carmen said, adding that without the money from their brothers, she and her three sisters could not cover their mother’s expenses.

Tepatitlan’s director of economic promotion, Oscar Lomeli Hernandez, told Efe that the pattern of emigration from the city has changed.

While in the past, many left for the US with no expectation they would come back, it is now more common for Tepatitlanos to go north for a few years with the goal of amassing enough money to pay debts, buy a home or start a small business.

“In these last few years so-called migrant investment has taken off a little,” the official said. “There are migrants who have restaurants and begin to generate an economic flow managed by their families.”

The surge in remittances over the last two years has surprised some analysts, who reasoned that economic dislocations caused by the Covid-19 pandemic would cause a decline in the cash transfers.

Jesus Muñoz and Maria de Jesus Lara wed nearly 58 years ago and it was nearly four decades ago that their son and one of their daughters emigrated to the US.

Throughout the pandemic, their children continued to send money and the support was crucial during a period when Muñoz was out of work.

“It was the same. Not more nor less. In that sense, we did not feel the pandemic because they are on top of things and they are always sending us money,” Maria said.

Last month, the septuagenarian couple bought a home with the money from the US. EFE

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