Counting Grain Cars by Jack McGarveyby Hugh Holub on Jun. 06, 2011, under politics
Counting Grain Cars
by Jack McGarvey
Often my Rio Rico neighbors and I get stuck waiting for a long and slow Union Pacific southbound train to pass by.
When they complain, I suggest that they amuse themselves by counting the grain cars passing by. I also tell them to note the names painted on those cars, like the multinational agricultural giants, Archer Daniel Midland (ADM), Conagra, and Cargill – those corporations that have successfully lobbied huge Federal tax subsidies.
Their success is so huge that US grain now costs far less than the grain a Mexican farmer could possibly nurture.
(In 2010, Mexico imported more than five billion dollars of US grain.)
The effect is that an estimated two million Mexican heads-of- households have been desperately seeking other means to support their families. They can no longer earn enough to support an extended
family of 12 or 14 as they once did on the fertile, two acres of land they once tilled.
And so? What do those good family men do? They do the same my ancestors – and perhaps yours – did. They emigrate.
Most of those desperate farmers first emigrate to the big, overburdened cities like the once elegant Mexico City or Guadalajara -still a beautiful city, but one that’s barely clinging on to its fabled beauty under the influx of emigrating farmers seeking work.
When they find no work there, thousands of those men then migrate farther north to my neighboring city of Nogales, Sonora.
A few lucky ones manage to find jobs in the mostly American-owned factories that have sprouted up there. But the jobs pay, on average, $11.00 a day in a city where the cost of living is virtually equal to
That barely living wage and the lack of sufficient jobs then become a “push” to risk crossing the border.
Couple that “push” with the “pull” of US employers eager to import good workers at low wages, and the result could account for much, if not most, of illegal migration.
A few years back, I spent a few months in the city of Oaxaca. I drove up from that tranquil, ancient capital city to visit mountain towns. There, I discovered that almost all males between the ages of
16 to 60 had departed. I haven’t yet fully recovered from that dismal and shocking experience.
That explains why, when I’m stopped at the railroad crossing here in Rio Rico, I obsessively count the grain cars heading south.
As I count, I discover once again, another inequity of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
One that’s subsidized, ironically, by the taxes that you and I pay.
Makes me wonder, sometimes, that when I now and then meet a migrant in the river valley below my home, why his forehead hasn’t been stamped, “Made in the USA.”
Copyright 2011 by Jack McGarvey All Rights Reserved. To get reprint rights contact agent
NOTE: Jack McGarvey is a writer who lives in Rio Rico, Santa Cruz County, Arizona near the border. McGarvey has been published by, among others, the New York Times.