Remittances-or the money migrants send home to their families in Mexico-are a vital part of the Mexican economy. Hundreds of families depend on remittances to maintain financial stability. In this never-before-published series, photographer Dulce Pinzon explores how remittances affect families in Mexico and across the border in her work "Both Sides," which tells the story of how a matriarch in Mexico benefits from a son's remittances, and of how a migrant worker living in New York fares once she crosses the border.
Photographs by Dulce Pinzon
Dona Enerina, 72, has worked for many years harvesting crops and raising animals and is in every way the matriarch of her family. Enerina lives with her daughter, daughters-in-law and several grandchildren of sons who have left to find work in other countries. They live in a town called San Juan Tiaguiznalco, on the banks of the volcano Popocatepetl in the state of Puebla-a very rural area in Mexico, where people still ride horses and there is abundant open space.
Dona Enerina's son Luis lives in New York City and sends money home regularly. Luis has not seen the house where his mother now lives. If he could see it, he'd be amazed: actual tile floors, a pink bathroom with a tub and water heater (meaning no more cold baths with buckets), a microwave oven, and three bedrooms where before there was only one. Enerina's kitchen remains the same, and she won't allow anyone to change it: in the kitchen, the corn from each day's harvest is shucked, and in the back of this modern house they still keep a pen of animals that they sacrifice for an annual village festival.
Luis always intended for his parents to live better: he wanted the latrine to be replaced with a toilet and the dirt floors be replaced with marble floors, Vegas-style. He has dedicated himself to sending every extra dollar he earns to his mother so that they can enjoy a modern home.
Mari, 56, is also originally from Puebla, but she now lives in Brooklyn, New York, in an apartment with 14 family members, including sons, nieces, and nephews. Mari came to New York with her husband Alfonso several years ago, a talented woman with character. She was not at ease until she was able to have her whole family with her; now, the only people remaining in Puebla are her parents, who live in a two-story house with several rooms, the result of Mari's work as a laundry clerk and maid in New York.
Mari says that when her family was still in Puebla, she and her husband saved $10,000, rented a minibus, and took her entire family on a trip across Mexico before again crossing the border towards New York to continue working, saving, and sending money home to her parents. Mari dreams of someday returning to her home in Puebla to see her parents before they pass away.
One of the biggest challenges Mari faced was bringing her youngest daughter, Anayeli, age 14 at the time, to the U.S. But nothing is impossible: eventually she was able to get Anayeli across the border after several failed attempts. Now, Mari she tells this story as a funny anecdote, describing how it took them over a month to cross, disguised as other people. Anayeli has since finished high school and is planning on going to college, then becoming a stewardess. Mari says Anayeli's trips through desert and water are over: from now on they will be through air. Anayeli will be the first of Mari's children to go to college.
Mexico receives the largest amount of remittances in Latin America and the third largest of any country in the world (after China and India). According to the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), 18 percent of Mexican adults consistently receive remittances (at an average of about $190, seven times a year). 78 percent of remittances are being used to pay for basic necessities such as food, medicine and housing. Women are twice as likely to receive remittances as men, with most recipients living on only moderate incomes and having limited education.
The crisis led to a severe reduction in the amount of remittance sent from workers in the U.S. to their families in Mexico. Experts point to tightened immigration controls along the U.S./Mexico border, which has made it more difficult for Mexicans heading north to seek work, as well as the U.S. recession in which many Mexicans working illegally have been laid off. Read more about remittance in "Mexico: Longstanding Challenges, New Opportunities" >>
Dulce Pinzón was born in Mexico City in 1974. She studied Mass Media Communications at the Universidad de Las Americas in Puebla Mexico and Photography at Indiana University in Pennsylvania. In 1995 she moved to New York where she studied at The International Center of Photography. As a young Mexican artist living in the US, Dulce soon found new inspiration for her photography in feelings of nostalgia, questions of identity, and political and cultural frustrations. Her work has been published and exhibited in Mexico, the U.S., Australia, Argentina and Europe. To learn more, visit www.dulcepinzon.com.
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