The Ñuu Savi people of the rain
In our Life another way series we dig under the surface of cultural norms to find compelling stories of people far removed from the regular.
Economic globalisation has bolstered poverty in the Mexican countryside. There are two predominant factors: first, the historical exclusion of the indigenous population to access resources and second, agreements on international economic policies between the US and Mexico; thereby strengthening the displacement of thousands of indigenous people from the rural areas in search of a better life for their families. This move is not only towards other areas of Mexico, but also to the United States. Indigenous people are the most affected – poverty forces them to leave their villages due to the lack of alternatives. This is a widespread phenomenon affecting families and communities with migration becoming a way of survival.
“The exodus occurring along the U.S.-Mexico border is the largest in the history of the world. It is interesting to see how the Mexican indigenous people are integrated to this international migration process. Once signed, the free trade agreement created a massive displacement of farm workers in Mexico because government subsidies ended. Part of the agreements negotiated between the US, Mexico and Canada was the opening of investment to the private sector in the Mexican agricultural community, which was protected and subsidised by the government for a long time. With the free trade agreement in place, the Mexican farmers who had relied on farming and the government subsidies could not compete, especially with the American corn exports. By then, jobs were already open and there was a deliberate recruitment from the agribusiness here in the US, which is a multi-million dollar business and growing and which is completely dependent on flows of migrants who come from Mexico. Since there is a lot of investment, and if they don’t have access to cheap labor when needed, this industry cannot operate and they would lose many millions.”
The crossing of these indigenous groups into the United States is risky and not pleasant. For anyone who is willing, it is like selling your life at the border – great if you make it, but many die in the attempt. Once they leave their villages of origin in Oaxaca, Mexico, it normally takes them more than a month to reach the crossing point.
They travel several weeks by bus and then some five days walking through the desert day and night. By all accounts, the Mixtecos appear to have a solid migratory network where the ingenuity to create crossing strategies and solidarity among the group ensure them a better future on the other side of the border; traits that are part of their ancient heritage.
“For us it is not easy having to leave our families, leave our communities, and leave our elders. This social neglect rooted in Mexican society since the time of the colony, has denied us for many centuries the access to basic principles, such as civil rights, food, housing, education, health, and work. We are the most vulnerable in Mexico. This vulnerability and our goal to improve our quality of life, has forced us into migratory displacement created by labor injustice in Mexico and abroad. One always listens to those returning from the United States. They say that things are better there: employment opportunities, schools for the children, food, all very different to what we have in our places of origin.”
Mixtecos, mobilised to the areas of agro-export, are the cheap hand. These regions expand from Salinas, in northern California in the United States down to the Valley of San Quintin in Baja California, Mexico.
“At the beginning it is difficult to get used to the change, but one learns and finally adapts to the new rhythm of life. We live better here, in the US. There is work, which guarantees stability thus making it easier for everyone. We are here to work. Undocumented life is not easy, but we appreciate being here in the United States. We know that with effort we can accomplish our goals. There are many children of Mixteco background going to college and I hope that my children will go, also once they finish high school. Education is very important, especially so in this country where there are so many opportunities. I always remind my children how extremely hard it is to work in the fields. On several occasions I have brought them to see how terrible it is to work picking strawberries, which we call the devil’s fruit, because in a couple of years it destroys you physically as you spend hours squatting every day. This work requires extreme sacrifices, so it is important for our children to study and avoid what we have experienced. I don’t want the same thing for them. If you’re not going to school, you’re still as others in my village. Education is very important for us and there is a saying, “If you go to war, you have weapons – a machete, stones or whatever it takes to fight. If you don’t have an education and intelligence it is as if you were not armed. My work has always been very important. We left Mexico with the idea of improving our lives, not with the idea of doing bad things because then it makes no sense to come to this country.”
Ricardo Palavecino has been a cinematographer, videographer, and photographer for the past 30 years. He has a multicultural background with substantial international experience in documentaries, dramatic films, mini series, commercials, network promos and corporate videos. He has provided services to various television networks and production companies including, Reuters, Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC, Discovery Channel, Disney Channel, Sundance Channel, Sony Pictures, AXN Japan, TV Asahi Japan, RAI Italy, and many others.
Check our Ricardo’s work here: http://www.rpalavecino.com.temp.livebooks.com/