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PostGrassroots Development, Chicago to Michoacan (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA, 09/09/19 4:12 am)
Gary Moore writes:
Timothy Brown's expertise in foreign aid (September 8) has usefully expanded our discussion of the bygone Bracero program and today's illegal immigration, to reach the root issue: Why are some national economies stronger than others, hence pulling immigrants?
I second Tim's skepticism about foreign aid as a way for a developed nation to turn an undeveloped one into a developed condition: "In private, AID officers describe the entire foreign aid process as taking money from the poor in rich countries and giving it to the rich in poor countries."
But my skepticism may run deeper than Tim's on one front, as shown by a Chicago Tribune article I wrote--an upbeat, hopeful article, though with a subtext I didn't belabor. Tim's theory is that we should tap into the huge pool of money sent home by immigrants, to use a percentage for home-country development. But my article, on Mexican "Hometown Clubs," reminds that this is already being done, in a big way, placing major new infrastructure in impoverished Mexican communities. But the subtext is what the experts continually told me about such aid: compared to the immense development needs even of a relatively developed nation like Mexico, the hometown remittance-linked contributions, though very welcome, are only a drop in the bucket.
I wrote the article in 1999, looking ahead to an emerging Mexico that was leaving behind its old autocracy amid great possibilities. Instead, beginning in 2006 and then exploding by 2010 into world-scale massacres, we got the Mexican "drug war" that has taken tens of thousands of lives, with 2019 topping the homicide charts, amid levels and forms of ungovernability nearly undreamed in 1999 (huachicoleo, narcobloqueo, levantón expres, video narco-tortura, choque armado, extorsión telefónica, even chinero).
The hometown Mexican state I wrote about specifically, Michoacán (perhaps the largest sender of immigrants to Chicago), is now a traumatized hive of gangs, counter-gangs, gangs posing as self-defense groups, and narco-cults with pseudo-ideologies. This year, even the long-gone guerrillas farther south in Mexico flared up again. None of it means that ponderous positive forces will stop producing advances. But by which bucket should we measure which drop? And what is this mysterious curse, so shouted-about by ideologues, so bravely tackled by the dwarfed voice of foreign aid?
JE comments: This is a great article, which sadly now reads like a window into a hopeful past that didn't materialize. My introduction to Mexico was a semester in Morelia (Michoacán's capital) in the 1980s, but five years ago when I planned a family trip to Pátzcuaro, I was advised (in Mexico City!) that the whole state of Michoacán is too dangerous.
This Hispanist should wax philological on Gary Moore's list of criminal practices, but I'll limit myself to the one I had to look up. The chineros are teams of street hooligans who mug passersby by putting them in an incapacitating llave china (Chinese wrench), which we better know as a choke-hold.