North to Colorado: Durango and Canatlán
Editor’s note: Mexico correspondent Alexis Charbonnier visited some of the cities and towns of Mexico with heavy migration to Colorado. The following accounts were gleaned from Mexicans who emigrate north, as well as those who remain behind.DurangoDurango Mexico, that is is an oasis of sophistication in this mostly rural part of Mexico. Colonial buildings abound in the spacious downtown area. As a state capital, Durango is a focus point for migrants heading north from the surrounding area.Two Viajes América buses run from Durango to Denver weekly. La Granja, north of Durango, is the main migration crossroads. Vans pick up passengers in small towns like Santiago Papasquiaro and meet up in La Granja. From there, América buses make the direct trip to Denver – without the border transfer – in about 22 hours.Denver ranks second only to Los Angeles and Las Vegas as a travel destination. Buses leave full, with an average of 40 seats taken out of 46. The reservation phone rings off the hook as Rosario Velasco, 45, explains how success has led to competition.”There are five bus companies in Durango that I know of that go to the U.S.,” she said. “Our strength is in the small towns. People there are actually better off, since many of them have U.S. residency.”
When migrants come home for the holidays, they’re often weary, flush with dollars, and not in a mood to take a bus home. They ask 19-year-old taxi driver Miguel Sarellano Alvarado, to take them to towns such as El Salto, Pueblo Nuevo, Canatlán, El Mezquital and Santiago Papasquiaro. He can net a day’s pay about $20 on just one of those trips.Sarellano doesn’t see any reason to emigrate for the time being.”I’m close to my family,” he said. “Besides, I don’t know anything about the U.S.”CanatlánFramed by the surrounding hills, the Canatlán Valley is beautiful on a sunny August afternoon. Orchard trees are full of ripe, juicy apples and peaches: it looks a lot like Oregon. Nonetheless, locals are leaving for the U.S in droves.
Two buses a week run from Canatlán to Denver with Viajes América, another with Durango Express. Up and down the valley, Tepehuanes, Santiago Papasquiaro, Nuevo Ideal and Canatlán feed into the La Granja crossroads, then it’s straight on to Denver.María Guadalupe Garay Ramírez, a shopkeeper from Jose María Morelos, a small town in the mountains, said Medina, Nogales and Martín López are among local towns that send many residents off to the U.S.Rafael Díaz Irigoyen, 54, the mayor of Canatlán and a native of nearby La Sauceda, a couple of miles down the road, said he’s trying to keep people here. Livestock corrals have been built, people have learned to make stone powder arts and crafts in Venustiano Carranza and dresses in El Presidio, and a guest ranch has opened in El Durangueño.”There’s infant malnutrition in the mountain villages, so we’re teaching people to raise fish and grow greenhouse vegetables,” Díaz said. “We’re training people to take advantage of our community’s natural resources.” Even so, population of the municipality a sort of small county of 31,500 – is down 10 percent, with about a quarter of local residents in the U.S. “Emigration has accelerated,” Díaz said. “We haven’t been able to retain people. The apple industry is seasonal, and most of the profits go to middlemen.”
Canatlán has plenty of spirit during the apple harvest, the town fair and Christmas, according to Jorge Nuñez, 20, who co-owns an Internet Café in his hometown. He said people still prefer the telephone and snail mail to chat. Nuñez, who is studying to be a teacher, said a quarter of Canatlán’s residents are in the U.S.”In some families, parents push their children to emigrate,” he said. “There are hardly any families that don’t have members in the U.S.”Nuñez does not expect to join the growing number of Canatlecos who go north.”Schoolteachers make about $750 a month,” he said of his future career. “I don’t plan to leave.”Vail, Colorado