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Stay: Migration and poverty in rural Mexico
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Stay: Migration and poverty in rural Mexico
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ViewChange: Challenging Hunger
Faced with a lack of opportunity in their homeland, Mexican farmers Marvin Garcia Salas and Santiago Cruz have both been forced to migrate north to provide for their families. Now, thanks to several organizations that are responding to the root cause of illegal immigration by working towards sustainable development practices in rural Mexico, they are able to stay home.
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Produced and directed by Bread for the World.

Learn more about Bread for the World's efforts to reduce illegal immigration through development in Latin America.

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Segment 1

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Chiapas, Mexico
MARVIN GARCIA SALAS [Comitan, Chiapas, Mexico]
I was happy yesterday. You know why? I was waiting in the street outside the hospital, and a group of students said, "Come! Have a little bit of coffee and some bread." If society had the same attitude, the world would be better.
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Oaxaca, Mexico
SANTIAGO CRUZ [San Miguel Huautla, Oaxaca, Mexico]
Unfortunately, the government has abandoned the Mexican countryside. The results are never good. I decided to migrate [to North America] because I have a large family and there isn't any money in this community, there are no sources of income, nothing.
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Sixty percent of unauthorized immigration to the US comes from Mexico. They come to escape poverty. In 2009, 96 percent of US foreign assistance to Mexico went toward military and drug enforcement. Investing in rural areas of Mexico instead can help reduce the pressure to migrate.
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Stay: Migration and poverty in rural Mexico
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Permanecer: Migración y pobreza en el México rural
MARVIN GARCIA SALAS
The reason I went to the US was because I wanted to progress. Not that I didn’t have work here, but peoples’ stories made it sound so much easier to earn money in the United States. That was the reason my family agreed it would be better to try my luck there. And I went there for the first time in 1998. My wife Victoria stayed here with the kids. I made it across the border, but it was a really bad experience. For example, when I was at the border, when I was crossing, I was robbed by bandits, cholos. It was a bitter experience. I had different jobs. I picked tomatoes. I picked chilies. And in six months, I was able to save 8,000 pesos [USD$675]. Eight thousand pesos, here in Mexico, I couldn’t make that in six months.
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After returning to Mexico due to health issues, Marvin and his wife bought land in Chiapas with the help of a U.S. nonprofit called AGROS. Today, Marvin and his wife grow the crops that support their family.
MARVIN GARCIA SALAS
We found land that we can work on. Victoria and I were excited about this from the very beginning. It was a project to help people help themselves. It hasn’t been easy. We need more resources.
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Marvin’s wife, Victoria, is a community activist who sometimes works out of town for many days. Which means Marvin is often the family’s primary caretaker.
MARVIN GARCIA SALAS
She has had responsibilities that have been difficult for me. Now that my children are older, it’s easier. But when they were smaller I had to take care of them. I had to cook and change their diapers. There were moments when they were little that I had to carry them because they were crying or feeling bad. Sometimes people were saying, “Why are you doing domestic work, women’s work?” And I said: “I feel good. Both of us are parents to these children. We both have to take care of them.” I want to do a lot of things. But unfortunately, there are some barriers that don’t let us develop.
SUSAN BIRD [Program Officer, Ford Foundation, Mexico]
What we see more and more is this - the rite of passage, this idea that young people, specifically, can no longer make it in their communities and it's no longer interesting to them. My name is Susan Bird. I'm a program officer with the Ford Foundation in Mexico. And so they kind of wait for the day that they can leave. That's the saddest thing I think, is the cultural loss. You know, you see communities, entire communities made up of children and grandparents and there's a whole generation that is missing.
SANTIAGO CRUZ
I hope most of my children don’t migrate. Most of them would live here in my town. In our grandparents' time, our land was more productive. They harvested more. Now the land is deteriorating, depleted. We need more ideas, more techniques, and more innovation to be more productive. It’s difficult, you know? This is a very poor, rural area of Mexico. That’s why I decided to migrate. I looked for the possibility of migrating legally. And I made it to Canada.
VICTORIA MARTINEZ LOPEZ [Santiago's Wife]
So, he had the opportunity to go. And he left, but I was left behind alone with my children. Among all of us, we divided his chores. That was very hard.
SANTIAGO CRUZ
The first season was very difficult. I was very lonely. It was very difficult to get used to another country, another culture, you know, the customs. It was difficult.
VICTORIA MARTINEZ LOPEZ
We were not accustomed to being without him. It felt like he was gone a very long time.
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When Santiago returned from Canada in 2008, he and Victoria got involved with CEDICAM – a Mexican nonprofit partnered with Catholic Relief Services. Through CEDICAM they are learning sustainable farming techniques. They can now support their family and Santiago can stay in San Miguel Huautla.
SANTIAGO CRUZ
CEDICAM has helped us to improve the soil naturally without chemicals. Before CEDICAM I wanted to migrate to the city again. Or migrate again. Or migrate indefinitely. But now with CEDICAM it’s a form of affirmation that my place is in the countryside. I feel like I’m in touch with nature. It feels good. Through CEDICAM I am motivated. I’m aware that I need to teach my children how to work the land.
VICTORIA MARTINEZ LOPEZ
My children? I don’t want them to migrate because I think it’s bad, no? Because they suffer. But if we had education and more opportunities to sustain ourselves in the countryside, we wouldn’t have to leave. [End credits]