February 23, 2007

Illegal Migrants Invade Unitarian Riviera

MATT WELCH, the newsman and blogger, recently wrote a fascinating essay in the Los Angeles Times in which he revealed immigration problems pervading the charming Southwestern city of San Miguel. Apparently, Mr Welch reports, illegal migrants have been found working in both service jobs and professional occupations. Not only do they do a lot of work without first getting the required papers filled out, their off-the-books work is costing the city at least $360,000 per annum.

So what's unusual, you ask? Well, the city of San Miguel de Allende is in Mexico. The illegal migrants at issue are American. It's an interesting essay and what Mr Welch describes certainly rings true with my own experience in the city.

I was, however, disappointed to also learn from Mr Welch that stupid turista gringos are griping and moaning about development in the area. In a blog post accompanying his essay, Mr Welch notes the opening two paragraphs of a column in Atencion San Miguel, the local English weekly. The column in question is from Atencion writer Joseph Dispenza, who complains about recent San Miguel developments in general. Mr Dispenza writes:

In this South of the Border Brigadoon, the recent appearance of monolithic supermarkets, multiplexes and fast-food franchises has many of us wakening to the sober realization that our idllic bubble may have burst. If one more superstore moves in, we may have to leave here and move to the next good place that still retains its enchantment -- its soul.

But what is happening here may not be merely a local issue. Towns a cities everywhere, it seems, are in the process of an inexorable debasement, a crumbling of culture under the weight of overdevelopment and overpopulation to the point of a bleak and depressing blandness. There may not be a next good place.

While Mr Welch's response to this is classic, I personally get very frustrated with these types of comments. As such, I'm going to borrow a phrase from the Minimum Leader and declare Mr Dispenza "a pendejo* from the p to the o."

Mr Dispenza surely knows that even relatively well-off Mexicans living in San Miguel only earn $10,000 to $20,000 per annum from their work. For those who aren't skilled workers, or who don't have English skills, or who don't have the luxury of formal jobs in the Mexican economy, their incomes are considerably lower. As such, it is foul and wretched to gripe and moan that supermarkets and other large stores are entering the area. Not only will the stores provide lower prices for their customers, thus raising the customers' standards of living, they will also help dent the exploitative commercial relationships which now exist on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder. It is hard to see anything wrong with market forces creating a better life for those who could most use it.

Mr Dispenza's comments are especially frustrating given that he knows full well the historic center of the city is protected from such development and will always be protected. It's a national historic monument, for Pete's sake. As such, it seems farfetched to argue the city's character will be all that changed as larger stores appear on the town's outskirts -- and it further shows Mr Dispenza's position on the matter is amazingly self-centered and gauche.

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* In English, this word may be politely translated as "dummy," although I am using it in the more accurate sense of "blithering idiot fuckwit."

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at February 23, 2007 02:36 PM | TrackBack
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