North to Colorado: Rodeo and Hidalgo del Parral
December 29, 2005
There are ” count ’em ” six wire transfer offices in Rodeo, population 5,000. More than $300,000 pours into Rodeo monthly at the Sigue office. A rough estimate puts revenue from migrants in Rodeo at nearly $20 million a year. That’s $20,000 per household from emigration alone.
“If you want to send money home to Rodeo, just ask the operator, ‘put me through to the candy shop,'” said Benjamin Soria, 38, the owner of the “El Caramelo” candy shop and Sigue wire transfer office in Rodeo.
Thirty percent of wire transfers come from Colorado, many from Aurora, Soria estimates; the rest originate in Minnesota, the Carolinas, Utah, California, Kansas, Texas and Florida.
“If it weren’t for what migrants send home, I don’t know what we’d do,” he said. “It’s already passed up oil as Mexico’s leading source of income.”
Rodeo is on the Pan-American highway, 95 miles from Durango and 100 miles from Torreon. Local activities include agriculture, livestock raising and an auto parts factory ” but that hasn’t kept people from leaving.
“People have been going north since the braceros,” Soria said, referring to the earliest migrant workers into Texas over 150 years ago. “They emigrate because of the economic situation.”
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More men leave than women; half of them are single. They come home in November and December, when feverish activity reminds residents of days gone by.
“There used to be family feuds. Rodeo was just a lawless Wild West town,” Soria said.
All over Mexico, students are studying English in preparation for college, to get a better job or to feel better prepared when they decide to emigrate ” legally ” to the U.S.
“Half of our students study English with an eye on emigrating,” said Guadalupe Solis, 31, director and co-owner of the School of English Approach in Hidalgo del Parral. “Some go on student exchanges, especially in high school. Some adults have a spouse in the U.S. Most of our students are upper middle class: doctors, lawyers … they’re set here, but they want to do more.”
Solis, who lived in New Mexico and Kansas for 22 years, said although the two local mines are still active, the one above town is no longer running, and people are looking elsewhere.
One alternative is education: her students are attending or have attended local institutions such as Tecnologico de Parral, and Universidad Autonoma de Chihuahua-Parral (UACH).
Sergio Villalba is one of those students. A native of Parral, the 22-year-old works for the southern Chihuahua state attorney’s office. He’s studying for the graduate business school entrance exam and wants to do pursue a master’s in financial analysis at the Universtiy of California-San Francisco.
“I might study in England, it’s cheaper than in the U.S.,” he said. “I want to do research at the UACH, but I’ve been looking for a scholarship, and there’s no help for research here.”
Fabiola Armendariz, a 17-year-old UACH student from Parral, has a short-term goal for his English.
“I’m going to El Paso in January for paperwork,” he said. “My family doesn’t speak English, so I’m going to have to represent them.”
Regardless of language, the buses continue to roll north. A few blocks away from each other, two rival bus lines vie for Parral’s Colorado workers. Los Paisanos sends one daily direct bus from Parral to Denver for $80.
“Buses fill up during vacation. The Colorado and Kansas routes are my biggest sellers,” said Maria Aguirre, 52, who sells bus tickets in her natural food and drug shop.
One bus rider, Reyes Renteria, is talking about Roaring Fork High School and the scenery around Carbondale.
“The high school team is called the Rams,” he said. “There’s a big river and a mountain range.”
Renteria, 50 and a native of Hidalgo del Parral, is a welder and the maintenance man at a local junior high school.
Renteria said the mines “are the only place to work around here.” He feels the urge to go north too, but for a different reason.
“I’ve wanted to go out of curiosity. I’ve never had to emigrate. I’ve always had work.”