North to Colorado
December 21, 2005
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.The flood of Latino migration to Colorado begins as a trickle somewhere in Nicaragua. Many tributaries flow into the stream as it moves north: Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, southeastern Mexico, the area around Mexico City, and large inputs from heartland states like Guanajuato, Michoacan, Jalisco and Aguascalientes.
In the city of Zacatecas, highways 45, 49 and 54 come together, combining inflows from Central America, southern and central Mexico, and the emigration-rich valleys north of Guadalajara and Aguascalientes. The now rushing river of migration begins its final run for Ciudad Juarez on the Texas border. More and more, the final destination is Colorado, as emigres believe the farther north they go, the more money is to be made.Zacatecas Under a stunning blue sky, this magnificent colonial city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has beautiful pink stone churches, whitewashed houses, an aerial tramway and a bustling street life most U.S. tourist towns would kill for.Still, people seek to leave.
“People are still asking for the Zacatecas-Denver flight, and the Zacatecas-Ciudad Juarez flight just opened up on Aerolneas Azteca,” said Ruben Avila Arciniaga, a reservations and sales manager at Realsa Travel and Events Agency in Zacatecas. “From there, people just bus up to Denver.”Arciniaga explained how, why and to what extent people from the state of Zacatecas are moving northward, and not just to Southern California, Texas and Arizona anymore.”They don’t just go to the border states anymore, they go as far north as they can,” he said. “The further they go, the more they’re paid. In cold locations, there’s less cheap labor. So Jerez, Fresnillo and Villanueva, for example, are full of pickups with Colorado plates.”Making those Colorado pickups legal is Luis Velasco Ortega’s job. He’s the statewide coordinator for ONAPPAFA, an organization that helps people legalize used vehicles purchased in the U.S. Velasco, 42, said most imported vehicles come in from Texas and Colorado. An estimated 20 percent of cars and trucks legalized in Zacatecas are from Colorado.As he talks, a TV crew shows up. A decree has just been issued by Mexican President Vicente Fox Quesada, accelerating a process that will open the border to all used vehicles on Jan. 1, 2009.
“We’re pushing for all vehicles from 1970 to 1998 to be legalized. Today, the president just jumped the gun,” Velasco explains.Up at the bus station, Los Paisanos literally, “The Countrymen” runs one bus daily to Pueblo, Denver, Aurora and Greeley – a grueling, 36-hour ride. Tickets cost $120 to $130 each way, less than half of what airlines charge. Juan Diaz, 70, the office manager at Los Paisanos, said the office opened in late summer, and Brighton, Colo., is a top-selling destination.Buses like Paisanos, which go through immigration on the Ciudad Juarez-El Paso toll bridge, are not for illegals.”People who ride our buses have papers,” Diaz said.