Wetback Wives – Washington Post

Mexican wives seek ouster
of husbands from U.S.

Men working here illegally

On the 26th of February 2017, The Washington Times published a story about the women of Tecalpulco, Guerrero, México who called for the U.S. government to enforce its immigration laws, because they wanted their husbands, sons, fathers, and brothers to return back home from working illegally in the United States.

Twelve years later, we take a closer look at this story, interviewing women who were quoted in the original article, asking what had changed in their situation regarding family members who had migrated to work in the USA without papers.

They made an English Webpage where they identify themselves as the “wetback wives” and broadcast their poignant pleas, both to their men and to Americans.

“To the United States government – please close the border, send our men home to us, and even if you must deport them (only treat them humanely).”

In calls to their husbands, the wives talk about their abandoned children,
worrying aloud, that one’s husband has forsaken his family for another woman.

“You said you were only going to Arizona to get money for our house, but now you have been away and did not even come back when your sister got married,”

One woman writes to a man named Pedro: “Oh how I worry that you have another woman over there! Don’t you love me? You told me you love me.
You love me. I know you love me, and our life together…”

It’s a stark reminder of a forgotten voice in the U.S. immigration debate – the wives and children left, the families of the millions of workers in our country.

The plea also underscores the dual effects of migration on Mexico: its economy needs American jobs as an outlet for unemployed workers, but determined, able-bodied youth are still leaving these towns all the time; the strongest, the bravest ones, the most valiant set step on the unknown and dangerous road to Arizona desert crossings and one’s unique and picaresque destiny up north of the border.

In the 2007 Washington Times article the women’s’ website is quoted as follows:

“Ours is a beautiful place to live and since we have formed our craftswomen’s’ cooperative and begun to have success; our hope is that our men who have gone to the US return. PLEASE CLOSE THE BORDER TO ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION – AFTER ALL, IT IS THE LAW – We don’t need help, we are artisans, not anyone can make the beautiful jewelry we create in our workshops. God will help us to meet the needs of our family to surmount the difficulties we have always faced as Mexican women over the centuries.

According to Benito Meléndez committee-member of Federal Delegates for Matters of Immigration, stated that of five million Guerrerenses, fully two million are residing in the United States.

Guerrero is the poorest of Mexico’s 36 States. The men here have been going to work in the United States since the 1950’s. Principally to Arizona and Chicago, the area around O’Hare Airport. But now, there are men from Tecalpulco working as restaurant workers in New Jersey, tobacco pickers in Carolina, slaughterhouse workers in Kansas, construction workers in Houston, Texas, and other cities and small towns across America.

The locality of the village of Tecalpulco is typical. Practically devoid of men.
Single mothers struggle to raise their children. When her husband has been unfaithful to her, she might be abandoned, sometimes along with his old mother.

Frequently, the men just get stuck up there in the USA, working two jobs, but seeing one’s earnings go to expenses and rent, and getting caught up in the whirl of underground American life in the wetback barrios and apartment buildings.

The resilient craftswomen of the town are organized as a cooperative and defend themselves with this unique pronouncement: “Help us get our men to come back home to work with us making our stone mosaic jewelry. Everybody who wants our men to come home without a fuss, come visit our web-site; collaborate with us!”

Secretary of Commerce in Taxco is Erika Gonzales Ramiréz who said recently that “millions of Guerrerenses are in the United States according to official figures they send back so many usd $ X millions of residents of the Municipality of Taxco are in the United States, according to official figures they send back so much dollars”

The local cottage industry continues to be the motor for what economic potential is installed in the local production plant etc…”  Secretary of Commerce Gonzalez Rámirez observed “It’s admirable how these village jewelry-makers defend themselves, and help themselves out. The economy in Taxco has been very depressed for years; it is cottage industry production that sustains so many families and allows them to say at home and work in pleasant surroundings without incurring the expenses of transportation and the risks of migration.”

The craftswomens’ cooperative publication has issued this startling warning:
“We are only going to give you men so much time to get back here. You must decide. If you want a future in the U.S. then we will get another man to help us make our jewelry and he can just arrive and we will eat, then set down to work; everything will be fine. So, you men you will just have to decide what you want!”

In the original February 2017 Washington article one of the village women wrote:

“Dear Ruben please come home the children have not seen you in three years and little Beto is a young man and Lupita asks about her papa. I know we agreed you should try your fortune in the United States, but I didn’t know that it would be so lonely and that you would be gone for such a long time, please return to us.”

Our reporter on the scene has followed up on her story. It seems that, through the wetback grapevine, the wife heard that Ruben moved in with a pink-haired Puerto Rican woman. Something about the fact that her rival supposedly had pink hair, agonized the peasant woman. If she were not so poor, she would have had a nervous breakdown. The next year Ruben returned and begged for his wife’s forgiveness. She gave it to him, and their little family love life worked itself out.

Another plea appeared in the original 2007 Washington Times article: “Dearest Luis, when you called on the telephone I was so happy to hear your voice and to know that you had passed safely over to the other side of the border. Good luck. God will help you. Your mother is here with me. I will take care of her until you return. Work hard don’t drink, save money, come back to me and the children.”

Another happy reunion resulted; the family produces abalone shall inlay hair-barrettes in their picturesque home workshop, part of the Artcamp cooperative.

Luis’ wife Maria Luisa was all smiles as she declared: “If the American women would prefer our jewelry, we will be grateful to them for helping us have our men back home with their families, where they belong.

Back in 2017, a nineteen-year-old girl wrote: “You know since the 20th of December, you captured me then, you made me fall in love with you, and now you have me waiting for you, because this love that I have, can bear it all for this time you are out of the country.”

She was lucky, her boyfriend cared for her enough to return to his home village from Phoenix to marry her; now they have two beautiful children, a boy and a girl.

Another laments: “I remember the promise you made me and every day I go to that place where we swore that we would never let anyone separate us, and now you are gone, just like that. Why did you have to go to the United States? I know you said you go to work. But we can work together here, caring for your old dad. You know we can make it with our traditional stone mosaic jewelry that has never failed, neither the parents nor the grandparents of our village. Why did you have to go? In what did I fail you? Why couldn’t I give you what you did not find in me? If I gave you everything I could give?…”

The fate of this village girl is undetermined since her boyfriend is still up there. It is usually said that there are ten millions of Mexicans working illegally in the United States. For some reason, the cited estimate has remained remarkably identical since the time of Bill Clinton’s administration. For every one of the men, however many there are, there is a very sad woman, and her fatherless children.

In the rural expanses of a country like Mexico with creative and industrious people, especially the strong industrious women who remain behind, cottage industry manufacture of jewelry and fashion provide an organic solution to the economic problem without requiring the problematic injection of foreign capital.

It’s the micro-solution that has been harped-on for a long time, but that has never yet been seen in full flower, the economic motor of a home workshop cooperative powered by husbands and sons and brothers and fathers returning from the U.S. to work in this cottage industry; or, perhaps the recalcitrant husbands will request amnesty and give up their place to a new man who doesn’t mind making jewelry while living in a little house, in a little village in a mountainous region of Mexico.

 

 

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