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As Violence Empties Rural Mexico, Migrants Abandon Plans to Return

As gang violence engulfs large swaths of Mexico, growing numbers of the 39 million people of Mexican origin living in the U.S. are rethinking their dreams of returning to their homeland after making their fortunes, the Los Angeles Times reports. It’s a phenomenon that experts say could have profound economic and cultural consequences on both nations. For Mexico, it means a reduction in the flow of dollars into parts of the country that have long depended on them and straining connections between migrants and their homelands. “Today practically no one wants to come back,” said Rodolfo García Zamora, an economist who has studied migration for three decades at the Autonomous University of Zacatecas. “The government appears to have no interest and no capacity to confront this tragic situation,” García said. “The message that these communities and our family members are receiving is: The future is in the United States.”

A third of all people born in Zacatecas live in the U.S., according to the Mexican government, with California the center of the diaspora. But as long as migrants had been leaving the state, they had also been coming back. The migrants raised money in the U.S. to pave roads, repair churches and build baseball fields in their hometowns. They opened corner stores and car dealerships and built sprawling homes with gabled roofs, ornate columns and other architectural touches imported from north of the border. They bought so much land that real estate prices began to be set in dollars. For years, the Sinaloa cartel claimed the drug routes that pass through Zacatecas. Its members largely kept to themselves — and seemed to keep the peace. Zacatecas was long considered one of the safest states in central Mexico. But then the Zeta gang and later the Jalisco New Generation cartel started muscling in. The new groups had a different modus operandi: They had no qualms about kidnapping residents or extorting money from shop keepers. As the two groups battled, violence exploded across the state, with homicides soaring nearly 500% between 2015 and 2022.


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