Illuminating Illegal Immigration
People in Guatemala, many of them, know how to run a business. Not all of those people are entrepreneurs necessarily, but all of them are industrious and each of them hopes for just a little bit more for their families and friends. One indigenous woman we’ve been speaking to of late operates a small business out of her kitchen. She feeds people. A restauranteur without a restaurant.
“Are you interested in growing your business,” I ask.
“Yes, indeed. But I think I will not. I think I might leave.”
“Why leave?” I ask.
“Extorsiones, senor. Extorsiones.”
About a year and a half ago there was a sudden upsurge in child immigration to the United States. You may remember it. News reports spoke of mothers and their children, especially the children, piled on industrial rail lines, heading north on La Bestia; The Beast. They came in huge numbers and they were desperate. The woman who I am talking to is thinking about becoming one of those displaced people atop La Bestia.
“If I stay and grow my business I may lose my son to the extortioners and the gangs,” she says. Her son sits beside me, an earnest nine year old. “If I make more money I will become a bigger target for them.”
I ask her why she doesn’t go to the police. A typical gringo question.
“They are often the extortioners, senor.”
I sort of stare off.
What happens when the cops are the bad guys and the really bad guys create the law? Stagnation happens, the temptation to despair happens and illegal immigration to the United States happens.
As our conversation winds down I ask her if she has other options.
“Maybe I will move back to the village. People are poorer there but they are left alone. I could start my business there.”
And so, as we learn more about our work here we learn we will likely be headed for the mountains where women like this are trying to start over, or at least start again. In many ways the hope of Central American nations is found in the simplicity of the rural communities who often police themselves, teach themselves, and though cut off from the wider market, enrich themselves little by little, day by day, decade by decade, and millennium by millennium.
In all of this the oikonoma is rapidly emerging as the only answer to LaBestia and the despair of the extortion system. But building it will take time. Good always moves slowly in the world, pooling itself patiently, creeping out and over everything as if a gentle flood.
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