New Trends! And a Sidewalk Brawl!

Earlier, I discussed a trend that could very well not be a trend–Anglos showing up at day labor pickup sites for work. Well, I recently came across another trend piece that seems suspicious as well.

The article, found here, is about the growth of reverse remittances, or money sent from Mexico to the US to help struggling family members who are unable to find work. A few families are interviewed to bolster the case, which I don’t find convincing: I remember seeing people sending small amounts of money from a southern Mexico town to New York in 2005–and that was with a booming economy. You could find such exceptions at any time, if that’s what you were looking for.

The one institution that is quoted is a bank, whose representative states that customers actually did send more money to the US than received it at home:

“I’d say every month 50,000 pesos are sent from here to there,” said Edith Ramírez Gonzalez, a sales executive at Banco Azteca in San Cristóbal de las Casas. “And from there, we’d receive about 30,000 pesos.” Fifty thousand pesos is $3,840.

First of all, it seems like it would be pretty easy to get someone at the bank to provide figures–as it’s written, this is just a guess by one of the employees. Secondly, as the estimate makes obvious, the bank does virtually no remittances, in either direction, which is not surprising, because money transfer companies like Western Union dominate the industry. It would be much easier to judge the growth of reverse remittances by, for example, inquiring at wire transfer companies either in Mexico or the US.

But I’m guessing that such a study would undercut the thrust of the article. I’m not saying that reverse remittances don’t exist, or even that the article’s main factual claim is inaccurate. After all, the reporter is simply stating that “a transaction that was rarely noticed before appears to be on the rise.” Another way of saying this is that a transaction that was rarely noticed before is now being noticed. But I would need to see a lot more evidence before I agreed with the reporter’s conclusion that the results he had discovered were “startling.”

I bring all this up because it demonstrates how slippery the “trend” style of reporting can be, where a conclusion is dreamed up in an editorial office and then a journalist is sent out to find evidence, however flimsy, that supports the conclusion. I also remember coming across a number of pieces about the exodus of Mexicans from the US, caused by the economic downturn. In each, a journalist was sent to the border to find out-of-work Mexicans who were returning home.

Of course, it turned out that there hadn’t been any exodus. At any given moment, people are coming and going between countries. Surprise! In fact, I was working with immigrants at a restaurant in Manhattan when many of these pieces were coming out. In the kitchen, a handful of the workers had just arrived in the US. I also spoke with a friend who works with immigrants, and he told me that he knew of a few people who had recently crossed the border and were now living in Brooklyn. With this information I could have just as easily written an article about what “appears to be a dramatic surge of Latino immigrants in New York City, based on recent interviews and anecdotal evidence.”

Okay, enough about trendy reporting. Moving on to something more fun…

In Florida, competing rallies around immigration were held between ANSWER and the tea party people. I actually don’t know exactly who the tea party folks are–something about Glenn Beck, right?–and the video below obviously provides captions from their perspective. I did notice that the ANSWER chant was “Anarchy yes, racists no!” Being an anarchist myself–of the pacific variety–and also someone who thinks racism is bad, I was initially rooting for their side. But I couldn’t help notice that once the fighting broke out, one of the ANSWER folks calls his opponent a “faggot” and says that he “hits like a girl.” It’s like I’ve always said: if you’re a militant left-wing radical but have to resort to homophobic and sexist jeers in the heat of a pointless sidewalk brawl, well, don’t get into pointless sidewalk brawls.

If anyone cares, here’s the response from ANSWER.

Let’s just hope that the upcoming fight over immigration reform remains figurative, and has a better outcome.


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