Saturday, February 23, 2008

Whirling in Teote, Part Two

Part II: “Abuse, Juju and Kite Flying” (633 words)
To be exploited here for cents or in the Promised Land for dollars, that’s the question. The work’s pretty much the same. However, I know not one CMC student in 26 years, especially now with our multi-tasking millenials, who wouldn’t, in reversed situation, answer as the young Teotanos do and follow the whiff of cash, seeking more freedom. So many here have “gone mojado,” to restaurants in Aspen, to taxis in Atlanta, to knackers in the snow of North Dakota, the town’s futbol team is hurting!
Seriously, if businesses in los Estados were not so eager to hire “illegal” labor, muchachos certainly would not go. They fill the exploited niche few citizens will consider. Perhaps our federal laws aren’t facing—or, rather, for the sake of the economy, conveniently overlooking—our shady hiring practices? Unfortunately, though I love the growing Hispanic influence in the Roaring Fork Valley, I feel I’m “aiding and abetting,” somehow, whenever I buy a burger, the fault of law turned upside down for profit, not of those cute food servers. I’ve no solution, past realistic legislation, yet, clearly, if profit’s maximized by cutting outlay for labor, nationwide, at the lowest levels, then, legal or not, like it or not, nothing will stop this trip to Mecca. If it did, there’d be fewer coupons to clip, for the “pobres” at the top.
Once Teote’s sons get jobs, often way below minimum wage since “illegals” are easily exploitable, muchacho’s earnings head south, another point of contention, into wallets of wives or mothers who raised them. Padres open bank accounts, often for the first time, becoming interest-earners. After stashing more under the mattress, with garlic cloves that bring good juju, campesino families, those with northern sons, arise, like gold-and-silver kites in a wind-dance, in gyres of acquisition, buying land, Brahma bulls and caballos; then, tractors, taxis and motobicicletas, guzzling $.90 a gallon gasolina; next, a million plastic chairs. Everything’s at least an eighth the price here, and land’s even cheaper, so we’re not talking massive gold drain, maybe $50,000 yearly, huge only in Teote.
Even for all Latin America, this money sent south can’t come close to the googleplex of billions in natural resources we extract from them each year, at exploitation prices, paid to rico families in capital cities, who also control the local banks, medicine and food supplies, the markets where Teote spends its dollars. As they, in turn, reinvest their profligate nest eggs in safer American markets, usually in Miami, it almost all comes back to us, in the long run. Only a negligible pittance returns to the peasants from the Fire Sale of their work and national heritage, from a fire the Giants started. Not good juju, amigos, way out of cosmic balance, for four hundred years.
The Betancos, jealous, want those shining kites for our sons, but most have no coyote money. “No, con mi dinero,” I’ve said, many times, but dream denial’s really not my strong suit. Since I’ve nine unofficially-adopted kids, los hijos de don Douglas, born to fathers who abandoned my sisters, a couple full-grown sons, chomping at the bit, a few much younger daughters, I’d love to pave their way to opportunity beyond providing a just father’s love; unless the immigration laws change, though, they’ll need to find their path to Disneyland on their own, and they probably will. In the American Century just past, we’ve taught the poor not only to dream our way, but also, “Do it now, amigo,” then, “Do it even better, mañana!” It’s our pragmatic, progressive gift of love and honor to the world, complete with our well-known blindness to borders, returning right straight home to us, con muchas gracias de los campesinos de Teote, Nicaragua.

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