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When Money Meant for Mexico Stays in U.S., Well, That's a Bad Sign

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The news out of Mexico this week was filled with stories of dwindling remittances -- which is to say, money sent by immigrants in the U.S. to relatives in their home countries. Mexican immigrants living in Texas, who comprise a large part of Dallas’ Latino population, are sending less money home as the American economy contracts. Between January and March, according to this Brownsville Herald story, the amount of money sent to Mexico dropped by 2.9 percent from the same period in 2007. Not a huge percentage, but for a country where remittances are the second-largest portion of GDP after oil (in Honduras, remittances are the largest slice of GDP), the impact is widely felt.

Good, many Americans might say. Better for us. But Roberto Coronado, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas quoted in the Brownsville story, says the $158 million that stayed in the U.S. instead of going to Mexico doesn’t actually amount to much. Fewer remittances don’t mean a healthier economy, he said: "The decrease is a signal of how the U.S. economy is doing."

A friend of mine based in Mexico City had a front-page story in the Houston Chronicle this week about the impact of decreasing remittances on the tiny town of La Parota, west of the capital. One resident refers to the decline as “a big depression.” Incidentally, the story’s pictures were taken by Jennifer Szymaszek, who also shot the photos for this occasionally award-nominated cover story that ran in the paper version of Unfair Park a while back. --Megan Feldman

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