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Jul-19-2010 16:00printcomments

Mexican Migration and World Trends

The decrease in Mexican remittances was steeper than 2009’s average regional decrease of 9.6 percent for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Mexican immigrants
Image of Mexican immigrants courtesy: Considerations

(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) - Studies by Mexico’s BBVA Bancomer Foundation lay out the general trends of Mexican migration in an international context. A periodic, bilingual publication sponsored by the Foundation’s economic services unit, Migration Watch Mexico, details demographic, geographic, economic, environmental and even technological characteristics of contemporary migration in Mexico and other countries.

While many of the findings are not new, the reports underscore the centrality of migration in the lives of tens of millions of Mexicans.

The data on migration and migrant dollars in specific regions of Mexico pose a question: In the Washington policy debate over immigration reform, why is discussion of the impact of migration on individual US communities not extended to particular communities south of the border, many of which maintain historic ties and even official sister city relationships north of the border?

Given the US’ economic relationships with Mexico, a country which is ostensibly a major partner of Washington, the omission is a glaring one. It is perhaps another indication that serious prospects for comprehensive immigration reform are far from around the country.

According to the latest figures compiled by the BBVA Bancomer, migrant remittances brought in $2.13 billion to the state of Michoacan alone in 2009. Mexico’s leading remittance receptor, Michoacan was followed in order by Guanajuato, Mexico state, Jalisco, Veracruz, Puebla, Oaxaca and Guerrero. The sparsely-populated states of Campeche and Baja California Sur ranked lowest in participation in the remittance economy.

Nationally, remittances plunged 15.7 percent in 2009, a drop which was compensated in part by the decline in the value of the peso relative to the dollar. In the three years prior to the economic crash, BBVA-Bancomer pegged migrant remittances in Mexico at $25-26 billion annually. In 2009, however, the total fell to about $21.2 billion. More recently, the flow of migrant remittances has picked up again, though the peso-dollar advantage of late 2008 and early 2009 has diminished.

According to BBVA-Bancomer’s comparisons, the decrease in Mexican remittances was steeper than 2009’s average regional decrease of 9.6 percent for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Separately, the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund found that remittances in Latin America and the Caribbean became far more important to national economies than net direct foreign investment and official external assistance by the early part of the decade.

Elsewhere, remittances-or the lack of them-have had a huge impact on local economies. Remittances were slashed 30 percent in the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan last year. Several Asian countries including the Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal bucked the global trend. In 2009 the countries registered remittance increases by 3-4 percent, the world recession notwithstanding.

A recent University of California report stated that the Philippines earned a record $17.3 billion in remittances in 2009. With nearly 1.5 million workers abroad last year, the Philippines could be the world’s proportionally largest “migration economy” in that the majority of youth plan to work abroad at some time during their lives, the report concluded.

In its latest publication, the BBVA Bancomer Foundation outlined a steady rise in international remittances from 1986 to 2008, a year when migrant dollars reached $444 billion. Citing the United Nations, the foundation’s researchers estimate the current population of international migrants stands at 214 million. The leading continents for migrants are Europe (70 million), Asia (61 million) and North America (50 million).

The impacts of climate change and social networking on Mexican migration were two other issues recently explored by BBVA Bancomer’s researchers. Although limited research exists on the links between climate change and migration in Mexico, BBVA Bancomer said there is evidence correlating the movement of people with changing environmental conditions or preexisting ecological degradation, which could be worsened by climate change. The states of Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, Jalisco, Mexico and Tabasco were identified as the entities most vulnerable to climate change. On the Gulf of Mexico, the coast of Tabasco might be penetrated 25 or 30 miles by higher sea levels, according to the report.

Raging waters whipped up by more frequent extreme weather events could be a growing threat far from the coast lines.

In a barely noticed story, El Universal reported this month that Mexican authorities estimated 14 million people, or almost one in eight people in the country, live in areas prone to flooding, including especially risky zones inhabited by 10 million people. Based on National Water Commission (Conagua) sources, El Universal said the border states of Baja California, Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas are among the most at risk of flooding.

To solve the problem, the Mexican government has drawn up massive relocation plans, the newspaper said.

“The effects and costs provoked by the last hurricanes have shown us that it could be cheaper to gradually relocate 14 million Mexicans than spend enormous quantities every year on reconstruction projects,” an anonymous Conagua source was quoted.

In the last two weeks, as many as 500,000 people in the northern border states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas have been touched by flooding following Hurricane Alex. The emergency situation is far from over; more neighborhoods were evacuated in the city of Reynosa on the Tamaulipas-Texas border over the past weekend.

Finally, BBVA-Bancomer’s latest report noted how the emergence of technologically-based social networks like Facebook could play a greater role in future migration trends. Additionally, the common use of cell-phones by migrant households encourages rapid, cross-border communication. The widespread availability of new communication tools could facilitate “the movement of people toward other regions within and outside a specific country,” the report hypothesized.

Additional sources:

  • El Diario de Juarez, July 18, 2010.
  • El Sur, July 17, 2010. Article by Xavier Rosado.
  • El Universal, July 11, 14 and 18, 2010. Articles by Noe Cruz, Ignacio Alvarado and Julio Manuel Loya.
  • Inter-American Development Bank, May 3, 2010. Article by Priscilla Murphy.
  • Migration News (UC-Davis), April and July 2010.

Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico

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