At the entrance to St Elena coming north from Kabah is a welcoming sign that says Bienvenidos a St Elena. It has a painting of the pyramid of Chichen Itza , the church of St Elena and a rather crude painting of the Golden Gate bridge! Not too many people are aware of the significance of the bridge, only a few American visitors, maybe. A few ask me why a painting of the Golden Gate bridge? The reason is because many of the local people are living and working in the San Francisco area of the States and I am sure seeing the painting makes them feel connected to their loved ones that have to seek work outside of their own country.
The idea is to work hard for about three years , earn enough money to build nice houses, sometimes very elaborate too, buy furniture,all ready for the return. Periodically they send money home and the family takes care of building of the houses and of course there is always money for gifts for the family.
Some come back to get married in style , church, flowers , reception( the last one I went to here a few weeks ago must have had over 600 guests from the village)and not to mention food and a live band.
Some return sporting North American style clothes, hairdos,tatoos,and piercings I am sure to the surpirse of their parents and families.
Unfortunately when they return it’s hard for them find work again, here in the pueblo and dream of returning. I often have the returned men seeking work with me as they have learned to speak English whilst away.I can always tell what kind of restaurant they worked in by their accents.. One spoke English with a Chinese accent and another came by who had an East Indian accent. Just too funny!
Sometimes ,some don’t even come back to their home life, begin a new life with a new family, leaving wives and children behind in the village with no financial support. The abandon wives have to rely on family members and the Mexican government for support. Others resort to prostitution to earn enough money to send their children to schoo. The men become accustomed to the life style in the States and don’t want to come back to sleepy Santa Elena!
The cost for them to run over the border is quite expensive , now around 50,000 pesos and no guarantee. They make a down payment with money that is sometimes borrowed and if they make it across the border they call their family who then pay the coyote the rest of the monies owed.If they make it over the border the first monies they make is to pay off their debt before they start earning money to build their houses.Many don’t make it , get caught ,spend a couple of days in jail and return home, hoping to try again another day.
Many now only have a dream ,as the border is much more restricted ,the economy and the lack of employment in the States makes the crossing much more risky.
What does the future hold for these people ? Its hard to say .