Working-class Mexicans don't want Central American immigrants, either. Here's why.

Spend a few days anywhere in Mexico - even in a trendy tourist destination - and you'll understand why some Mexicans don't want the Central American migrants, either.

You'd think the Mexicans, whose compatriots have been migrating to the United States for generations, would appreciate the predicament of the thousands of Central Americans passing through Mexico trying to reach U.S. soil.

But no.

The sentiment was unmistakable from everyone I casually asked during my seven-day trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: We need to take care of our own first.

Sounds familiar? It's the same nationalistic sentiment often heard and harshly criticized here in the United States.

Too many here are desperately poor

My stay in Puerto Vallarta last week was strictly a family vacation. I didn't introduce myself as a journalist. The housekeepers, taxi drivers, waiters, cooks and bartenders saw us as just another bunch of tourists who contributed to the local economy and helped them keep their low-paying jobs. (They are jobs, after all.)

None of these workers volunteered their political views unless asked. Perhaps they're trained to keep to themselves or too tired to care or both. We stayed in Nuevo Vallarta, in the Riviera Nayarit, a gorgeous and increasingly trendy coastal tourist spot.

There was no sight of Central Americans anywhere in the Riviera Nayarit or a few miles to the south in Puerto Vallarta in the state of Jalisco. But anyone curious enough to chat and willing to listen closely to the locals would spot a trend that helps explain why some of them aren't embracing Central American migrants.

They're desperately poor with no real prospects of getting out of it. Don't call these Mexicans hypocrites - as some here in the United States do - unless you really know their own predicament.

How are they supposed to feed immigrants?

How can anyone criticize the hotel housekeeper for balking at the notion that Mexico should shelter, feed and provide medical attention to Central American migrants when she has none of that from the government? How can she pay for it with her roughly $6 a day from cleaning an average of 15 rooms per day?

How can anyone criticize the college-educated sous-chef of a beach resort who also drives an Uber and earns $150 pesos (that's less than $10) per day? Or the indigenous 32-year-old woman selling her handmade arts and crafts at the local plaza or town square for a day's meal?

They can't possibly earn that little, a friend told me. It's hard to believe, I know. But even the administration of the new socialist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was bragging about the fact that the minimum wage was set to increase by 16% - to $5.10 a day this year.

What a joke.

My family vacation was a blast filled with all sorts of activities, from tequila tasting to snorkeling to kayaking to off-roading to strolling in nearby towns. But I couldn't remain tone-deaf to the workers around us.

It only takes a few days of listening attentively to grasp the magnitude of these workers' own desperation to escape a country where a corrupt government turns a blind eye to all sorts of wage exploitation. Let's think of that before we call the Mexicans hypocrites who don't want the Central American migrants to stay in Mexico.

Elvia Díaz is an editorial columnist for The Arizona Republic, where this column originally appeared. Follow her on Twitter @elviadiaz1.

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Working-class Mexicans don't want Central American immigrants, either. Here's why.


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