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Mexico Feeds the U.S.

Speaking of higher tariffs on Mexican imports and the wisdom of closing the border with our neighbor to the south, I want to share a favorite piece of Mexican folk music. “Ya viene el tren de Durango” sings a Mexican migrant farm laborer who leaves his home in rural Mexixo to work in the fields of “el norte”, across the U.S. border. The song was inspired by the experience of migrant “bracero” farm laborers in the U.S. fields of the early 1940’s to the early 1960’s.

These primarily Mexican farmworkers replaced the labor force conscripted for WW II and, with the increase in U.S. population and demand, now provide most of the cultivators, weeders and pickers of U.S. crops. To call essential migrant farmworkers “illegal” is one of the many grotesque consequences of the lack of a comprehensive update of U.S. immigration laws since the Reagan administration.

You may listen to the song “Ya Viene el Tren de Durango” as sung by folk musicians of Northern Mexico, including Jose Ignacio Cardenas Alvarado, the song’s composer. Its lovely melody, simplicity of language, and the singer’s clear enunciation make it ideal for Spanish language learning.

English translation:

“Here comes the train from Durango,
I must say good bye now, here in the Goma station,
to seek my future.

From Torreon to the City of Juarez
I’ll take yet another train
and then cross the border
so I don’t know when I’ll return.

REFRAIN 2X:

I know how to make the cuts on alfalfa
I know how to pick cotton
I know how to grow tomatoes, watermelon and squash.

But I leave as a poor fellow
and the money I take isn’t enough
when I’m on the other side
and run out of dough.

So look my pretty old lady
the dollars we told our children
I’d bring with me
let’s not mention again.

REFRAIN 2X

Now is also a good time to remember how the U.S. has for years depended on fruit and vegetables from Mexico to feed its families. Mexico supplied 29 % of the tomatoes eaten in the U.S. in 2016. In that same year, Mexico produced 91 % of the avocadoes consumed in “el norte”.

The effect of increased tariffs on prices of Mexican food imports to the U.S. would of course be dramatic and onerous for millions. Prices of produce would rise from 20 to 40 % an April 3, 2019 Time Magazine article estimated. The same article noted that many large U.S. agriculture firms, Driscoll’s berries is one, now produce food in Mexico with Mexican labor.