When Yucatecans return from U.S.

Migrants to Mexican town
Fernando Buenfil Gongora, proprietor of Hotel Clasico in Oxkutzcab, stands next to a mural of a San Francisco cable car. Photo: Tim Johnson/MCT

A recent news story counts 70,000 Yucatecans in the San Francisco, Calif., Bay Area, with smaller concentrations in and around Los Angeles and Portland, Ore. Many speak mainly Mayan, and only passable Spanish, according to the Miami Herald, which wrote about reverse immigration and its impact on municipalities in Yucatan such as Oxkutzcab (OHSH-kootz-CAHB).

Oxkutzcab, about three hours south of Merida, has sent thousands of migrants to San Francisco, where they likely start out in the food service industry as dishwashers, then rise in kitchens. They learning skills and techniques that don’t necessarily match up to what’s demanded once they return to Yucatan’s interior.

“While Oxkutzcab is a thriving agricultural center, few of its corn and citrus farmers can afford to eat Peking duck, Thai food or veal scaloppine, or even have a taste for it,” writes Tim Johnson for the McClatchy-Tribune news service.

Another Yucatecan who has returned from San Francisco could easily whip up a bechamel sauce but today is making little money as a cattle dealer. Still, some chefs have found a new home for their new skills. Eduardo Dzib Vargas was a cook in three Thai restaurants in San Francisco. Now, his is one of five or six restaurants in Oxkutzcab with curries on the menu. 

The Hotel Clasico in Oxkutzcab has Victorian-style bay windows influenced by San Francisco, and there are murals of cable cars and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Also, it is reported, there is also a more liberalized attitude toward gays and men are more inclined to pitch in with housework.

Some return to Yucatan willingly, but immigration deportations, mostly for assaults, have increased from a few hundred a year three or four years ago to over 1,000 in 2013. Imported back to Yucatan are gang patterns and drug use, which coincides with a rise in robberies in Oxkutzcab.

The Miami Herald story goes into more detail, some of it grim, about the increasing deportations and their impact on families in Yucatan.

Related: Here is another take on the story, with some interesting historic context.

© 2014 Yucatan Expat

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