From The Publisher

February 5, 2018 Edition

I’ve been here 24 years now (oh my god!), and I still can’t get over the many injustices I see. I know, I have said many times that people generally get the government they deserve, but I just can’t stand to see the life that some people must endure, whether it’s their fault or not.

I was recently up on the roof of the Puerto Parisio mall at about 11 pm (don’t ask, long story). They are working three shifts up there and I saw a man about 45 years old with a 110-pound sack of cement slung across the back of his neck. He was bent over and half walking and half running. I’m sure he was going to be doing that to and fro all night.

This man is not a burro!

Where is the fork lift? At the very least, where is the wheel barrow?

I could blame the construction company, and I do a little. But if they can hire men to work like this, there has to be some deeper problem than a mean boss.

I think this man is a victim of two of society’s biggest problems: Too many people applying for too few jobs and - the big culprit - a lousy education that didn’t prepare him for anything but work fit for a burro.

If the construction company couldn’t hire these people for $500 USD a month, construction companies would use fewer men and more machinery. But with labor so cheap, employers just throw more people at a job.

Look at your restaurants. Most have way more employees than you would see at a similar restaurant in the United States. You’ve got four waiters buzzing around your table and they still can’t get the tacos to the table before they go cold. You walk into a very small company and you see a dozen girls working at desks.  There might be twice the employees needed for a task, but they only pay them half what we would call an adequate salary, so why not just throw more people at it?

Which leads us to the second of the two big problems: Education.

Anyone who can possibly tighten their family belt and afford it, sends their kids to private school. Private school is a way of life here, even for middle class and a bit lower.

The local public high schools have up to 75 kids in a class. English classes are mandated but the English teachers typically don’t even speak the language. Teachers often don’t show up. They just don’t show up, nothing happens to them, and the kids sit around all day. Kids are bullied into buying drugs. One local principal, when confronted with this charge by a parent, could only suggest the child buy the drugs and just not use them. That was his solution.

Those kids are going to grow up to run 110-pound sacks of cement all night. Or they will join the ranks of the drug pushers. If I hadn’t just described these peoples’ limited options and careers, wouldn’t you wonder why anybody would still go into that line of work with so many violent and grisly killings of drug dealers? Because they have so few alternatives, and most of those are very unpleasant. From now on when I see another druggie sprawled out on the street dead, I will force into my mind’s eye that middle aged man running cement sacks all night and have more of an understanding and more sympathy of how that dead druggie got to that point.

OK, so why do I blame the government? Much of it goes back to education; if you have even a decent education, you have some choices.

 In 2013 the head of the teacher’s union (education is federal in Mexico, so power is pretty well contained in one giant 1.5 million member union) was arrested for corruption and put in prison. She is accused of embezzling $200 million from the union. Worse for the country, she also sold teaching jobs to people not prepared to teach. Many teaching jobs that weren’t bought were inherited. When she was arrested, 126,000 teachers who couldn’t prove they had ever stepped into a classroom were fired. She had kept those people on the public payroll to deliver votes so she would keep her power and not be arrested. It has been five years since she was finally put in jail, with no trial in sight, and she is out free. This woman has ruined an entire generation of children’s prospects and she won’t even be made to pay for it. Now that’s corruption of a breathtaking proportion.

Another big reason for low wages and crappy working conditions is too many people chasing too few jobs. Back in the 1960s each woman in Mexico was having about six children. It is now down by half, but the women having none or one are well educated and those still having six are the rural uneducated poor. Guess where those children will be going to school? The cycle never ends.

So next time you hear about another shooting between druggies, or the grisly discovery of bodies by the side of the road, conjure up that skinny man trying to make a living for his family by running sacks of cement all night, five and a half nights a week, for about $500 a month, and you may find a little bit of empathy in your heart.