A tale of two pueblos

San Agustin Oapan and Ameyaltepec both lie in the Mexican state of Guerrero.  They share a language (Nahuatl), a common agricultural heritage, and essentially the same gene pool.  Ameyaltepec split off from Oapan in the late eighteenth century; since then interbreeding has continued.  The villages are close together; "forty minutes by foot, or an hour by car," a villager once told me.  Oapan is roughly twice as large: 3000 inhabitants to about 1500 in Ameyaltepec.  Both feel remote.

San Agustin is filthy.  The streets are full of pig **** and drunks.  Ameyaltepec is not quite Geneva, but it is clean.  The pigs are kept off the street.  Drunks are nowhere to be found.  Homes are much better maintained.  Families are at least twice as rich as in Oapan.  Residents of Ameyaltepec work together to construct trade networks (for artisan works) spanning the entire range of Mexico.  They were "colonizing" Cancun while Oapan residents were still cultivating the nearby Cuernavaca.  Ameyaltepec is much more interested in charismatic religion.  Oapan residents criticize them for "saving all their money."  Town politics are much more fractious in Oapan.

I don’t know why the two pueblos are so different.  I do know that many people see some of the worst features of Oapan in Mexican migration to America.  Much of this is rooted in fact; problems with gangs for instance are very real.

When I look at Ameyaltepec I see contingency, culture, and incentives at work.  I don’t see why most parts of the United States cannot manage a comparable success with regard to Mexican-Americans.  Obviously we have greater institutional capabilities. 

In Mexico there are many Ameyaltepecs, albeit with differing details.  There are also large parts of Mexico with virtually zero crime. 

Latino immigration has gone better in Virginia than almost any other part of the United States.  I again see variation and contingency, of course without guarantees of success.

The tale of two pueblos is one reason – but not the only one — why I think large numbers of Mexican-Americans in the United States will work out well.

Comments are open but please make your points without attacking the other commentators.


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