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Father Returns To Mexico; Should Son Follow?


For decades, bad economies abroad force the separation of families as people left home to seek better opportunities in the United States. Now that the U.S. economy is faltering, some immigrant families are being separated again. Some family members are returning to their home countries, and others are staying here, trying to hold on to the American dream. Often, these decisions come down to generational differences, as Youth Radio's Luis Sierra reports.

LUIS SIERRA: This is my father, a few minutes before he left on a plane to go back to Mexico, for good.


Mr. SIERRA (Returning Mexican Immigrant): (Through translator) I'm leaving. I'm going to Mexico, my beautiful Mexico. And I'm leaving by myself. I came by myself, and now I'm leaving by myself.

SIERRA: My father has been living in the States since the '70s. He's always gone to Mexico, occasionally for vacation, but this time, he's not coming back, even though it means leaving his family behind - me, my older brother and sister - and what's happening with the economy has a lot to do with it.

Mr. SIERRA: (Through translator) If it was up to me, I would want all of us together, but you all don't want that. I've been telling you that you can go there and finish your schooling there, and maybe someday you can return back to the U.S. and work. But there are jobs there, too; people don't starve there.

SIERRA: Ten years ago, my dad would have never been so optimistic about my opportunities in Mexico. But now that he sees that recessions can happen anywhere, he figures he might as well reinvest in his home country. He's been trying to wire most of his money back to Mexico. And my father's rants about moving with him make a little bit more sense these days, financially speaking. I'm a struggling student with no job prospects out of college. A place like Mexico, where people don't have to deal with crazy mortgages and high gas prices, sounds pretty good.

Ms. SARA CASTILLO (Returning Guatemalan Immigrant): (Spanish spoken) Ahora, mi corazon se parte otra vez, verdad?


SIERRA: Like my father, Sara Castillo(ph) is going home. When she leaves for Guatemala, she'll leave her daughters behind. Sara has lived and worked in the U.S. for over 30 years, but in recent years, things have not gone as planned. In the late '90s, she lost her job at the sewing factory, and now she has to short-sell the family house, because the mortgage payments have become too high. Here's her daughter Ana(ph).

Ms. ANA CASTILLO (1st Generation Guatemalan-American): For people who have emigrated, yes, it's always been a struggle; it's always been a challenge. But those challenges have always been there; that hasn't changed. Maybe it's changing for the middle class.

(Soundbite of song "Camino de Guanajuato")

Unidentified Men: (Singing in Spanish) El Cristo de su montana, Del cerro del Cubilete...

SIERRA: The night before my father left for Mexico, we had dinner at the restaurant we always went as a family when I was younger. This time, it was just the two of us.

Unidentified Men: (Singing in Spanish) Consuelo de los que sufren, Adoracion de la gente...

SIERRA: His friends, a group of musicians he has known for years, surprised him with a song called " Camino de Guanajuato," "Journey to Guanajuato," the state where my father was from. The song speaks of a traveler going home and the road that triggers memories of joy and pain.

Unidentified Men: (Singing in Spanish) Camino de Guanajuato, que pasas por tanto pueblo...

SIERRA: It's sad to see my dad leave, and to disappoint him because I'm not going along. But I am determined to follow my own path: finish college, work, save money. And hopefully, by the time I reach my 30s, I'll be able to invest in the American economy and buy a house of my own. If that plan doesn't work out, maybe I'll follow in my father and Ms. Castillo's footsteps.

(Soundbite of music)

WERTHEIMER: Luis Sierra's commentary was produced by Youth Radio.

(Soundbite of music)

WERTHEIMER: It's Morning Edition from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.