A day without an underpaid Mexican
People talk about the costs of illegal immigration on our society. What about the savings? Has there been any research into how much more a meal at a restaurant would cost without Mexicans cooking and washing dishes? What percentage increase would we see with supermarket produce if migrant illegal laborers were paid a fair wage?
—El Mojado Acaudalado
Dear Wealthy Wetback:
There are some studies out there, but the ones most publicized are usually authored by Know Nothing groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Immigration Studies, and their stats and findings are as twisted as the trenzas on a fine Mexican lass. Conversely, the ones stating the Reconquista is fab usually originate from Aztlanistas, so one must proceed with caution around the bevy of papers on the subject. The hard, boring stats: Out of the 2.2 million U.S. farms counted in the 2007 Census of Agriculture, only a quarter reported hiring workers. And out of the 1.42 million farmworkers reported in the Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey, foreign-born Mexicans make up only 35 percent of the population, and just 10 percent of the food preparation and service industry. A 2006 report by the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that nearly 39 percent of every dollar spent on food en los Estados Unidos went to labor costs. Conclusion: Any pay raise for illegals toiling in the factories, in the fields and in the kitchens would undoubtedly affect the bottom line of farmers and restaurateurs, which would force them to raise prices to recoup the cost—but probably not as much as we’d like to so Know Nothings could shut up once and for all.
For the past 15 years, I’ve been periodically working en el campo of southern Veracruz, with both local campesinos and Mexican academics from the cities. After an incredibly hot, sweaty day in the sun, all I want to do is take a cold shower immediately. My Mexican colleagues (both rural and from the city) refuse to take a shower for at least a couple of hours so that their bodies cool down. When asked, they state that a cold shower when you’re hot is very unhealthy and may even lead to sudden death. Now, my ancestry is northern European and I’ve always experienced that there is nothing more invigorating than jumping in an ice-cold pool of water while being extremely hot, like, say, after being in a sauna. Is this hot-plus-cold-equals-death idea I’ve encountered in Veracruz widespread throughout Mexico? Is there a history of Mexicans dying from cold showers? What’s the basis for this? Or is this just due to the fact that I’m not caliente enough, as my Mexican friends say?
I found a 1964 study from the Journal of Applied Physiology that discovered taking an ice-cold shower substantially increases blood pressure and pulse rate—but you knew this. Some people like that rush, but others know that putting instant stress on your cardiovascular system isn’t the wisest of decisions. Mexican men know this, so they avoid las regaderas for a bit. But the more important reason for not taking showers so soon is because hombres also know that sweat contains pheromones, and we will use any possible angle to get into a woman’s chonis.