Los Repatriados
Los Repatriados > History > Repatriation: Afuera

Among all nations, repatriation (sending unwanted immigrant back to their nation of origin) has been common practice for many decades. The United States underwent its own repatriation during the Depression and years following. Alternatively, Mexican immigrants had been known to return home during stable times by choice. This “natural cyclical rotation” 1 was due in part to seasonal work and Mexican immigrants didn’t mind going back home for the off-season. A return home of a Mexican immigrant was a special occasion and included many a celebrations among Mexican families. When the U.S. came out of World War I however, veterans and men coming home needed jobs to sustain their families needs as well. This created a recession and many immigrants lost their jobs in effect returning to Mexico. This first return home marks the first glimpse of repatriation in the eyes of the United States and its Mexican immigrants. The recession was quick and soon the U.S. economy hoisted itself into a prosperous, consumerist society. To appeal to the consumerist needs of this new generation, Mexican workers were called back to help assist with the need for cheap and quick manufacturing and producing of goods. When the market crashed in 1929, the U.S. was in an even bigger rut than it had been right after WWI. Repatriation began to take its biggest course the U.S. had ever seen.

Local governments in communities and cities across the nation helped in this new campaign of sending immigrants away. The U.S. needed room for jobs, and with the Federal government with its hands full, the local officials took the reigns. The Repatriation was viewed as a “humanitarian gesture” because local governments felt they had a duty to: return “indigent” nationals to their mother country, save money in welfare agencies for real Americans, and create more jobs for struggling Americans.2

The first major wave of Mexican immigrants back to Mexico is credited to those who wanted to avoid the humiliation of being mandated to go home. Additionally, their return home would be much easier to handle than suffer the discrimination and anti-immigrant sentiments from Americans. Threats, violence and hatred of white Americans induced this logic. Not even local police could eradicate such harsh actions taken towards Mexicans. Not just the violence that urged them to leave but Mexicans also saw their voluntary trip much more beneficial in terms of finding jobs earlier in Mexico than living off of welfare to eventually not have it anymore.

The second wave of repatriates were those who were essentially forced to leave because of such dire conditions they had waded through. For many Mexicans, their attachment was with the country they had helped to build—the United States. They had established homes, Mexican communities (colonias), and many small businesses that depended on clientele, which was predominantly Mexican. Other families struggled with the issue of their children who were old enough to stay and were legal citizens. This issue tore families apart and made many parents question their children’s dedication to the family. Nevertheless, many Mexicans who were legal were still asked to leave or emotionally forced by means of emotional attachment to family. Some women who stayed with their children initially then decided to follow their husbands and reconvene in Mexico. Even Mexican-American orphan children who were citizens were sent back to Mexico to live with relatives or family friends. Some children were simply placed into Mexican orphanages. The saddest group of people who were made to leave were those who were sick and bedridden, elderly, and mentally ill.

When Mexican immigrants had finally given up and submitted to the trend of leaving with other Mexican families, their means and ways of going home was another harsh reality to face. Some local governments and organizations helped to pay for train fares, which was the most commonly used means of transportation, or helped to reduce the cost. If Mexican families only way to get to Mexico was by train, the conditions were horrible and hard to avoid. Many Mexican families would be sent off in massive groups from train stations only to endure days and days of traveling without adequate amounts of food and medicinal care. Not only this, but their number of possessions was limited and rationed due to the exorbitant cost it was to pay extra for extra weight or items.

Other immigrants chose to leave by car. Only a few number of families could actually afford to take a car and pay for the gas. Even though families could travel on their own agenda, this way was much more dangerous due to the bandits who would attack unknowing Mexican families who stopped to rest overnight. As well as danger from other people, the roads going into Mexico and throughout many of the small towns in Mexico were not conducive for an automobile. Although many families made it safely to the border, for many train companies, they felt that their responsibility was to get them on the other side of the border and leave them be. For those who were fortunate enough to actually make it to Mexico’s borders, many women, men and children, however, died along the way.
1930 to 1935 marked the largest scale of repatriated families and thousands of those families were not even recorded. Mexican Consuls in American cities did not record the full scale of people who were repatriated. Many Mexican families had no time or money to conduct this process through legal means of retrieving Residency papers to get into Mexico. By 1935, many Mexicans had already left and the U.S. economy could feel a pain in its side. City chambers of commerce, banks, and businesses saw the aftermath effect pf the Repatriation. They quickly realized that Mexicans were not just the producers “whose work benefited the entire society” but that they were also the main source of consumers of the goods they helped to make.3 As well as this, much cash flow left banks dry with the numerous amounts of accounts Mexicans had held in the U.S.

Throughout this hastily executed Repatriation by American city and county governments, one question ebbed deep into the hearts of many repatriated Mexicans. Why not the other immigrants? Mexicans had invested so much into their American communities to only be sent away without compensation. At the same time, Europeans were showing up along America’s eastern shores. What was so vastly different between the two groups of people? Repatriates would never know. Their new obstacle was now how to deal with the Mexican communities they were about to become a part of.

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