There has been a recent and unseen surge of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, with numbers totaling what amounts to a fourfold increase since 1990. Despite the constant flow and large numbers, U.S. President Donald Trump hasn’t mentioned it during his many rallies or a multi-tweet Twitter rants.
The 1.5 million migrants now living in a country in which they were not born, are a mixed group. Some are young and some are quite old. They’ve brought with them everything from digital knowledge and skills to pickleball.
Mexico’s statistics institute recently estimated that the U.S.-born population living in Mexico has reached 799,000, but the U.S. Embassy in Mexico city estimates that group to actually total 1.5 million—or more.
Many of those migrating south are of Mexican descent, with one or both parents having been born there. If the total number of Mexicans heading north were compared to the total number of people of Mexican descent heading south, there’s a strong possibility that more migrants from the U.S. are headed to Mexico than vice versa.
The flow of migrants is “beginning to become a very important cultural phenomenon,” says Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s foreign minister. “Like the Mexican community in the United States.” And the importance isn’t only cultural—migrants from the U.S. are boosting local economies.
Mexican authorities say that many of those entering Mexico from the U.S. are undocumented, but largely welcomed. “We have never pressured them to have their documents in order,” Ebrard said of the illegal migrants. If caught, they simply face a small fine.
“We like people who come to work and help the economy of the city—like Mexicans do in the United States.”
But despite the large numbers and sometimes significant impact to local communities, Mexican authorities know little about this group—something Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador wants to change.
“Despite the fact that Donald Trump insults my country every day, here we receive the entire international community, beginning with Americans, with open arms and hearts,” San Miguel Mayor Luis Alberto Villareal said. About 10% of San Miguel’s 100,000 residents are from the U.S. As a result, Villareal delivers the State of the Municipality address in both Spanish and English.
U.S. military veterans began moving to San Miguel de Allende after World War II thanks to the GI Bill and, over the past 30 years, U.S. citizens have continued to flood in. The enchanting city, located about 170 miles northwest of Mexico City, draws tourists and migrants alike thanks to the beautiful bougainvillea cover the walls that line the city’s cobblestone streets, the city’s architecture and colorful buildings. It also doesn’t hurt that, thanks to the U.S. dollar, it’s easy for a retire on Social Security and with a pension to live the good life.
“You can live here on $2,000 or $3,000 a month—and live well,” said on U.S. born retired living in San Miguel.
And thanks to the internet, it isn’t only retires tapping into the beauty of San Miguel and strength of the U.S. dollar. These days, expats can work from virtually anywhere as long as they’re connected.