Mexican Hometown Associations and Development Opportunities

By Orozco, Manuel; Lapointe, Michelle | Journal of International Affairs, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

Mexican Hometown Associations and Development Opportunities


Orozco, Manuel, Lapointe, Michelle, Journal of International Affairs


International migration significantly influences the politics and economics of many countries today. Migration and worker remittances, in particular, support economic growth in sending countries all over the world. Through remittances, migration has created new opportunities for social and economic change in rural areas. However, remittances are only part of a broader phenomenon of transnationalism. Transnational immigration networks are contributing to the integration of countries into the global economy, demonstrated through various levels of economic interconnectedness, including immigrant-based donations, small and large investments, trade, tourism, and unilateral transfers.

In 2003, 8 million adult Mexican immigrants living in the United States sent $14 billion in remittances to their relatives. Globally, annual remittances total over $100 billion. Over the past 10 years, these transfers to Mexico have reached $69 billion. The influence of remittances on home countries' economies has been significant, particularly in economically depressed rural areas. Aside from remittances, immigrants have also formed small philanthropic organizations, known as hometown associations (HTAs), to raise thousands of dollars to support small local development projects.

HOMETOWN ASSOCIATIONS, DEVELOPMENT, AND LOCAL CHANGE

There are at least 2,000 of these associations across the United States working in various cities and states in Mexico, including most prominently, Guanajuato, Zacatecas, Jalisco, Puebla, and Michoacan. These organizations are part of a growing trend in transnational social movements that have been influenced by migration patterns as well as by globalization. (1) HTAs fulfill several functions, from social exchange to political influence to pursuit of low-scale development goals in their home communities. The connections established among remittance senders from similar places of origin lead to spontaneous out coordihated efforts to support not only their relatives but also their towns. By forming these organizations migrants can retain a sense of community as they adjust to the U.S. (2)

HTAs are a subset of what some observers assert is a growing number of Transnational Migrant Organizations. (3) These groups are increasingly motivated to take advantage of the upsurge of family remittances and the need for economic aid in their homelands. HTAs have sought to retain cultural ties and improve their home country communities. Organizations made up of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Mexicans, Dominicans, and people from other countries have increasingly been working toward a betterment of their towns. (4)

The emergence of HTAs raises important questions about their contribution to development and their potential to forge alliances with other actors in the development community. This article analyzes HTAs and their relationship to development in rural Mexico. To do this, we first evaluate the organizational nature and capacity building of hometown associations, and then investigate their partnerships and collaborative capacity, as well as their long-term durability and impact on development in Mexico. Finally, we review a partnership scheme between the three levels of government (local, state, and federal) and hometown associations known as 3x1.

Methodology

This policy brief synthesizes a larger report on the development roles of hometown associations and the effectiveness of the 3x1 matching-grant program. The study included interviews with more than 100 hometown associations operating throughout the U.S. and working in various Mexican states. Association leaders were asked about the type of activities they perform, the length of time their organization has been working, and their organizational structure, as well as how they identify projects and collaborate in partnership with other organizations.

The study also visited four Mexican states (Zacatecas, Jalisco, Guanajuato, and Michoacan) and conducted on-site visits to more than 40 projects that were part of the 3x1 program. …

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