If it is not already obvious, the financial crisis, despite bailout efforts, is having now not a ripple but perhaps a tsunami affect in other parts of the world as well. As globalization proponents say, markets are now integrated—which on the negative side means that a crisis in one place will have ramifications in other places as well.

Mexico is experiencing the impact of the financial crisis in a very real way—a loss of income for poor families in the country. Many Mexican men and women have migrated to the U.S. both legally and illegally. Many migrants work in service jobs in the U.S. with many Mexican men employed in the construction and landscaping fields.

The financial crisis in the U.S. has slowed construction jobs throughout the country and many middle-income families are scaling back expenses such as landscaping. The Mexican unemployment rate in the U.S. is hovering at about 7.5 percent compared with 6.1 percent for the general workforce.

However, many Mexican migrants send money (often called remittances) to their extended families in Mexico. In fact, remittances are the second largest source of foreign income—exceeded only by oil reserves.

According to the Center for Advanced Research and Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS), 8 percent of poor families in Mexico depend almost entirely on that cash flow to survive, and will find themselves in a critical position as a result of the drop in remittances. A recent Inter-American Development report stated that remittances “are a key poverty reduction tool, as more than 57 percent of remittances are used to purchase daily necessities such as food, clothing and shelter.” Yet remittances have fallen by 12.2 percent since August 2008.

As workers in the U.S. stop sending money, extended families in Mexico begin to make different healthcare choices as this Financial Times article explains.

Now, as someone who uses anything I can get my hands on to feel better—be it herbal or homeopathic medicines, acupuncture, massage, or western pharmaceuticals, I don’t think it is a bad thing that people are using medicinal plants and carrying that traditional indigenous knowledge of local plants forward.

The problem is one of choice, or rather lack of choice. I can choose to use herbal remedies, but if those are not working, I can buy an over-the-counter remedy, or go to see my doctor (as one of the lucky Americans with good health insurance) and get prescription medication. The problem is when people turn to these remedies for lack of choice. What other things will people have to forgo because they can no longer count on remittances.

While there is no easy answer for this problem, more than 360 U.S. academics who work on Latin America wrote a letter to Senator Obama, asking him, should he win the presidential election to support more equitable and sustainable economic development in Mexico, Central America, and throughout the region as an appropriate response to immigration concerns in the United States.

Whoever wins the presidential election will have an enormous financial crisis to grapple with. I hope that the next president can look beyond our borders for both impacts and solutions to address this crisis.

Marceline White

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