This article appeared in the McAllen Monitor. Some of the comments are amazing. http://www.themonitor.com/articles/wealthy-45949-fleeing-mcallen.html
McALLEN — The drug war in Mexico could be economically beneficial to Hidalgo County as more and more elite Mexicans look to foreign investment as a way to escape the violence, said Keith Patridge, president and CEO of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation.
Wealthy Mexicans have been targeted by criminals because of their assets, Patridge said, and no longer feel safe in their country. Many are looking to relocate and invest north of the Rio Grande.
But the investment has less to do with stimulating the economy than finding a path for legal immigration.
Permanent residency, or a green card, is available to foreign nationals and their family members who invest at least $500,000 in the United States, Patridge said.
“(Mexican elites) are looking to coming over and bringing their families with them, at least until things settle down in Mexico,” he said. “And the investor visa is the principal way they are looking to do it.”
The potential influx of wealth and Mexican nationals to the area could also benefit the cultural climate, said Miguel Diazbarriga, a sociology professor at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg.
“I think this is an unprecedented opportunity … that is definitely good for the (Rio Grande) Valley,” he said. “(Mexican elites) have a very global outlook, but they’re also very nationalistic and proud of their Mexican identities, and if we could find a way to mesh that with the Mexican culture of the Valley, that would be an amazing cultural hybridity.”
Getting there won’t be easy, he said. It will take strong leadership to overcome some of the stereotypes both cultures have imposed on each other.
“In the past there were many negative attitudes toward Mexican-Americans in Mexico, you know, pochos,” he said, referring to the derogatory term used for Hispanics who don’t speak Spanish perfectly. “But I think that’s changed a lot and we have to make sure that keeps changing.”
Mexican-Americans, however, also have changes to make, he said.
“We have to get rid of the (term) fresas,” he said, referring to the derogatory term given to the allegedly pretentious, wealthy Mexicans. “We don’t want to create a situation where you have Mexican elites living in one area and Mexican-American elites living in another.”
Diazbarriga also said there is potential for mixed feelings from Mexican-Americans in the area who are very patriotic, he said.
“There could be some resentment as far as ‘we’ve paid our dues as Mexican-Americans,’ for example, ‘and now we have these wealthy people that just come in and start doing their thing,’” he said. “There could be some challenges.”
The professor suggests encouraging cultural events and establishing a Mexican-American Museum to help diffuse some of the tensions. He hopes UTPA can take a leadership role and become involved in the cultural transition.
“We want to look at ways to break that down and create avenues of creativity and cultural contact,” he said. “We can’t assume that’s going to happen naturally, so the question is: How do we foster that?”