Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Mexican immigrants don't like Mexican immigrants
Nearly all of Greenfield's 16,300 people are Latino — and yet an ugly conflict has been brewing between longer-time residents and newcomers from another part of Mexico. Established residents say a massive influx of migrants from the Mexican state of Oaxaca has changed their city for the worse. Over the past decade, the migrants — Triquis, Mixtecs and other indigenous people who streamed from small mountain villages to Greenfield to plant and pick crops — spurred Greenfield's growth and now make up about a third of the town's population. (They represent up to 30% of farmworkers in California and 17% nationwide, the U.S. Department of Labor says.) They speak their own languages, not Spanish, they keep their own customs, such as arranged marriages, and, despite a long-standing tradition of sanctuary and tolerance in Greenfield, they remain separate. In a town feeling heavily pressured by the economic crisis and gang activity, the influx of Oaxacans and their lack of understanding of U.S. customs has led to an ethnic clash. Rachel Ortiz became so displeased with the new migrants that, after more than five decades in Greenfield, she left her cul-de-sac home and moved to Salinas, 30 miles away. Ortiz and others in newly-formed community groups complained that the Oaxacan families clustered in overcrowded apartments and garages, threw trash into the streets, thronged city parks, held loud parties. Some urinated in public and were involved in break-ins.