Besides the many parties, another common commentary by return migrants on what they enjoy in Mexico is the food. They cherish the freshness of the ingredients and the fact that most everything is homemade – coming from their fields or their backyard.
I certainly agree with them on that point. As I wrap up my time here in rural Puebla, I am taking advantage of every opportunity to learn how to make the many delicacies that I have enjoyed in the region. Whether it is homemade tortillas or mole or tamales or disks to make Mexican hot chocolate I find the process of creation fascinating and the women in the community are more than willing to teach me.
Yet as I learn I realize there are deeper implications and consequences of the long creative process that each meal requires. Simply put, lengthy food preparation and women employment seem to be mutually exclusive. A working woman cannot spend hours making tortillas or mole or tamales. And only once in my two months here have I seen a man help with any part of food preparation. Even men who worked as chefs in the US don’t set foot in the kitchen here.
“The women are lazy in the US” said one woman who has never migrated. She made the comment on the basis of the fact that women in the US just go to the store to buy everything and don’t grind corn to make tortillas or kill chickens for lunch. The two women that I interviewed who were housewives for the duration of their time in the US agreed with that assessment as they mentioned that life was much easier for them there – almost boring – because of the fewer chores.
Yet all of the women who I have interviewed who worked in the US have a radically different vision from the status quo of the towns. “What is missing in Mexico is that the women work” told one of them. Many women shared how empowered they felt working in the US and how they would like to do the same in rural Mexico. Few of the women were currently working because now their husbands think they should stay home and tend to chores.
Being here has ironically made me appreciate the industrialization and convenience of the US. Of course, food quality suffers for it and I am not looking forward to going back to eating packaged tortillas once I leave here. But I also think it is a small price to pay because it is one of many factors that allows me flexibility to have my own career and work outside of the home.