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Kenyan immigrants … doing the job Mexicans can’t?

20 October 2008

The area around Toluca has attracted jocks for centuries.  The first Mexican budget crisis was caused when missionary monks found that carrying heavy statues around in processions at high altitudes — and eating a healthier diet rich in chiles and beans as opposed to the gruel that was standard fare in European monasteries bulked them up — and they had to beg the King of Spain for new “athletic-fit” robes).

Kenyans — natives of a similar high-altitude region — have long dominated long-distance running, but:

Mexico has become a lucrative base for long-distance runners because of its proximity to profitable contests here, in the United States and in South America. Kenyans can earn cash awards of between $1,000 and $10,000, and Mexico taxes race purses at only 14 percent, compared with the U.S. rate of 33 percent.

While the number of Kenyan runners living in Mexico is not a huge number (about 130, according to Alexis Okeowo in the San Francisco Chronicle), they are having an impact:

So far this year, Kenyan runners have won 85 percent of long-distance races, causing at least 60 percent of Mexican runners to complain to race authorities, according to the Mexican Athletic Federation.

There have been some “incidents” and resentment about foreign dominance (some Mexican races will not give cash awards to foreign competitors), the Kenyans are staying.

Most runners left families in Kenya that rely on the remittances they send home each month. Kenya is still reeling from mass violence after its 2007 presidential election that killed nearly 2,000 people and left 500,000 homeless.

As a result, most runners say they will continue to recruit their fellow Kenyans to move to Mexico.

I’ve noticed this, and talked about it before, but it’s worth repeating. Mexico also attracts immigrants and — while not nearly as wealthy as the United States or Canada — is an attractive destination for immigrants looking to change their luck, and send money home, from “America”.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 18 November 2008 1:53 pm

    that was educational and borind fun

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