“We call it Puebla York,” said the waiter at Sunset Park Diner in Brooklyn. The We,’ refers to the large and increasing number of Mexican immigrants in New York, many of whom are originally from Mexico’s state of Puebla. “The explosion of the Mexican population in New York has transformed all New Yorkers into inhabitants of Manhatitlán, Puebla York, Newyorktitlán or whatever you want to call it,” said Carolina González of the Daily News.
The US Census Bureau, estimates the Hispanic population to be the fastest growing minority group in the US, growing at 3.2%. In 2008 the Hispanic population reached 46.9 million. Mexicans are the fastest growing immigrant group in New York City. There were 186,872 New Yorkers of Mexican origin in 2000, the population now is considered to be between 275,000 and 300,000.
According to the New York City Department of City Planning, the increase in population is due not only to the numbers of new migrants coming in, but due to the high birth rates among Mexican immigrant women. The department states that there were nearly 29,000 births to Mexican mothers between 1990 and 1996, the third highest number of births to an ethnic group behind Dominicans and Jamaicans. “This trend of rapid growth has continued to the present with births to Mexican mothers representing the largest to any ethnic group in New York City in 2005,” said Nina Bernstein of the New York Times.
Immigrants move back and forth between New York and their hometowns, borrowing from and contributing to both communities as they “forge new gender roles; new strategies of social mobility, race, and even adolescence; and new brands of politics and egalitarianism,” states Robert Smith in his book ‘Mexican New York’. Many immigrants live and function in two worlds at the same time. They bring their Mexican heritage and culture while at the same time, they take back new customs and influence to Mexico.
“New York,” says Jim Dwyer, of the New York Times, “is a city that is lifted two inches off the ground every day by the labors of Mexicans.” In a casual conversation with Mariana, a cashier at ‘Jerry’s Bagels’, she said that she came here to support her brother back home. “I went to school in Mexico but here I get paid much more for washing a plate than I do there for doing anything related to my studies.” While minimum wage in New York is $7.25 USD the hour, in Mexico the minimum is $54.00 Mexican pesos for an eight-hour working day, or in other words $0.52 USD a day.
New York is an attractive city for many migrants; it definitely has advantages for those who don’t hold legal papers. New York, like most cities in the US, offers endless opportunities for people willing to work hard for little money, whether it be in restaurants, on construction sites, or day labor. But in New York, a MetroCard is a great substitute for a driver’s license. “La migra is not out to get you on every corner,” says Mariana. “It’s not like the states near the border.”