Cancun is one of México‘s most touristic cities, but the surrounding state of Quintana Roo also shares a border with Central America, which has created an interesting dynamic, writes Elena Toledo on panampost.com.
Immigrants perform the most difficult jobs in the city. Their work hours start as early as seven in the morning and finish late into the day. For the base salary of 100 pesos per day (US $5), they do everything from waiting on tourists, setting up beach chairs by the seashore, cleaning and other labor-intensive duties.
People from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Cuba are mostly the people who come to Cancun. They thought they were buying into a better life and salary, but instead of being employed as waiters at five star hotels, now collect garbage on beaches or have resorted to prostitution.
Eventually, they turn to any immigrant work in the peninsula that provides them with a roof over their heads and money for food.
Manuel Amador is in charge of refugees, and said he had never noticed so much immigration to Cancun before. Since 2014, he said the influx of Central Americans has only increased from 120 illegals to as high as 300. Most of them have to perform physically intensive tasks on beaches, which qualifies as labor exploitation, because their salary is below the minimum wage and in high season they don’t have breaks.
“The main reason why they have remained in the peninsula is because of how difficult and complicated it has become to reach the United States,” Amador said. Since many people know how dangerous it is to get on the train, they prefer to stay in this area, and language is not an issue.”
In connection with the lack of decent working conditions for Central Americans, the activist stated:
“Now both immigrants and hotel businesspeople, as well as restaurant owners, are learning to handle the situation and tolerate heavy-duty work and minimum wage; unfortunately there is not enough work for everyone and locals have preference and immigrants keep what is left over.”
The numbers provided by Manuel Amador are supported by Cancún‘s Ministry of Social Security, which pointed out that in 2016, 20 Central Americans were detained for disturbing public security while in prior years that number had been almost zero.
Also in 2016, local authorities indicated that they received 80 complaints of alleged labor exploitation. However, none were carried forward because the victims did not have legal documents in Cancun.
“There are opportunities for everyone here,” a restaurant manager in Tortuga beach, Cancun said on the condition of anonymity. “But in the case of Central Americans, for instance, it is complicated, because they they don’t have documents, references or anything. We give them a chance to start here, they have had bad experiences, but we know that they are not all bad, so we try to help them however we can.”
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