Talking with Talaco
A conversation with Palomas' mayor, plus plus hunger among Mexican fieldworkers.
Palomas' mayor since November is Estanislao Sanchez, more commonly known as "Talaco." He's a bit of a fixture on the Palomas scene, after being mayor between 2004 and 2007.
Talaco grew up in the southern Chihuahuan town of Balleza, where his father's death orphaned him at six months. He has only five years of education, but his mother taught him early to work on their farm, he says, "como Dios mande" (as God commands).
He has lived in Palomas since 1970 and is now 74 years old. I interviewed him last month in his spare office at the Presidencia.
My first question was whether the current economic boom in Santa Teresa, NM, and San Jeronimo to the west of Juarez is going to affect Palomas at all. (The talk for years has been that economic development in San Jeronimo will bring a road along the border to Palomas and maquiladoras to the east side of town.)
"Definitely, we need a maquiladora urgently to create work for the people of Palomas," Talaco said. "We have about 1,000 people available for manual labor.
"We're talking with a lot of people," he added. "We've talked with the governor and to Adan Gomez, secretary of the economy in Chihuahua. We've also talked with three heads of maquiladoras, including Foxconn." A Taiwanese company that produces Dell computers, Foxconn is the largest employer in San Jeronimo.
He said he's shown Foxconn his own large facility used for public events, called Terraza San Vicente. "We've said they can use it for free. It already has bathrooms, drainage and electricity."
Talaco has for years owned Terraza San Vicente, a DVD-video rental store, and the San Francisco Restaurant/Hotel, but refused to elaborate on how else he makes money. As he lives very comfortably in town, this has been an issue with political opponents.
He has a daughter who attended Deming schools, went on to Harvard, and now teaches math at the University of Michigan. She also sings mariachi. (Talaco invited readers to watch him and his daughter singing on YouTube at "Cantares de Mexico.") He also has two sons with professional positions in Texas.
But economic progress for Palomas does not sound imminent, despite his talk. "No one helps us!" he told me, as everyone in power has said in Palomas for years. "Palomas is full of backwardness."
One area where Talaco will probably make tangible progress is in creating institutions. During his prior trienio (three-year term) he created a funeral chapel and a library, which now has a Learning Center doing some exciting things.
One of the projects he's now planning is a new clinic, which will have six beds and an operating room. It will supplement the Centro de Salud that is already functioning. He's also working on a new plaza to the west of the main plaza.
He's improving the DIF office (for social work), where his wife Maria Luisa Loya is the director. But he said they're not getting any donations from the DIF office in Chihuahua City.
I asked him about the workers in town, who, because of the recession and the closing of the border in Palomas, have to work in the fields in Colonia Victoria to the south. I told him that I've heard a rumor that the largest grower, Daniel Leanos, has decided not to hire workers from southern Mexico any more, as they've been crowding out local fieldworkers and causing hunger.
Talaco waved his hand and said dismissively, "They have to work with the people that want to work."
Borderlines columnist Marjorie Lilly lives in Deming.