What does it mean to be a Mexican living in America? Alfredo Corchado explores this question in his new book, a blend of memoir and political history called "Homelands: Four Friends, Two Countries, and the Fate of the Great Mexican American Migration." It’s a story that explores the last 30 years of Mexican immigration into the United States through Corchado’s experience as an immigrant and a Mexico border correspondent for the Dallas Morning News.
"Homelands" begins on a wintry night in Philadelphia. It’s 1987, and four homesick Mexicans – one of whom is Corchado himself – find friendship over their common heritage. They thought they were the only Mexicans in Philadelphia.
“We came around to a question that we asked ourselves,” Corchado says. “How do we fit in? What does it mean to be an American?
Corchado has found that the answer, if there is one, is always changing.
“One reason I love living on the Texas border is that you really don’t have to choose. You really don’t have to struggle with that question,” Corchado says. “You really belong to both sides.”
Corchado, who sees himself as more of a Mexican than an American, says that parents who crossed the border sometimes question the sacrifices they made to give their children a better life.
“I feel that I’m allowed to be Mexican and love this country,” Corchado says. “When my parents ask themselves about their sacrifice, I remind them that the values, the principles, the ideals of this country are greater than the difficult moments that we live in today.”
With his prolific journalism career, Corchado is living out the dreams of his parents. He became fascinated with journalism as a young migrant worker, when a group of reporters came out to the fields where Corchado was working and interviewed him about his experiences.
“I was hooked on the idea that someone wanted to tell my story, that someone was curious enough to find out what the conditions were,” Corchado says. “Once you get that disease, if you will, the journalism disease, I’ve found over time that it’s an incurable disease.”
Corchado’s work has taken him across the country and given him a glimpse into various industries, and he says he’s often asked about the diminishing Mexican population in the U.S.
“Overall, there’s like a million less Mexicans today in this country,” Corchado says. “So I think we’ve arrived to the day when Americans are really beginning to miss Mexicans.”
With tensions between the two countries rising, it is possible that fewer and fewer Mexicans will be coming to the United States. The Mexican presidential election will be held on July 1, and left-leaning populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador is likely to win. Obrador has openly taunted Trump at the El Paso border, saying that Mexico will no longer will be his piñata.
“The fact that it was the U.S. who really pushed for NAFTA,” Corchado says, “and now you have a president who calls it the worst deal ever, it kind of tells the Mexicans, ‘We might have to do this on our own. We maybe shouldn’t be so dependent on the United States. We should carve out our own destiny.’”