Mountain News 

Mountain News: It’s the American dream, but happening in Mexico

Compiled by Allen Best

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. — Walking through Keystone’s Summit House is a little like riding a Disneyland ride called "It’s a Small World," says the Summit Daily News. On an average day at the ski lodge, you’ll find Mexicans and Colombians, plus West Africans, Jamaicans, and Eastern Europeans, and not least, Australians and Kiwis.

In Summit County, a place that even a decade ago was nearly as English and white as the driven snow, a rainbow of skins colours and a stew of languages have become common. But while the Kiwis and Aussies are in Summit County to have fun, most all other immigrants are there to make money. By various reports, many immigrants spend between 50 and 80 per cent of their paycheques home, either to support relatives or to buy real estate in preparation for their own returns.

Steve Schwartz, general manager of the Summit House, said he happened to make a Western Union money transfer on payday. Ahead of him in line were three of his dishwashers and four of his busers. He estimated that of the $600 left to them after their housing is paid for, they send $500 home.

Schwartz said many of his employees are buying houses in their native countries, or buying plots of land with intentions to build. "It’s the American dream," he said, "but it’s happening in Mexico with money they’re earning here."

Isidro Jimenez, a waiter, sends $200 a month to his mother in Mexico. His 11 siblings scattered across the United State also send $50 to $200 each month.

"Some of the families we work with send 60 to 80 per cent of their pay home," says Christina Carlston, director of the Family and Intercultural Resource Center. "It’s not only the Hispanic population, but a lot of the West Africans, too."

At Safeway, front-end manager Fito Martinez reports thousands of dollars are wired abroad every week, especially to Africa and Argentina, but also Guatemala. Employees often send half of each paycheque.

However, political and economic instability in their home countries is causing many immigrants to plant roots in the U.S. instead of returning home. "The economic conditions in some of the former Soviet republics sound like they’re even worse than in a lot of the Latin American countries," said Schwartz.

Big-house owners may pay more taxes

CAMORE, Alberta — Owners of larger houses and vacant lots may be taxed at a higher rate under a proposal being considered by Canmore.

The changes would affect tourist homes, homes larger than 3,000 square feet above the basement level and vacant, serviced residential lots that people are holding onto for speculation. Town officials say the income would be used to provide low-cost housing.

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