The exodus of Mexicans across U.S. borders is depleting whole villages of the young and the able, leaving small, broken communities behind. A recent study shows more than half the municipalities in 10 Mexican states are seeing falling populations. One of them is Guanajuato, which has one of the highest rates of migration in Mexico.
In Guanajuato, the village of El Gusano — or "the worm" — gets its name from the hills that undulate around it. It is a small, poor, farming community. But El Gusano is visibly changing. Disappearing are the traditional mud brick homes. Now, concrete multi-room abodes are the norm.
For many migrants, making money in the United States is only a mean to this end, to owning property and land. But faced with desolate economic prospects locally — and lured by promises of money in the North — many who grow up in El Gusano move to the United States for work.
And increasingly, husbands try to take their wives and children across into the United States, emptying whole villages like El Gusano. Those who can't come along are left to fend for themselves, and await money sent back home.
A non-governmental group run by Adriana Cortez runs projects that try to create employment in the communities so that Mexicans won't go north.
It has had mixed success — the lure of better-paying jobs in the United States often proves too strong to keep people hom. What attracts companies to Mexico — cheap labor — also pushes people out to look for higher salaries elsewhere.
In El Gusano, a normal worker gets $80 dollars a week, if he can find a job. And that, Cortez said, often leads them to make a choice.
"They start to have the decision just to leave our country," Cortez said, and the move "means the whole family" joins them.
In a neighboring village, a group of 15-year-old boys recently gathered underneath a tree near a school playground. Asked about their plans, they said that they too plan to make the journey to the United States.
One, Martin Paredo, says he will quit school soon. Another, Rigoberto Quintero, says he will follow the other men and boys who have left.
"This is the pure countryside here and we work more for less money," Quintero said. "They say that over there you can make a lot of money." He said he will be leaving on his 16th birthday.