Mexican Tourists Working on California Marijuana Farms

By Kausha Luna on February 22, 2016

Mexican professionals and students are coming to the United States on tourist visas to work on marijuana farms and make quick money.

An article printed in the Excelsior, a Mexican newspaper, describes a "new migratory trend towards the United States." This new trend is an unprecedented flow of English-speaking Mexicans, aged 24 to 34, who travel to the United States on a tourist visa to take advantage of the marijuana harvest season in the "Emerald Triangle". The Emerald Triangle is in Northern California, made up of Medocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties, and is the largest cannabis-producing region in the United States and the world.

"It's another kind of migration that reaches such places," says David, an anthropologist from Mexico City, who has participated in this new migratory trend. He notes that the majority of migrants who make their way to the Emerald Triangle are travelers who want to make money and continue traveling the world. David, explains that it is quick and easy money. (It's also illegal; tourist visas do not permit employment.)

During his six-week sojourn, David met many Americans and Europeans working on the farm. But, more and more Mexicans are migrating in search of the "Emerald Dream." David explained that he personally did not go to Northern California out of necessity, it was a "little adventure." But, as anyone who goes to America to work, he hoped to earn a few dollars. He added that against any Latin American currency, the dollar indeed does have value.

According to David, the pay depends on the boss and how much marijuana one harvests in a day. It is possible to earn anywhere from $150 to $400 a day, or $8,250 in one month. David said it seemed like the ideal job. The farm owners even allowed the workers to smoke the marijuana. "The bosses tell you: 'Smoke what you want'. At the beginning, I smoked and smoked, like a kid at a toy store, but then you notice, the more you smoke, the less you work and the less you produce," said the anthropologist.

The quick money comes with risks, however. Firstly, how much money one earns depends on the demand for labor; if one isn't working then he or she is only spending money. Secondly, migrants searching for jobs on these marijuana farms are compromising their security as they trek into the mountains with people they just met, due to a job offer that may not be real. Thirdly, when it is time to get paid, it is common to be held at gunpoint and thrown off the property, or be threatened with calling the police. Finally, organized crime is starting to get a grip on this area, including Mexican cartels.

Despite these risks, David plans on returning to California, "I had a lot of luck, fortunately nothing happened to me, I had good bosses, honest people. Of course I would [return]."