Dependent on migrant dollars, rural Mexico prays for Trump defeat

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MOLCAXAC, Mexico, Nov 5 (Reuters) - In the small southern market town of Molcaxac, 650 miles (1050 km) from the U.S. border, Alicia Villa is praying to God that Republican candidate Donald Trump does not become the next president of the United States.

Over the past two decades, as Mexico's rural economy stalled, Molcaxac and hundreds of towns like it became dependent on dollars sent by relatives who made the perilous journey north, a lifeline she fears will be cut by a Trump White House.

Photos from Trump's meeting with Mexican President Pena Nieto

8 PHOTOS
Donald Trump meets Mexico's President Pena Nieto
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Donald Trump meets Mexico's President Pena Nieto
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - AUGUST 31 : President of Mexico Enrique Pena Nieto (L) and US Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump attend a meeting at Los Pinos presidential residence, in Mexico City, Mexico on August 31, 2016. (Photo by Daniel Cardenas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - AUGUST 31 : President of Mexico Enrique Pena Nieto (L) and US Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump attend a meeting at Los Pinos presidential residence, in Mexico City, Mexico on August 31, 2016. (Photo by Daniel Cardenas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - AUGUST 31 : President of Mexico Enrique Pena Nieto (L) and US Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump attend a meeting at Los Pinos presidential residence, in Mexico City, Mexico on August 31, 2016. (Photo by Daniel Cardenas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - AUGUST 31 : President of Mexico Enrique Pena Nieto (L) and US Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump attend a meeting at Los Pinos presidential residence, in Mexico City, Mexico on August 31, 2016. (Photo by Daniel Cardenas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump walks with Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto at the end of their joint statement at Los Pinos, the presidential official residence, in Mexico City, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. Trump is calling his surprise visit to Mexico City Wednesday a 'great honor.' The Republican presidential nominee said after meeting with Peña Nieto that the pair had a substantive, direct and constructive exchange of ideas.(AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto speaks during a a joint statement with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in Mexico City, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. Trump is calling his surprise visit to Mexico City Wednesday a 'great honor.' The Republican presidential nominee said after meeting with Peña Nieto that the pair had a substantive, direct and constructive exchange of ideas.(AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a joint statement with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto in Mexico City, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. Trump is calling his surprise visit to Mexico City a 'great honor.' The Republican presidential nominee said after meeting with Peña Nieto that the pair had a substantive, direct and constructive exchange of ideas. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
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Villa, 65, said funds sent by a daughter working illegally as a house cleaner in Sacramento, California have supported her family for 12 years because the work she does as receptionist in Molcaxac does not pay enough to make ends meet.

"I am Catholic and I have asked God and the Virgin of Asuncion that he lose," Villa said of Trump, placing her head in her hands and intoning a prayer in the square of the deeply religious hill town dominated by a striking blue church.

Inside, the church was adorned with notes thanking migrant relatives for money sent to help build homes, start businesses and pay for marriages in the town surrounded by rivers, mountains and meadows in the state of Puebla.

"Trump says he will kick out everyone who doesn't have papers and we really need them to be there," said Villa, adding that she had not seen some family members living in the United States in 20 years.

Trump, a real-estate tycoon who has narrowed the gap with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton ahead of next Tuesday's vote, has vowed to make it harder for illegal immigrants to live and work in the United States, to increase deportations and to limit remittances unless Mexico pays billions for a wall along the nearly 2,000-mile (3,200-km) U.S.-Mexico border.

Such policies would take a heavy toll in Molcaxac, where local authorities say more than 70 percent of the population lives on remittances sent home by immigrants to the United States, many of them undocumented.

"Our town has improved a lot since our people started to leave for the United States," said stonemason Esteban Marquez, whose workshop was partly funded by remittances from one of his children.

Related: International country borders around the world

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Telling photos of international country borders around the world
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Telling photos of international country borders around the world

This NASA satellite image depicts the border between Haiti, which is much more arid, on the left, and the Dominican Republic, which is greener, on the right.

(Photo via NASA [Public domain], Wikimedia Commons)

This photo of the border between Israel and Egypt was taken by the International Space Station. The border is said to be one of the few that is so visible from space.

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The Bering Strait separates the Seward Peninsula of Alaska to the east and Chukotskiy Poluostrov of Siberia to the west. The boundary between the US and Russia lies between the Big and Little Diomede Islands, visible in the middle of the photo here.

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The incredible Iguazu Falls mark the border between the Brazilian state of Paraná and the Argentine province of Misiones.

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Here we have the border fence between the US and Mexico. On the right lies Tijuana in Baja California, and on the left is San Diego, California.

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The border fence between the US and Mexico stretches into the countryside near Nogales, Arizona. According to The Atlantic, the fences and roads that mark the border end at certain points before starting again a few miles away.

 Source: The Atlantic

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

The US and Canada have one of the longest international borders in the world, spanning around 5,500 miles. This image shows Niagara Falls separating the two countries, with parts of Canada pictured on the left and the US pictured on the upper right.

Source: The Library of Congress

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

In the reading room of the Haskell Library, which was deliberately built along the US-Canada border, the international boundary is marked on the floor. Here, Canada is on the right and the US is on the left.

Learn more about the Haskell Library »

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The border crossing between Costa Rica and Panama is a single-lane bridge that stands over the Sixaola River. The bridge is regularly used by cars, trucks, and pedestrians.

(Photo via Getty Images)

This image, taken by the International Space Station around 11:55 p.m., shows the nighttime appearance of the France-Italy border. The three highly lit areas are Torino in Italy, and Lyon and Marseille in France. The border can be seen in the center of the photograph.

(Photo via NASA Earth Observatory/Wikimedia Commons)

In Baarle-Nassau, a municipality and town in the southern Netherlands, you can clearly see the border between the Netherlands and Belgium.

(Photo by Jérôme. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

For clarification, the border has been made visible on streets with iron pins, indicating clearly whether each side is in Belgium or in the Netherlands.

(Photo via Flickr/iamdanw)

The border between Germany and the Netherlands is marked on the floor of the Eurode Business Center by a metal strip. There is a German mailbox and policeman on one side of the building, and a Dutch mailbox and policeman on the other. But a letter sent from the German side of the building takes a week to get to the Dutch side.

Source: NPR

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Here, the subtle change in the road pavement indicates the border between the Republic of Ireland, which is to the left, and Northern Ireland, on the right, in the border town of Pettigo, Northern Ireland.

(Photo via REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne)

Also taken by the International Space Station, this photograph shows the border between India (which is above the border) and Pakistan (which is south of the border). The border is the bright orange line visible in the photograph, and its illumination comes from the spotlights India placed along it to detect smugglers.

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

(Photo via SS Expedition 28 crew (NASA Earth Observatory), Wikimedia Commons)

The Wagah border ceremony has been a daily military practice that the security forces of India and Pakistan have followed since 1959, even though there have been debates about continuing it. Every night before sunset, the flags are taken down at the Wagah border in a ceremony that includes a parade by the soldiers from both sides.

Source: BBC

(Photo by Rana Sajid Hussain/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

This International Space Station photograph displays the Iraqi fortifications that remain from the Iran-Iraq War. The diagonal line in the upper right shows the border between Iran (on the top) and Iraq (on the bottom).

(Photo via NASA)

Torkham, pictured here, is one of the major border crossings between Afghanistan and Pakistan on the Durand Line border.

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

In 2013, Bulgaria began plans to build a fenced Bulgarian-Turkish border, its purpose to keep refugees from the Middle East and North Africa from entering the country. The fence is 15 feet tall and 5 feet wide, with barbed wire.

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(Photo via REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov)

Here is another image of a soldier stationed outside of the Torkham Gate. A building indicating Afghanistan can be seen in the background.

(Photo by Pfc. Daniel M. Rangel, Wikimedia Commons)

The Svinesund Bridge is an arch bridge separating the Swedish municipality of Strömstad from the Norwegian municipality of Halden. On the bridge is a line indicating Sweden, to the left, and Norway, to the right.

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The Anglo-Scottish border, the border between England and Scotland, runs for about 96 miles between Marshall Meadows Bay on the east coast and the Solway Firth in the west. The fence shown here is one of the markers of the border.

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The "Sino–Korean Friendship Bridge," which crosses the Yalu River, connects China and North Korea.

(Photo credit WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images)

The Guadiana River acts as a border between Portugal and Spain for 62 miles. Here, you can see an old unused police station in the town of Vila Real de San Antonio, in southern Portugal.

(Photo via REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo)

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'NOTHING FOR THEM' HERE

Mexico has more than 5 million citizens living without regular papers in the United States, or about half of the entire undocumented population.

Those men and women send back a large chunk of Mexico's foreign exchange earnings, contributing more than $20 billion in remittances wired this year through September.

According to Mexico's Central Bank, Puebla received $1 billion in remittances in the same period, making it the fifth biggest recipient among Mexican states.

So many people from Puebla live in the New York area that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Trump supporter, visited the state in 2014. Couriers have grown rich transporting salsas and fresh cheese to homesick natives up north.

The money has transformed places like Molcaxac, a picturesque town dotted with well-built homes attesting to the flow of dollars.

It is not just the potential loss of income Trump could spark that worries Molcaxac locals.

The lack of employment in rural Mexico is one of the main reasons drug gangs find it easy to recruit among young people and those deported from the United States, they say.

"Here in Mexico, the truth is there is nothing for them," said stonemason Marquez. "The people who stay need to survive, and since there is no work, they get pulled into crime."

'VOTE FOR THE LADY'

Opinion polls in the run-up to the election suggest that Villa's prayers stand a good chance of being answered, with most putting Clinton consistently ahead of her Republican rival.

But the polls also show her losing ground in the final stretch. Real Clear Politics, which averages the results of most major polls, shows Clinton's advantage had declined from 4.6 percentage points to 1.7 points over the past week.

Even those of more modest means in Molcaxac are on edge with America's election.

"Only God knows if they are going to be able to stay there," said Serafina Martinez, who at 70 still works in the fields.

She worries it would be hard to survive without the little her son in California sends when he can.

"I would like him to keep helping us with pennies," said Martinez, her curved back laden with firewood and groceries.

Still, the uncertainty has also helped locals in an unexpected way: the Mexican peso's value plunges every time Trump advances, making the dollar remittances stretch further.

But there is no doubt in the minds of Molcaxac's townspeople that they would rather see Clinton in the White House.

Clinton has proposed comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, and says she will end detention of immigrant families.

"I think she will win, and that gives us hope that our relatives will be able to regularize (their papers)," said Teresa Amador, selling flowers in the main market. "I have a son who was born there, and he is going to vote for the lady."

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