ASTACINGA, VERACRUZ, Mexico – The last time Roberto Tecpile left his home in the mountains of central Veracruz, his daughter Megan was just a few weeks old. 

He hugged his wife, his parents and his children, then began the journey north to the USA, crossing through Laredo, Texas. It was the third time since Tecpile’s marriage to Veronica Montalvo that he left his country to work on a Wisconsin dairy farm.

The trip, more than 2,000 miles, is not uncommon among the families in and around Astacinga. The area has almost 7,000 people. Unemployment is in the double digits and virtually everyone – 96% – lives below the poverty level. Money sent from those working in the USA is one of the only ways to build solid new homes made of concrete.  

Tecpile left five years ago and remains in Wisconsin. He works six days a week, about 10 hours a day at Rosenholm Dairy in Buffalo County.After work, he prepares dinner, takes a shower and, most evenings, calls home. Every two weeks, he heads to a grocery store in Arcadia and sends $300 to $500 to his family back in Mexico. 

Roberto Tecpile, left, a Mexican immigrant, replaces the bearings while repairing an irrigator with the help of dairy farm owner John Rosenow at Rosenholm Dairy in Cochrane.

Tecpile and Montalvo want to finish a home they are building in Astacinga – get the bathroom and kitchen done, install a tile floor, paint the walls. They hope to start their own business someday.

That means for now, Megan will know her father only through the nightly calls and by browsing photos on her mother’s cellphone.

“There’s no other option,” Tecpile says.

Reliable numbers on immigrants working in the dairy industry are hard to come by.  A national survey taken five years ago for the National Milk Producers Federation estimated the immigrant workforce at 51% of the total. 

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