Sunday, April 02, 2006

Amigos de Arbusto

The Los Angeles Times has a story detailing George W. Bush's history with Mexicans in Texas:

A three-hour drive from Mexico, Midland did not have the feel of such border cities as El Paso, but it saw a wave of Mexican immigration long before many other communities across the South and the West. It is where Bush spent many of his childhood years and where he later returned to start an oil exploration business.

What Bush learned in Midland shaped his ability to appeal to Latino voters and foreshadowed what could be one of his most important legacies: helping the Republican Party compete for the nation's fast-growing political constituency.

.... Longtime residents of Midland say that Bush returned to the city of his childhood as the oil boom of the 1970s had begun to ebb, salaries were dropping and the workforce in the oil fields was shifting from white to Latino. Mexican immigrants were increasingly filling hard-labor jobs as drill operators and roughnecks.

Today, the city is more than 40% Latino.

"I don't think a lot of people understand what Midland was going through back then," said Jose Cuevas, who as a Midland newcomer in 1979 opened JumBurrito, a now-thriving chain of Mexican fast-food restaurants.

"In that kind of environment, everyone's young, everyone's excited. And if you've got your own oil company, when you go out where they're drilling, the population was beginning to be Hispanic. You'd see they were hard-working, they'd be out there with their Mexican lunches made at home, and you'd be shoulder to shoulder with them learning how family oriented they are.

"There is no indication that Bush knowingly employed illegal immigrants at his oil company. Several people who worked directly with him said that he was consumed with hiring geologists and geophysicists to help find oil, and that rig workers were generally hired by subcontractors.

But friends and associates took early note of what they said was Bush's unusual comfort level with Mexican culture. He and Laura, hankering for good Mexican food, stopped by regularly at Cecilia Ochoa Levine's house for homemade flour tortillas, steak fajitas and other specialties. Levine's husband at the time was a business partner of Bush's.

"I made my own tortillas. I made him ceviche," said Levine, who had come to the U.S. as a student in the 1960s and eventually married an American. "He would ride his bike over. He felt very comfortable in my home.

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