Chances for San Miguel youth
By Jade Arroyo
An essential part of every society is its younger members, because youths represent the future. San Miguel de Allende, of course, is a lot more than a well-preserved colonial-era city or an inviting retirement destination—there is also a community of youngsters who seek opportunities to grow and develop. But finding these is not always an easy quest. Migration to other cities in Mexico or even abroad is common for those who have a university education; for the ones who cannot afford one, they have to settle for jobs that often pay much less. Most of the cultural scene is focused on an older, wealthier public, so there are fewer opportunities for younger residents to take part in cultural activities.
Even though the municipal government is concerned about investing in the city, efforts can be overwhelmed by fast population growth. There are not enough sources of work for the increasing population. Kind words and good deeds often get lost inside the bureaucracy or are met with insensibility; sometimes, one action cannot go far toward solving a problem deeply rooted in Mexican society.
Education and work
According to data provided by the IMAJSMA (Mexican Institute of Attention to Youth), in San Miguel there are about 57,810 people between 12 and 29 years of age. There are 10,068 students in secondary school, 4,326 in high school and 1,201 in the universities.
A problem that this sector faces every day is the lack of opportunities to find work, a situation that is a national problem. Of the world’s countries, Mexico has the third highest percentage of young people who do not study or work: 24.4 percent between 15 and 29 years of age, according to data from the OCDE (Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development).
In recent years more schools have opened their doors in San Miguel, but these increasing choices do not increase students’ chances of finding a job after graduation. In the city there are several universities, among them UTSMA (Technological University of San Miguel de Allende), UDL (Universidad of León), the visual arts school at Instituto Allende, Universidad Continente Americano and the Centro de Estudios Superiores Allende.
Atención spoke with representatives of UDL and UTSMA. Currently UTSMA has 704 students. Jesús Ledesma, director of public relations, said the university has a job search department with a 60 percent success rate. However, most of the positions are outside San Miguel. If they want to work, many graduates must leave their families and a familiar environment.
The director of the UDL, architect Jesús Lazcano said: “At the UDL our philosophy is not to teach students how to knock on doors, but to teach them to make their own source of employment.” Shared business projects that students develop during their school years are meant to help them have a business plan when they finish college. He said that about 85 percent of the graduates have a job and most of them stay in town. He said that the idea of a saturated market is a myth, and that there are plenty of opportunities for an intelligent young person.
What youths think
Ángel Miquel, 28 years old, photographer and designer
“I studied in Querétaro, and my plan was to stay there. I came back because I lost my job and found one here, and this is my hometown. It’s hard to find employment, and the salaries are low in relation to the lifestyle of San Miguel. I feel there’s a lack of work opportunities, and that’s the reason there are no young people here: everybody leaves. As long as you keep yourself busy, there is a cool atmosphere and there are many things to enjoy. If not, you can either be swallowed up by partying or you just leave, because there’s not a choice.”
Francisco Mota, 23 years old, designer
“I studied in Guanajuato and I just came back. I still don’t have a job. I don’t think there’s a lot for young people here. Everything is focused on people older than 30 who already have a job and income. If you’re a student you go to another city. For work there are few choices and you can’t really practice your profession; most of the jobs available are as a waiter or maid. For amusement it’s going to the Jardín or to the bars; San Miguel only contributes to getting drunk. There is no support for sports (the Unidad Deportiva is in very bad shape). The arts should be also more promoted: free art films or art exhibits for us. You have fun in San Miguel only if you have money.”
Jesús Vásquez, 23 years old, technical graduate from UTSMA
“I studied gastronomy at the UTSMA. I began to work at an Italian restaurant while studying, and when I finished school I had the chance to go to Italy to do an internship, and then I came back. I didn’t use the job support; I preferred to make my own way. The school’s facilities and equipment are great, but in my opinion the teachers should be more realistic with the kids, not creating false hopes that they’re going to come out as chefs or directing a kitchen, when the reality is that they will go out to wash dishes.”
Alejandra, 21 years old, student at UDL
“I like the school and I feel good here. Now I’m working at a store, nothing to do with my career. I don’t know if I’ll stay in San Miguel or if I’ll leave. If a get a job here I’ll stay, but I would also like to go out to see new horizons, maybe find a better-paid job with more chances for growth.”
Antonio Luna, 21 years old, student/waiter
“Currently I’m studying mechanics in Celaya, and I only come here on weekends. When I graduate, I plan to stay there to work. I will come back on weekends to visit my family and go out with friends.”
David Barajas, cultural manager and co-director of La Expendeduría project
“Even though I studied elsewhere and had chances there, I chose to do cultural promotion in San Miguel. I’ve been working on this project since 2008 [film screenings, exhibits and support for emerging artists]. The work is a little complicated in San Miguel. Most of the guys in my generation left; we didn’t have many choices here. I believe it’s positive that the young go out and enrich themselves with other cultures, to learn what’s happening in the world, then bring it back to the local community and make changes in it. San Miguel is very conservative and needs new initiatives and ideas. But the main thing is to provide a space for these young, educated people so we don’t lose them, for them to come back to San Miguel. All the initiatives of La Expendeduría are free access, bringing art to the younger people.”
Juan Carlos, 21 years old, waiter and delivery person
“I have seven months in this position, but it was very complicated to get a job and it took some time to find it. It’s hard to find a job in San Miguel.”