Eutiquio Pereyra, middle, owner of El Ranchero, poses for a photo with his nieces Jade Pereyra Payañ, left, 19, and Esmeralda Pereyra Payañ, 25, inside his store, which is located near a restaurant and goes by the same name. Jade and Esmeralda are in town, visiting their uncle from Chihuahua, Mexico. Pereyra said he's seen about 30 percent fewer customers during the past six months than he did last year.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Eutiquio Pereyra, middle, owner of El Ranchero, poses for a photo with his nieces Jade Pereyra Payañ, left, 19, and Esmeralda Pereyra Payañ, 25, inside his store, which is located near a restaurant and goes by the same name. Jade and Esmeralda are in town, visiting their uncle from Chihuahua, Mexico. Pereyra said he's seen about 30 percent fewer customers during the past six months than he did last year.

Decision to return to Mexico becomes a question of family for local immigrants

Times have been tough for Eutiquio Pereyra.

Pereyra, who originally is from Mexico, has owned El Ranchero, a shop on the 300 block of West Victory Way, for 10 years. He fills his shelves with an assortment of foods and goods, many with labels printed in Spanish.

Pereyra, who has lived in Craig for 30 years, also owns a nearby restaurant of the same name.

Both businesses have taken a hit in the recent economic downturn. In the past six months, his clientele at his restaurant and store have decreased by about 30 percent, he said.

His sales aren't faring any better.

He estimated his two business ventures are making about one-third less than they were in 2007.

On Wednesday, the last day of 2008, Pereyra looked back on what he said was his worst year since he started business in Craig.

"I'm worried," he said

He's not the only one.

Data show Mexican immigrants across the state are leaving America and returning to their home country in the wake of an economic recession.

Denver businesses tailored for Hispanic customers, like Pereyra's in Craig, are reporting falling sales and some have closed, the Rocky Mountain News reported Dec. 13.

Mexico's central bank, Bank of Mexico, saw a 4 percent drop in the amount of money Mexican immigrants are wiring to their country of origin from January to August of this year, the Rocky reported.

Local bank representatives said they conduct wire money transfers only for established customers and, as a result, the amount of their wire transactions remain fairly consistent.

An economic recession may not be the only reason for these economic trends. Statistics show Mexican nationals began returning home before the economic crisis hit.

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of foreign-born Colorado residents decreased by more than 4,300 people in 2007 from 2006. Results for 2008 have not yet been released.

But while Mexican immigrants across the state are returning home, many in Craig are opting to stay put, said Eveline Bacon, Integrated Community intercultural English as a Second Language program manager.

Bacon came to Craig in February and since has lead ESL classes.

Bacon said she doesn't know of any immigrants who are planning to return to Mexico,

But, a few are considering it, she added.

Many Mexican immigrants come to America looking for work but make return trips to their country of origin, Bacon said, making it difficult to track exactly how many are leaving.

Based on the feedback she's received from the people she serves, she believes the economy is affecting Craig's Hispanic population.

"The jobs are not as abundant as they used to be," she said.

Statistics from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment support her words. According to the most recent data, the unemployment rate in Moffat County increased from 3 percent in November 2007 to 4.2 percent in November 2009, according to the Labor Department's Web site.

A similar trend occurred across the country. The national unemployment rate for residents of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity increased from 5.6 percent in November 2007 to 8.6 in November 2008, the U.S. Department of Labor Web site reported.

Some Mexican immigrants come to the U.S. looking for work, but with hopes of returning to their home country, Bacon said.

These workers more likely are to return to Mexico in hard economic times, she added, especially if most of their family is there.

Then, there are those who have made a life in America or have children enrolled in local schools. These individuals are more likely to tough it out during an economic downturn.

Pereyra is a member of the latter group.

He's determined to make ends meet somehow.

"I'm worried about the business," he said, "but I'm the business, and I'm going to keep going."

And, no matter how hard the economy gets, he has no plans to leave.

"I'm going to be here all my life, no matter what," he said.

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