This article is from the May 2004 The Mexico File newsletter.
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Mexican Express

by Bruce McGovern 

With millions of Mexicans working in the U.S., sending money home is a major problem, and, normally, a major expense. It has been alleged, and I believe successfully alleged in court (based on class action settlement papers I have received, related to transfers I made) that Western Union has been guilty of excess charges for transfers of money to Mexico. 

The Mexicans often also claim Western Union gives a very poor conversion rate. 

The Doctor's Wife has started an additional business from their pharmacy/clinic. She is now a “service outlet” for Mexican Express, a company whose only apparent function is to transfer funds from the U.S. to Mexico. I think she said ME charges $6US for a $100 transfer, which, if correct, has to be a fraction of Western Union charges, and she gets $1.70 of that. 

About 3 am, while they are sleeping, they get a fax which lists the latest transfers. In February, she had eight customers who picked up money. One woman receives $50US each week. The doctor is amazed she can live on that amount of money. 

In March, the Doctor's Wife had 45 customers. In the first six days of April, while I was there, she had 15 customers, which would equate to 90 per month. 

She happily says her goal is to put Western Union out of business in her village. While I doubt that goal is achievable, I do admire her optimistic spirit. 

There are several hundred “service inlets” in the U.S. By memory, I think Alaska has 5, including Ketchikan and the big cities. Iowa has more, including Des Moines, and Sioux City, but not Cedar Rapids. Columbus Junction and Muscatine are small Iowa towns with significant Mexican populations, and they have inlet offices. 

By the way, we had an interesting discussion of several of these names. I can assure you Mexicans don't pronounce Des Moines or Sioux City correctly. The first name is obvious, but Sioux comes out See-ooks, more or less. They were amazed when I told them how it is pronounced in Iowa. 

Afternote: After I wrote this piece, Mexico Express changed its name to Sigue.