(3 of 12)
A trip to Ororicua, the shantytown in the mountains outside Tuxpan where his grandmother was born, highlights just how far Coria has come. His grandmother's people still live in sloping clapboard shacks with dirt floors. Coria's home in Tuxpan is a porticoed five-bedroom residence in the center of town, and he drives a late-model Nissan Pathfinder. In the front of his vast garden are orchids and lilies he brought from the Hamptons. In the back are groves of guava, orange and avocado. But Coria's pursuit of success has taken a heavy toll. Being just about the only Mexican gardener in the Hamptons when he first arrived meant less competition, but it also made him more homesick. He returned to Tuxpan in the winters, but "every March when I went back to America, there would be two weeks when I just didn't want to get out of bed," he says.
In 2005 the depression came and didn't leave. The more financially secure he was, Coria says, the more overwhelmed he became by memories of his bitter past: the beatings he suffered as a boy working construction in Mexico City; the disapproval of his mother, who never seemed satisfied with the money he sent back every week. Coria fled the Hamptons abruptly last year in the middle of the busy summer season to recuperate in Tuxpan. Once a week, he makes the six-hour round-trip drive to see a therapist in Mexico City. He's planning on returning to the Hamptons in March to begin buying seeds and drawing up plans for his clients' summer 2006 gardens. But even if he goes back, he says, he doesn't think he can spend more than two additional seasons in the Hamptons. "Walking the streets of Tuxpan, I know who I am," he says. "Over there, even after all these years, I am just a stranger."
THE DARKER COMPLEXITIES OF BUILDING A life abroad are lost on most Tuxpeños, who see Coria's mansion in Mexico and his new truck as tangible evidence of his success. Early on, friends and relatives asked how they could make their way to the Hamptons. In 1985 he brought over his half brother Fernando. Fernando invited two friends, who started bringing their relatives. A handful became dozens. Dozens become hundreds. There are no reliable estimates, but workers in the Hamptons say there are as many as 500 Tuxpeños living full-time in the area, and scores more show up during the work-filled summer months. Many of the new arrivals cross by foot near Douglas, Ariz., and then get rides to big cities where they catch vans, buses or even airplanes to New York. (Southwest Airlines is a popular choice for its fares, as low as $99 one-way.) The lucky ones with tourist visas can fly directly from Mexico City to New York City's J.F.K. Airport. But whether they travel by land or by air, relatively few get caught or even delayed. Their safety comes in numbers: hundreds of thousands of migrants will always win a game of Red Rover with a little more than 11,000 border-patrol agents.
Of course, people are not just coming from Tuxpan. Workers have been flooding into the Hamptons from other parts of Mexico, from Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras. And the Hamptons, like so many suburban areas facing the same deluge, are feeling the strain.