The guacamole famine, the Super Bowl, and other American dramas

As the US frets ‘the guacpocalypse’, its delusions about – and addiction to – undocumented migration remain untreated.

Avocados Mexico Reuters
Temporary fuel shortages across various Mexican states is expected to affect the transport of avocados and availability of guacamole in the US on February 3, the date of the Super Bowl [Reuters]

As part of a crackdown on corruption and crime, Mexico’s new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has revamped the national fuel distribution system to deter petrol theft – a move that has resulted in temporary shortages across various Mexican states.

The United States media have turned up to highlight the real takeaway: the shortages may affect the transport of Mexican avocados and the availability of guacamole for the annual massively hyped, televised sporting event known as the Super Bowl to be held this year on February 3. 

A recent Reuters headline blared: “Holy guacamole! Mexican fuel shortage threatens Super Bowl snack.” Other outlets followed suit. CNN warned that “Super Bowl guac may be off the table if gas shortage sidelines Mexican avocados,” Maxim magazine foretold a “major guacamole crisis”, and the Eater website took the (foot)ball and ran with it: “Cue the guacpocalypse.” 

In short, while the avocado dip may be in short supply, the cheesiness definitely isn’t. And speaking of cheesy, concerned Super Bowl viewers are reminded that at least there’s always queso – that staple dish of Texas that often involves “cheese” that is not actually cheese.

America’s ‘addiction’ 

While Americans fret over the loss of a favourite snack food, US President Donald Trump, of course, has his own border-related obsessions – and is forging ahead with his campaign to erect a bigger and better wall on the US-Mexico frontier. According to Trumpian analysis, the latter nation is primarily composed of drug dealers, criminals, and rapists.

To be sure, there’s nothing like a good migrant scapegoat to detract public attention from elite pillaging of the country and other unpleasantries.

But it’s not so simple, as it seems that – aside from guacamole cravings – there are other, much stronger forms of cross-border dependence at play. As a January Washington Post article noted: “A wall can’t solve America’s addiction to undocumented immigration.” 

The author, Julia G Young, traces the past century of addiction, observing that, although “politicians and media have consistently cast undocumented immigration as a national security crisis … the demand for undocumented immigrant labor – and consumers’ demand for the low prices that this labor makes possible – have continued apace”.

And a January item on the CBS News website – courtesy of Mary Jo Dudley, director of the Cornell Farmworker Programme at Cornell University – lists some of the US industries that “can’t work without illegal immigrants”. 

For example, she writes, the US Department of Agriculture has calculated “that about half of the nation’s farmworkers are unauthorised”. 

It’s no secret that undocumented workers often perform jobs that Americans won’t do – including ones entailing substantial physical risk. They generally work for less pay and no benefits, hence the appeal to profit-driven businesses.

US consumers, though perhaps unwittingly, are also addicted to the exploitative system; Dudley brings up a dairy industry study indicating that a “total elimination of immigrant labor would increase milk prices by 90 percent”.

No doubt many Americans would find such prospects considerably more frightening than the potential guacpocalypse. 

Checking the facts

Additional food for thought comes in the form of a November PBS intervention, titled “4 myths about how immigrants affect the US economy”, which undertakes to replace Trump’s tall tales with such facts as that “immigrants contribute more in tax revenue than they take in government benefits”.

Citing US census data, PBS reports that, as of 2015, immigrants accounted for no less than “24 percent of nursing, psychiatric and home care aides”. Then again, everyone knows that the best way to sabotage a nation is by taking care of its inhabitants.

A December NBC News “fact check” on the “costs” of illegal immigration furthermore references the estimate by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy that US “state and local governments take in $11.74bn a year from undocumented immigrants”. 

The bigger picture

Beyond the issue of hypocritical US dependence on so-called “illegal” immigration, it is worth considering how the “great guacamole famine of 2019” stacks up against other border-related catastrophes – like the US vilification and exploitation of Mexicans and Central Americans who were forced to migrate northward thanks in large part to US regional machinations in the first place. 

Indeed, under normal circumstances, those avocados enjoy superior cross-border freedom of movement compared with, say, the seven-year-old girl who recently died in US Border Patrol custody after journeying from her native Guatemala – a country the US has devoted much time to screwing over politically and financially.

Ditto for migrants from Honduras and other locales where the US habit of backing violent regimes and increasing widespread poverty – pardon, “capitalism” – means that daily existence can often constitute an apocalyptic scenario unto itself and has driven entire families in to participate in one of the largest mass migrations in recent history.

Anyway, back to serious news and the real existential question: “No guac for the Super Bowl?”, as USA Today puts it. 

But whether the guacamole materialises in time or viewers have to make do with gobs of non-cheese cheese, there is plenty about the current spectacle in the US that should make one sick to one’s stomach.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.