La Nueva Frontera: The Towns They Left Behind

As poor Mexicans head north, their villages slowly disappear

Watching the economy of Veracruz collapse in 1999, the family of Maria Isabel Prado saw at least one surefire business opportunity. They leased, one after another, a series of aging, second-class buses--reclining seats, no rest rooms--to run people 1,400 miles north to Ciudad Juarez once a week. Since then, seven other bus companies have started up in Veracruz, doing the same thing. Says Prado, 32: "There's no shortage of people who want to leave."

Village by village, Mexico is hollowing out. Fidel Guevara, 39, left his farming hamlet of Manlio Fabio Altamirano, 25 miles west of Veracruz city, five years ago...

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