EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Despite a lingering COVID-19 pandemic – or perhaps because of it – Mexicans working in the United States are sending record amounts of money to the homeland.

World Bank and Bank of Mexico (Banxico) data show Mexican families received $42.17 billion in remittances through the first 10 months of 2021, most of it coming from the U.S. That’s already higher than the $40.61 billion received in all of 2020 and a 25.6 percent increase over the preceding 10-month period.

In October alone, Mexicans abroad sent $4.8 billion home, mostly through electronic transfers and money orders, according to Banxico. The president of Mexico on Dec. 1 said he expects Mexico will have received $50 million in remittances by year’s end, and he thanked Mexicans abroad for sending that money.

The spike in remittances from the U.S. and Europe has become a common trend as workers in industrialized nations have tried to keep their families in Latin America, the Caribbean and other developing regions afloat during the pandemic, according to BBVA bank research.

“When I had a lot of work, I would send them $200, or $100. Sometimes (only) $50 or $20,” said Mario De Leon, an El Paso farmworker whose elderly mother and siblings live in Torreon, Mexico. “People are hungry (on the Mexican countryside). People are dying because of the pandemic. There is no work.”

Remittances are Mexico’s largest source of foreign income but account only for 4.1 percent of its GDP, which is shored up by oil exports, tourism and manufacturing. But money from relatives abroad has become a much more crucial economic pillar in Central America and Haiti.

Remittances this year represent more than a quarter of the GDP in Honduras (26.6 percent) and El Salvador (26.2 percent), 18 percent in Guatemala and 15.4 percent in Haiti, according to BBVA.

“In Latin America and the Caribbean, many countries’ economies are highly dependent on remittances,” BBVA said in a Dec. 1 report. “Mexico is third in the world in receiving remittances, but because of the size of its economy its dependence on remittances is not as great as in other countries in the region.”

Mexican immigrants interviewed Tuesday in South El Paso said many of their peers used to come work in the United States for a few months and go back to their country to be with their family for the holidays.

That changed after the U.S. cracked down on border security after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. After that, the foreign workers came and never left the United States, they said.