The part of the Nogales trip that I learned most about was the Maquilas, also known as a sweat shop. The maquiladora program started in Mexico in 1966 and there are approximately 1,000,000 Mexicans who work for maquilas today (Wright, 2003). The maquila that we went into made electronics, they had the men handling the heavy machinery and the women doing the little tedious work. We were unable to see how many employees they had, because they were on lunch. Yet, maquilisolidarity.org (2002) found that around the border the number of maquilas had doubled since 1994-1999, from 111,728 to 217,366. Moreover, 81% of Mexico’s maquila plants are located in industrial parks along its 3,000 mile border with the U.S. (maquilasolidarity.org, 2002).
I also learned that the people that working in the maquilas are lucky if they get paid $8 a day. They are also forced to work intensive, repetitive, and dangerous jobs that are bad for their health (1995). Moreover, there is continued sex discrimination in Mexico’s maquiladora sector (Human Rights Watch, 1998). The women that try and get jobs there are required to take a pregnancy test before they get hired (1998). At the maquila that we went to, they told us they did that to see who has to pay for the baby, the state or the maquila. Also, many maquilas try to avoid hiring women all together, just because they can get pregnant (1998).
The most disturbing fact is that many of the missing women in Ciudad Juarez are employed in the maquiladoras (Wright, 2003). Juarez is one of the fastest growing industrial cities in Mexico and young women have gone there in search for new freedoms and employment opportunities (2003). Some of the women that are missing in Juarez have been found extremely mutilated (2003). “The way they kill them, it’s not normal. It’s horrible the way they torture our girls, and they kill them” a quote by Vicky Caraveo a community activist (2003). CNN (1998) tells us that in the past four years, 121 women have disappeared. ABC (1999) points out almost 200 women have been brutally murdered in Juarez, Mexico.
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On to a happier subject, our class was able to go into people’s homes and eat lunch. The area that we went into was the Colinas, where people live on top of a hill. The lady that made us lunch had two small children and told us that she loved working with border links. She had her own little corner store out of her house, where she sold candy, laundry soap, along with a wide variety of other things. She told us that she usually does her grocery shopping in Nogales, Arizona, because things are much cheaper. For example, a gallon of milk in Mexico is about $4.00, while a gallon of milk in the U.S. is only $1.75. It seems strange that there can be such a great increase, when the Nogales, Mexico and Nogales, Arizona are so close to each other, but there is.
We also learned about borderlinks in general and how they strive to help so many people. They are a nonprofit organization who is recognized by both the U.S. and Mexican Governments (borderlinks, 2000). They allow everyone to actively ask what ever question they want and even provide you with an interpreter. They make sure that the person who is your guide, is very knowledgeable about borderlinks and that they are willing and able to answer any question that you might have.
While on this trip I learned that most of the people that live in Mexico do not want to come to the U.S. But they are forced to, when it comes to feeding their family or allowing their family to starve. In their eyes, there is no other option; they have to do what is in the best interest for their family. If that means paying a ‘coyote’ (someone who smuggles people into the U.S.) $1500 and not being able to go back to your family for years, then tat is what you are going to do. It is sad, but if we were in that situation, we would do the same thing. Moreover, I really enjoyed my borderlinks trip and I feel that it made my life richer. I would recommend that anyone who has the time and the money to go on the trip as well, you will not regret it.
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BorderLinks (2000). BorderLinks. Retrieved April 29, 2003 from the World Wide Web: www.borderlinks.org
Maquilasolidarity.ory (2002). Maquilas/Export Processing Zones. Retrieved April 29, 2003 from the World Wide Web: http://maquilasolidarity.org/resources/maquilas/
Wright, Melissa W. (2003). The Dialectics of Still Life: Murder, Women, and Maquiladoras. Retrieved April 29, 2003 from the World Wide Web: http://www.uchicago.edu/research/jnl-pub-cult/backissues/pc29/wright
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