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Lunch at a Mother's house in Nogales, Mexico




                        The Nogales trip was an experience that will not be forgotten in this life time. This field trip showed the students what laid behind the tourist attraction, just south of the border town. Out in the hills of Nogales were many small sheds made out of thin wooden and tin squares.  Once and a while a house with brick walls would pop up but this was rare.  The other thing which was noticeable was the black water tanks which sat up higher than the actual houses.  There were a few cars, but not even close to as many as one would see in a neighborhood in the United States.  The roads were not paved out in these neighborhoods and many of the small houses had no road next to them but instead were out in the fields and on the hills.  In some areas the houses were crowded together and in other areas they were more dispersed.  Out in the fields and hills it was peaceful with barely any traffic.  This was not how it was in the northern part of Nogales where the businesses were. 

            Along the border Nogales is a busy city with cars everywhere and tall buildings on both sides of the narrow streets.  Here in the city one can find the maquiladoras which are factories owned by foreign businesses, most of them owned by wealthy people in the United States.  The maquiladoras are a result of the United States’ businesses taking advantage of the cheap labor in Mexico.  The Mexicans who work for the maquilas, most of them women, only earn around $5.00 to $7.00 a day.  In the article by Maria Torres, We Are Not Machines,  Maria writes about how she  “was paid $27 for a forty-hour week. Twenty-two percent of that went for transportation. I worked 3.5 hours to buy a gallon of milk.”(Torres, p.17).  These low wages explain the living conditions of the people.  The maquiladoras hire mostly young women who still live with their parents.  Maria Torres writes that  “Usually, only women are hired in the maquiladoras...the men can not find work.”(Torres, p.17).  They hire mostly women because it is believed that the women are better with their hands, being that most of the work at the maquiladoras has to do with assembling small gadgets and microchips.  Pregnant women are not hired by the maquilas because the companies don’t want to pay extra for the mothers sick leave. Because of the maquiladoras’ discrimination against the men in Mexico many of the males are unemployed or have had to cross the border to find work in the U.S..  Another reason why they don’t hire many  men is that women don’t go on strike and don’t cause as many problems  as men do.  Maria Torres has proven that this is not always true.  Maria got fifteen other women together to go learn about what rights they had as workers.  These women slowly started to reshape their working conditions.  Maria writes that “Slowly, things were added to protect us - like adequate ventilation, air-conditioning, gloves.”(Torres, p.17).  Maria has gone on to talk to other women and as helped  them to organize so that they can get electricity and sewage for their communities.   Unfortunately, sometimes when workers at the maquilas do raise questions and form unions, the businesses will pick up and take their business elsewhere, leaving the people without  a job.   These businesses are trying to be as efficient as possible but in the process of doing so they have neglected the Mexican people, their own workers, by paying these workers no more than $40.00 to $50.00 per week while those who own these companies are getting filthy rich.

            Now that Mexico can not legally control the policies of the foreign businesses such as the maquiladoras, the Mexican workers are helpless and are left to the cold, inconsiderate hands of foreign businessmen who only look out for themselves.  Even if the Mexican government did try to intervene and stand up for their people’s rights, the foreign businesses would just get up and move to another country and exploit those people instead of the Mexicans.   The sad thing is that these businesses don’t treat foreigners as well as they treat their own people.  Its almost as if these neoliberal, transnational businesses are looking at foreigners as slaves or animals and not as human beings who are living in poverty and need help.  This mistreatment of one’s own workers, the people who are allowing the business to thrive, seems to be highly unethical.  The Mexican government has tried to set up programs such as housing for maquiladora workers but these programs are not even operating year round.  The housing programs have only been able to help a small percentage of the workers, this being due to the lack of government funds for such a project.  Many of the Mexican people have been left to the devices of foreign interest and the Mexican government can only abide being that their economic condition does not allow them to do anything else.  The people of Mexico have had to face many problems that go along with joining the modern world. These problems include pollution, overcrowding of cities, drugs, disease, loss of human rights, displacement of people, high crime rates, debt, and poverty. 

            The  poverty was evident when we ate lunch at a family’s house in the hills of Nogales.  The mother of the house, God bless her, told us that her water was not running at the time and that she would have to wash dishes in the water barrel outside.  The house was no bigger than an average American garage and was divided in half by a thin piece of compressed wood and a sheet.  One half of the house was the sleeping area which actually had a T.V. in it and the other half was the kitchen and dining area.  The only electrical appliances in the kitchen were a refrigerator and an oven.  Outside there were water tanks near some houses but not all of them.  The house we were at only had two barrels of water right outside next to it.  The mother of the house seemed distant and depressed but was a gracious hostess.  She said that the father of her children was off working while she was watching the kids.  When she was asked about the housing-aid programs she seemed indifferent to it saying that her and her husband had built their own house  and that they received no help from such programs.  The remnants of their old house was still outside, sitting behind the new house.  It was a three sided, wooden shack no bigger than a backyard shed.  Most of the houses in their neighborhood were about the size of their new house, with the exception of 1 out of 5 houses which were the size of  a double car garage. 

              Things definitely need to change when it comes to conducting multi-national business.  These wealthy companies need to put more money into preserving the countries they are exploiting.  These transnational businesses need to pay the Mexican people the same wages that people in the U.S. get.  These businesses should not discriminate against people because of  their sex and health status.  The Mexican people need jobs and the foreign businesses there should hire as many people as possible with no discrimination.  These changes should not be delayed just because the companies are too greedy to fund them.  The changes mentioned above are simple acts of human kindness which any living being should expect, especially from the people whom they serve and give their lives to.  Instead, the big businesses continue to reward their employees with poverty and disease.  Maria Torres reported that “There are tremendous health problems and it’s getting worse.”(Torres, p. 17).  In the future it will be the United State’s roll to show the Mexican people some compassion, love and acceptance as human beings and not slaves.