Elizabeth Martinez

ASB 340

Professor Koptiuch




The Migration and Culture class field trip to Nogales Mexico was an educational trip. It served to give the students a greater understanding of other cultures and the migration issues that affect them. The mere sight of Nogales makes it easy to see the disorganization. The terrain and apparent lack of city planning makes the thought of reorganization a daunting task. The many houses that rest precariously on the hillsides are densely packed. The poverty is striking and the businesses, houses and lack of services are the obvious signs.

     The trip to one of the maquiladoras was informative. It was clean and well organized. In appearance it was no different than many of the assembly line production companies in the US. What was markedly different was the wage. Our tour guide hesitantly told us the wage was approximately eight US dollars a day. When comparing eight dollars a day to the eight dollars an hour paid by assembly lines in the US it is easy to see why people would be inclined to immigrate to the US in search of a higher wage.

     The maquiladoras are a strip of foreign owned factories that provide employment for the Mexican population. Maquiladores came about in 1965 as an attempt to combat Mexico’s unemployment problem. In exchange for providing jobs, these industries are given tax exemptions and very little regulations are placed on them (Falcoff 9). The impact maquiladoras have on immigration are both direct and indirect. The direct impact is that it created an immigration problem in Nogales. People from the interior of Mexico flooded Nogales in search of employment (Trujillo). These new immigrants needing a place to live, haphazardly built houses and communities on property that was not theirs and became squatters. These communities have developed into what is referred to as colonias or colonies in Spanish.

     In questioning one of the colonia residents, it became apparent that property ownership and systematic records had become a problem. She indicated that she had previously been making payments on the property but had ceased to do so. She went on to say that the person she was paying had not been the rightful owner of the property and that she was told to stop paying. When asked who had told her to stop paying she indicated that it was an attorney who was going around trying to help the people of the colonias.

     This is just one example of the kinds of problems that are associated with immigration. The onslaught of migration has created to much strain on the cities infrastructure and has created difficult living conditions, lack of city services, like adequate record keeping, sewage systems and planned housing communities are just a few of the problems. This, along with ecological damage, caused by industrialization and the upheaval of subsistence farming are some of the indirect causes of, not only Mexico’s immigration problem, but ours as well.

     During our visit at the Borderlinks Community Center, Cecilia Guzman spoke to us about her experiences. She described a Nogales that was very different from today. She said it was a clean and close knit community. She told us that it was called Nogales because of the abundance of nogal trees, meaning pecan trees in Spanish, that once existed there. Sadly, Cecilia remarked how there was only one nogal tree left in all of Nogales.

     Cecilia told us of a bi-national conference in Chiapas she was involved in. The purpose of the conference was to understand what was causing migration from these southern states. She said that what had most left its impression on her was that there were no young men; all of them were in the US trying to earn money to feed their families. The reason for lack of subsistence in their native land is a complicated one. This subject was discussed in, Why Can’t People Feed Themselves?, an article that analyzes the sociological effects of replacing subsistence farming with cash crops and describes it as “the weight of  centuries of effort by the few to undermine the capacity of the majority to feed themselves.” The author discusses the “colonial mind” and describes “how to the colonizers of Africa, Asia and Latin America, agriculture becomes merely a means to extract wealth “ this correlates with Cecilia’s view of, how the government encourages the indigenous people to leave so the natural resources can be seized. Many of the underlying reasons for immigration is the simple exploitation of these agricultural people who often do not speak Spanish and are illiterate.

     Spanish news stations like Channel 33, Univision and channel 48, Telemundo cover this struggle on a regular basis. There have been a number of protests by the Campesinos, as they are called by the media. They have been demanding the reinstatement of government subsidies. The governments position is that these agricultural people can not compete with countries like the United States that use machinery in their agricultural productions. The government has taken the stance that the Campesinos can no longer exist by holding on to their old ways and must find other means to sustain themselves. One of these means is immigration, as we saw in the film, Invisible Indians: Mixteca Farmworkers in California they have already been immigrating to the US in search of a new existence. In short outer influences and internal struggles are often a part of immigration. They are part of a complicated web of circumstances that often underlies the question of, Why do people migrate?


      Works Cited

Falcoff, Mark. “A New Era in Mexico?” Mexico: Geography, History and Political Life  

     (Borderlinks package).


Guzman, Cecilia. Class question and answer session. 8 April 2003.


Lapp’, Frances Moore. & Joseph Collins. “Food First: Beyond the Myth of Scarcity: Why   

      Can’t People Feed Themselves” Institute for Food & Development

     Ballatine Books (1977).


Trujillo, Kiko. Class question and answer session. 8 April 2003.