Laura Berkowitz

Migration and Culture

Borderlinks Fieldtrip Report



            Although the trip to Nogales, Mexico was filled with several different aspects that impressed me, two in particular come to mind.

            First, the visit to the maquiladora managed to stir my thoughts and my views.  The maquiladora we visited, also known as the Curtis Company, transformed the classroom lectures into reality.  As we walked through the building, the workers were all at their designated stations with their heads down, and their hands working away.  Surprisingly enough, I discovered a majority of the workers at this particular maquiladora were young males.  Most of my readings on maquiladora’s insisted women dominated.  I remember walking through the aisles wondering how such young men were able to work and go to college.  Then, I remembered, this was Mexico, not the U.S.  College here is a privilege, not a norm. 

            The work days here were over nine hours long, and the average pay was about ten dollars a day.  How, I wondered, can anyone live with such a low wage?  The article, “We Are Not Machines,” stated how “workers for Fortune 500 companies like General Motors, Zenith, and AT&T don’t even have decent homes and can only afford used clothes and just enough food to keep them alive.”  This presents a huge problem in my mind.  These multi-million dollar companies do not even have the decency to take care of the people making the products!  Greed, money, and power have suppressed these workers, and I think some kind of regulation should be put on such companies if they are to remain on Mexican soil.

            Then another thought came to mind.  Why do employees work here if the wage is so low?  I asked Maria, the woman who we ate lunch with, this exact question.  She said that in Mexico, citizens are often left with no other choice than to work at the maquiladoras.  She said that after NAFTA went into effect, several of the Mexican family farmers were put out of business because they could not sell at the low prices that the grocery stores, which imported produce, were selling.  The article, “NAFTA’s Impact on Mexican Agriculture and Rural Life,” which stated “The government sought to reduce the percentage of Mexicans who farm by denying credit, price supports and technical assistance to family farmers.”  This illustrates how difficult it would be to maintain a family farm in Mexico.  As a last resort, or as Maria said, “out of necessity,” Mexicans head to the foreign companies for work. 

            The second aspect that surprised me was the high prices in Mexico.  During our market survey exercise, I was able to actually see how much every day necessities cost a typical Mexican family.  Milk was about $13 a gallon, and diapers were almost $25 a pack!  After further analyzing, I concluded that to survive in Mexico with a family of four, you would have to work almost ten hour days, five days a week.  Once again, the article “We Are Not Machines” gave a perfect example.  The author, Maria Guadalupe Torres, stated, “I worked 3 ½ hours to buy a gallon of milk…Meat, vegetables, and fruit were unaffordable luxuries.”  I found this article immensely disturbing for I had witnessed it in real life.  Torres was not exaggerating the conditions.  What she said was true.

            The night we returned from Nogales, I spent hours laying in bed trying to figure out a way to solve some of the problems I had encountered in Mexico.  My conclusion was this, educate the people.  America should not be responsible, in my opinion, for the internal problems in Mexico.  Mexico is its own country, and fleeing illegally to the U.S. is not going to solve anything in the long run.  The government, which I learned was controlled by five predominant families, is where the real problem is rooted.  They control most of the land, and therefore, most of the power.  If Mexicans would stand up for themselves, and stop allowing their own government to suppress them, then maybe something would change.  I am not trying to be insensitive, but Mexico needs to deal with its own problems.  If Mexicans are unhappy with the way their country is run, then vote the people who run it out of office.  If Mexicans cannot support their huge families, perhaps contraception should be considered.  If maquiladoras are hurting them, stop allowing them to feed off the country.  Action needs to be taken, but it is not up to the U.S., it is up to Mexico.



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