Laura Moorhead 

Reflections on my trip to Mexico

 As we drove up to the border I could see the rusty fence line the hills that divides Nogales AZ from Nogales Mexico.  A distinct difference can be observed between the two towns just by their outward appearances.  The American side has paved roads, street lights, and clean homes and restaurants, while the Mexican side has dirt roads filled with pot holes, homes falling apart, and chaotic traffic intersections.  What can’t be immediately seen are the poor sewage, undrinkable water sources, and the reasons that cause these vast differences.

 Many people believe that some these differences are a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Free Trade Area of the Americas agreements (FTAA).  In the article “Top Ten Reasons to Oppose the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)”, it states, “Free trade is not working for the majority of the world…inequality worsened internationally and within countries.  Without debt cancellation and rules to curtail rampart capital speculation, countries in the Global South will remain dependent on the Global North, inequality will increase, and the hope of achieving sustainable development will be farther off.”  The maquiladoras in Nogales take advantage of the situations resulting from NAFTA.   The people of Mexico are being exploited through low salary and high demands.  In her article, “We are Not Machines”, Maria Guadalupe Torres explains how her low salary working at a foreign owned assembly plant was barely enough to sustain life, “Meat, vegetables, and fruit were unaffordable luxuries.”  She explained that maquiladoras often pollute the environment and exploit the surrounding natural resources, but they do not contribute to local taxes.  On this trip I learned that Nogales Mexico receives about 10% of the amount of government funding that Nogales AZ receives even though the Mexican side has a much larger population.   No wonder the living conditions are so different!

            Another aspect of the trip that impacted me was the market basket survey we looked at on our visit to La Casa.  This comparison of prices and wage rates made the situation of the Mexican people seem so much more real.  When talking with one of the Borderlinks organizers, she explained that approximately 75% of an average worker’s salary is spent on food.  For example, people have to work three hours to buy milk or four hours to buy diapers!  When I asked the border patrol agent why people were crossing to America to shop, he stated that it was because better quality products can be purchased there.  However, I later learned that it was not only because of better quality, but because certain products are cheaper across the border.  This is astonishing considering the vast differences in household incomes on both sides of the borders.  Although food prices are extremely inflated in Mexico, the other costs of living make it almost impossible to make ends meet.  The average wage for a maquiladora worker is $50 a week (US$).  Although education is supposed to be free in Nogales each family has to pay a per child registration fee of $30/semester for elementary school and $95/semester for high school.  A tank of gas costs $17, an electric bill is $50/every two months and drinking water will cost $15 a week!  These are only a few examples of the extremely high prices people have to pay as compared to their low salary.  Often large families will live in a small house in order to pay the bills.  It takes many incomes to sustain household living expenses.  This trip helped me to understand the reasons why people make the hard decision to leave their families to look for work in the United States. 




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