lunes, 21 de febrero de 2011

Visit to Maquiladora: Globalization at Work

Continuing our study of globalization issues, this week we had the opportunity to visit a maquiladora. Maquiladoras are production factories that work with clothing products, electronics and other materials that can be similarly assembled. Since the implementation of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) in 1994, more and more U.S. companies have used maquiladoras for their production – often sending the raw materials to Mexico and then receiving the finished goods back in the U.S. However, U.S. companies are not the only ones to utilize this means of production and unfortunately, many take on sweatshop labor conditions. Long hours, lack of benefits, fear of organizing and unsafe work conditions are characteristics of some maquilas.
We visited a maquila that produces high-end swimwear – and were constantly reminded by this fact by huge photos of models in swimsuits placed around the facility. The feeling among us walking around could be described as “uncomfortable.” We had a difficult time distinguishing whether or not we should “feel bad” for watching people work – I certainly wouldn´t appreciate people (especially foreigners) walking around analyzing the work I was doing. However, that does not necessarily mean that people were unappreciative of our presence or unhappy with their work. These are not judgments we can make for ourselves, they would have to result from conversations with the workers. Unfortunately, we were only allowed conversations with managers and supervisors – both men, while the majority of workers were women. These class, gender and racial (the color of the managers was in general noticeably lighter) separations are those found in many of our interactions and help to continue the alienation we experience on either side of these divides.

Regardless of our personal feelings regarding the visit (and we all certainly had different ones), I think it is important to see the means of production in order to fully understand globalization or transnational capitalism. To read about NAFTA in a book is different to see Mexican workers cutting and sewing imported fabric that will then be re-imported back to the U.S. And confronting some uncomfortable situations of this reality is important and many of us don´t do it as much as we should. It helps us to question ourselves and challenge the structures within which we live.

One question that remains with me is: How is it possible that the women and men working
in the maquila we visited will probably receive weekly wages that equal less than the amount that a woman in the United States will pay for just one bathing suit? How is this possible? What are the solutions? To find out, we will keep learning, keep discussing, keep sharing our experiences and opinions, and hopefully be closer to some answers when we are finished. Maybe we won´t, but then again, maybe we will.

-Anna Loizeaux

miércoles, 16 de febrero de 2011

The Pain of Racism and Classism

We have been very busy this past week including a day visit to a nearby pueblo (village). People in this area have ancestors from many different ingenious cultures; however, the man we spoke to is from the Nahua community. He started off by stating he is indigenous and proud to be so. In Mexico and around the world, this can be a revolutionary statement.

I received a lot of information from the speaker and upon reflection, I feel strongly about what this man spoke of regarding the racism that still exists in Mexico today. I can relate in many ways, having seen the racism back home in my community in the United States. I struggle to understand and comprehend why people are so cruel towards one another on the basis of their race and this alone. After hearing this speaker discuss the various racisms amongst people of Mexico, I found this issue even more disheartening. In the U.S., people of Mexican descent are can be referred to as “Hispanic,” “Mexican,” or “Mexican-American.” To the people of the U.S., we group many of these people together as one “race” yet here in Mexico, people are very aware of their culture and ethnic identity and the complexities that they entail.

After the conquest of the Spanish, to be indigenous was to be of a lower class. Furthermore, the Spaniards began to “mix” with the people of Mexico and people were born of a lighter skin color. This lighter skin color began to have a higher status than the darker skin color. The Spaniards were at the top of the pyramid regarding class and status, so the more one appeared like a Spaniard, the higher class they appeared in the social realm of Mexico. Light-skinned people, especially with blond hair and colored eyes are still tend to be of higher status and/or class. For this reason, indigenous people have been and continue to be oppressed and to fight to keep their culture alive for more than 300 years.

Many people have forgotten the indigenous or look past them, forgetting we are all of one being – the same, no matter what our skin color is. This racism and classism is still very much a problem in today’s reality. In Mexico, we see it much in the class and status of the color of one's skin-there are places in Mexico one is not able to go to or where people are unwelcome due to the color of their skin. This is much like the USA where there is much racism amongst and toward the various different ethnic groups, races as well as discrimination toward people of non-heterosexual identity, such as people who identify as GLBTQ.

Have we all forgotten that we were made the same, we all have red blood, like the man we spoke with said, and we were meant to be on Earth as one together? Why is there so much hate and pain amongst people who are “different” than one another?

-Amy Voigt (Augsburg College)

martes, 8 de febrero de 2011

Bringing in the New Year: Welcome to MG 2011!

Greetings friends, family and followers of Augsburg College´s the Center for Global Education and of our “Migration & Globalization: Engaging Our Communities” spring 2011 program! We are at the beginning of Week #3 and we can hardly believe it. So far the students have done scavenger hunts through the city, surveys of Cuernavaca´s extensive and impressive markets, have begun to hear personal stories of migration and have gotten introductions to Mexican and Pre-Hispanic history as well as contemporary politics and economic systems. Although the days are sometimes long, everyone has been critically engaged in the issues and working quite well as the living/learning community we strive to create. Our energy levels are up and we are so excited to see what the rest of the semester will bring!

Now let me give you a glimpse into a “normal” day here at CGE México…

Today, after Spanish class bright and early, we went with Professor Ann Lutterman-Aguilar to the Palacio de Cortés where we looked at a mural by famous Mexican artist, Diego Rivera. Rivera´s mural, “La conquista y revolución,” depicts, as the title implies, the Spanish Conquest of Mexico´s indigenous peoples as well as the Mexican Revolution beginning in 1910, which sought to overthrow the oligarchy and history of oppression that the Conquest started in 1519. Having three weeks behind them here in México, it was wonderful to see the students put to work the knowledge they have already acquired in analyzing the work – Bravo to them! As we have talked about as a group, in order to understand contemporary Mexican issues – particularly Migration and Globalization – it is crucial to understand Mexican history and how Mexicans view that history as a part of their everyday lives. The idea of “lucha” (struggle) – for freedom, for your family, for your land, for survival – is not a new concept in Mexican lives and is very much based in the histories Rivera touches on in this mural. In this way, it is so important that many MG students are studying both Mexican history as well as Mexican politics in order to understand the complexity of these issues as well as the ways they are interconnected.

Well, that´s all for now. I hope you are all well and continue to stay tuned for our weekly updates. Look for our reflections and our growth as the semester goes on!

-Anna Loizeaux (Intern - Graduate of Fordham College at Lincoln Center´s Class of 2010)