By: Teal Inzunza
Last Friday we had the great opportunity to visit a maquiladora. For all those who are unsure, a maquiladora is basically like a factory and in Mexico it is usually a factory that specializes in making some sort of clothing. I have heard horror stories about maquiladoras when I was in the US. Human Rights groups spewed stories of sweatshop conditions, low pay, and practically slave master owners of these places. In fact, Mexican maquiladoras are fairly notorious in the US for being terrible places to work. Many US companies, especially clothing companies, come to Mexico to set up shop because of the cheap labor. This has gotten a lot of press within the US because of the unethical and illegal low wages that they pay the workers and the terrible conditions that many of these factories have. We learned that the minimum wage in Mexico is around $57 pesos per day about roughly $5 dollars per day. The Mexican minimum wage, like the US minimum wage, is far from a living wage and we have seen how hard it really is to live on a salary here in Mexico. We are beginning to see how Mexico’s huge gap between the rich and the poor affects the country. This gap, which is caused corruption and monopolies in government and business, makes it so that “40 percent of Mexicans live in poverty, while roughly 28 percent live in extreme poverty” (Edmonds-Poli & Shirk, 2009, p. 271). When more than 30 million people are living in extreme poverty in a country, you begin to see how these policies and businesses affect real people.
Knowing all of the things I just said, I was expecting something much different than what I saw. Although I had been to a maquiladora last semester, this one was very different. When we arrived, the staff greeted us enthusiastically and we were ushered into a large room with all of the workers. This visit was completely different from the maquiladora I had visited before. The workers were not wearing a uniform, and if fact because we had visited on a Friday, many looked ready to enjoy the weekend and were wearing high heels. The workers were listening to their own music and were joking and laughing around with each other. This particular maquiladora specialized in making swimsuits, and I took a peak at one of the tags and it was for a very know company in the US. One of the administrators told us that they were like a family there, and the crazy thing is that I believe him. He also told us that they didn’t need a union because they had him and that they trusted him to take up their issues when they had them. We learned that this is one of the better maquiladoras in the country and in fact it was winning an award for how well it treated its employees. I guess the moral of this story is that not all maquiladoras are the same.
Edmonds-Poli, E., & Shirk, D.A. (2009). Contemporary Mexican politics. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.