The Maquiladoras: What’s Really Going on at the Mexican Border

Maquilapolis

Directed by Sergio de la Torre and Vicky Funari (2006)

Film Review

This documentary documents the untold history of the Mexican women who built a union movement among the the 800+ maquiladoras on the Mexican side of the US/Mexico border.

In the 1960s the US and Mexico signed a treaty to establish duty-free factories (known as maqiladoras) just south of the US border. This US corporations to take advantage of cheap Mexican labor without paying import duties.

Because wages were higher than elsewhere in Mexico (with jobs practically non-existent in rural areas), the maquiladoras attracted workers from all over Mexico. Despite the higher wages, working conditions were abysmal, with workers being denied toilet breaks and experience toxic exposures and bullying from management.

The number of maquiladoras increased substantially after passage of NAFTA (North American Fair Trade Agreement) in 1994 reduced tariffs and duties still further.

At the time of filming, women comprised 80% of the maquiladora workforce. Employers prefer female workers, especially in electronics assembly as they have smaller, more agile hands and are viewed as more docile and compliant. Most were single mothers.

The film tells the story of the long struggle of Chipanchingo Collective for Environmental Justice to successfully form a union to improve working and living conditions.

The response by numerous corporations has been to move their factories to Indonesia, where there are no unions and wages are lower still.

 

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