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Nov 29 2005

Mexico Shouldn’t Be Bumming Me Out, Goddammit

Mexicanpollution
One Mexican border town’s Hepatitis A export factory

My tragically unfulfilled yearning for tacos has caused my giant but somewhat chemically altered brain to fixate on the cradle of the world’s finest culinary creation. By which I mean Mexico.

Most Americans have never heard of Mexico.You might recognize it as that area just to the south of the American Southwest that supplies honkys in California with commercially exploitable brown people, such maids and gardeners and people to pick fruit for cheap, and as the place where that honky chef Rick Bayless rips off all his cooking ideas.

Not surprisingly–because as paradigms go, it’s one of the paradigmiest–patriarchy has made impressive strides in Mexico. The North American Free Trade Agreement, for example, has been a nice fat plum for The Man. Now rich foreign companies can set up cheap-crap factories along the Mexican border, where they profit lavishly from local desperation. The factories are called maquiladoras. The workers, the majority of whom are women, are paid a laughable driblet of what the rich companies would have to pay fully human male Americans. They work in hazardous conditions and live in cardboard shacks without plumbing or electricity.

It will not surprise you to hear that the women maquilas, because they are members of the sex class, suffer at work the usual extra humiliation and violence associated with being female on this planet. Their male bosses fuck with them. They get fired if they get pregnant. In Ciudad Juarez, for example, women are often murdered on the way to work, just for the hell of it. Their babies are born with lots of birth defects. That’s because, owing to lax regulatory structures, the foreign-owned maquiladoras can dump their toxic waste right into the Mexican dirt without so much as a hey-ho-how’s-your-toe.

An article in the Houston Chronicle reminds me that it’s so dangerous to be a woman in Mexico that the government has set up a special commission on "femicide," which is not when a human being is killed, but when a woman is killed. In Mexico City there are supposedly 6 or 7 rapes a day, although any chump knows, based on the degree to which Mexican tradition terrorizes women and basks in misogyny, that there really are a lot more. Mexico’s own National Institute of Women estimates that 85% of violent crimes against women go unreported. As usual, it’s the rural, indigenous women who, furthest from any kind of support systems, are the most abused.

"Some women" quoth a sympathetic Mexican government official for "women’s issues," "believe violence is their destiny."

It thoroughly chaps the Twisty hide that, although it’s men who are, you know, perpetrating it, violence is still seen as a women’s issue, as the responsibility of women. There’s a Mexican ad campaign to raise public awareness of domestic violence where famous Mexican women are shown with fake bruises. Here’s a thought. Why not show famous Mexican men with their dicks chopped off? Women’s issue my ass.

The brutalization of Mexican women is such a beloved sacrament that marital rape wasn’t even declared illegal until two weeks ago. Naturally such a sane and anti-patriarchal step has engendered a nasty backlash. The theory put forth by one male psychologist is that women will use the new law to "punish husbands." This psychopath envisions an epidemic of scenarios where the wife "roughs herself up to make it look as though her husband beat her and forced her to have sex. If there’s no witness, how will the judge know if she is lying?"

Yup. I would certainly punch myself in the face and break a few of my own ribs the second I found out marital rape was illegal, just to get back at my slob of a husband for not taking out the trash.

                                           * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Want to set up your own maquiladora? Here’s how.

A Few Foreign-Owned Mexican Maquiladoras [source: CorpWatch.org]

    •    3 Day Blinds
    •    20th Century Plastics
    •    Acer Peripherals
    •    Bali Company, Inc.
    •    Bayer Corp./Medsep
    •    BMW
    •    Canon Business Machines
    •    Casio Manufacturing
    •    Chrysler
    •    Daewoo
    •    Eastman Kodak/Verbatim
    •    Eberhard-Faber
    •    Eli Lilly Corporation
    •    Ericsson
    •    Fisher Price
    •    Ford
    •    Foster Grant Corporation
    •    General Electric Company
    •    JVC
    •    GM
    •    Hasbro
    •    Hewlett Packard
    •    Hitachi Home Electronics
    •    Honda
    •    Honeywell, Inc.
    •    Hughes Aircraft
    •    Hyundai Precision America
    •    IBM
    •    Matsushita
    •    Mattel
    •    Maxell Corporation
    •    Mercedes Benz
    •    Mitsubishi Electronics Corp.
    •    Motorola
    •    Nissan
    •    Philips
    •    Pioneer Speakers
    •    Samsonite Corporation
    •    Samsung
    •    Sanyo North America
    •    Sony Electronics
    •    Tiffany
    •    Toshiba
    •    VW
    •    Xerox
    •    Zenith

30 comments

2 pings

  1. SneakySnu

    Fresh from seeing the film Syriana, reading this on top of it, well, it’s one of those mornings in which I want to scream “I HATE THE WORLD!” at the top of my lungs.

    It’s not the greed or patriarchal lust of the oil industry and maquiladoras that bugs me most: it’s the deep, deep cynicism, the “fuck them before they fuck us” attitude that I find infinitely depressing.

    Thanks for this diary and the links. I wasn’t a big consumer electronics, cars, toys or Tiffany jewelry, but it’s good to know what everyone is up to.

  2. Chris Clarke

    :applauds:

  3. Betsy

    Twisty, you are unstoppable. Your latest coupla posts are phenomenal. I’m sending rays your way, ’cause you do so much for my world.

  4. yankee transplant

    God, Twisty, keep ‘em comin’! What Betsy said plus you are brilliant!

  5. KelliAmanda

    I learn so much from your posts. Thank you, Twisty.

  6. Sara

    Good. Thank you.

    Hey, is there a list somewhere of corporations from whom we can buy without killing or abusing someone somewhere? I’d love to see it. A large part of the answer to this kind of thing is to buy small and buy local, but the problem is that there is no Mom ‘n’ Pop pharmaceutical or computer manufacturer in my town. Or car company. Or sunglass maker. So whom can we trust with our consumer dollars when we go to buy the kinds of mass-produced goods whose demand drives this kind of deplorable business practice, but without which we can’t really go about normal, modern life? Who will take our money and use it to conduct ethical business, really, completely free of polluting, abusing, or other should-be-criminal practices?

    Does anybody have that list?

  7. laughingmuse

    Sara – I don’t know, I’ve got to see if I can find something like that for myself. My ass was chapped when I saw Honda on the list, and now I rage that even my little Civic has evil implications.

    Twisty, I loaf you. Thanks for another excellent post.

    I may be going to Mexico soon. Holy crap.

  8. Dim Undercellar

    I think there’s a couple of Amish guys up the road from me with a list like that.

    Jedediah
    Ezekiel
    Jeremiah
    Abraham
    Esther…

    :(

  9. Sylvanite

    But surely the tacos are misogyny-free?

    Stuff like this underscores the triviality of my own troubles.

  10. Dot

    Twisty: thank you for this list. Yes, depressing, maddening, but gives me a place to look at for avoiding poisonous crap. I seem to remember that one reason for S. Africa to give up apartheid was global boycotts on their money and exports. Maybe if we can try to live more simply without all the electronics we can flush out our lives and some of this abuse.

  11. Hattie

    Yes, we’re all stuck with our great “lifestyles.”
    Aside from traveling by air and having a lot of cool electronics, we’re pretty noble–solar hot water, old Volvo, compost, recycle, line dry our clothes, grow a lot of food, buy local when possible, live close to town, work at home, find cheap forms of recreation. Don’t need to heat or air condition, this being Hawaii with its virtually ideal climate. Only one wardrobe for the whole year.
    But we can’t kid ourselves that we’re doing the environement a lot of good, aside from taking care of our soil. We’re using up a lot of stuff.
    What bothers me most is that so many women are never getting a chance to have a good life. It’s so unfair. Why can’t we have a fair amount of stuff without sacrificing poor women to our greed?

  12. Pablo

    First of all, excelent post.

    The problem down here, as I see it, is that asking for help, even if there are the legal means to do so, won’t get you very far.

    Too many women are still brought up to only be housewives and dependant on their husbands (here in Mexico, I mean). And there’s no such thing as social aid (or whatever that’s called) as there is with you guys.

    So, someone who decides to end the violence by either sending their husband to jail, or just breaking away from him, is likely to have a rough time making it on their own. And while they’d likely be better off then being victims, it’s still a scary thought, I guess.

    You see progressively less of this in modern-esque [parts of] cities, yet it’s still widespread in the more “traditional” [parts of] towns AFAIK. (Where traditional stands for “macho”-ridden)

  13. Hector Tejada

    Hi excellent post!, however I would like to remark that Mexico is bigger than those “North” issues.

  14. joanna

    Right on, Twisty!
    It’s always good to ask where things we buy come from, and what their “price” is before they get to us. I remember the slogan from the farmworkers’ strikes in California way back when: “Drink Gallo. Drink the blood of the farmworkers.”
    As Hattie said, we can’t totally extract ourselves from the corporate assembly line (where are those microchips in these computers made, anyway?) but we can start making more conscious choices. No Wal-Mart, no Target, buy local when possible. Do I really need that gizmo? could I buy it second-hand? (recycle, reuse). Could I look for products (coffee, chocolate, clothing) that are distributed through fair trade organizations so I know my money is going to a community trying to support itself?

  15. SarahM

    It’s terrific, really, that people with the means to buy small & local do so, but the freedom to not buy crap from a company that views its employees as less than human shouldn’t be a luxury, dammit! (I have the same complaint about healthy food, but that’s an awfully big digression.) It’s a stroke of evil genius, really, to have the main consumers for worker-exploiting products be exploited workers.

  16. CafeSiren

    “Hey, is there a list somewhere of corporations from whom we can buy without killing or abusing someone somewhere?”

    Try http://www.buyblue.org

    Has a listing for all companies incorporated in the U.S. Information is more complete on some than on others. Try looking up “Wal-Mart” and “Apple Computer” to see a couple of very complete entries.

  17. karenology

    Hello there, great blog!

    A really good documentary on Juarez is La Senorita Extraviada, about the 400+ women that have disappeared in and around Juarez. The cops haven’t made much progress, and are more than likely (according to the film) involved in the whole business. Very sickening.

  18. the col

    I work for a large company, and have worked in our plants in Juarez and Chihuahua City. I can’t speak for all, but our plants are clean and bright. Food is included for the plant workers, along with heathcare for them and their family. I doubt all plants are this way. We have done it to reduce turnover, which was over 20% at one time.

    You name any company you’ve heard of, and you’ll see a plant with their name on it in Juarez, Chihuahua City, Nuevo Laredo, etc.

    Your descriptions of women’s situations in Mexico are not far off the mark. Its striking the first time you go there.

    My last trip to Juarez, about a year ago,a coworker told me things were getting bad there again. In the late 80s, Juarez was really bad, but things got better through the 90s into the 00s. As China has come on line(Mexican wages are 3x China), a good chunk of assembly jobs have left. A consumer electronics plant had just laid off 10,000 people. He said he can tell the economy is getting worse by the number of prostitutes and strip clubs.

    It’s an ugly world out there. The big cities lost their assembly jobs to the rural plants in the 60s, and then they went to Mexico in the 80s, and now their off to China. Every place they’ve left, they’ve left people in desparate situations. Look at our inner cities, 40 years later.

    Merry Christmas.

  19. ae

    P.S. Brava, Twisty. Watch out, or those naysayers who went after your fellow Texan Lance Armstrong also will be saying that your obstreperal lobe function is enhanced by chemo. ;-] Sending you fortifying vibes which you can set aside for a rainy day! xoxo

  20. Anonymous

    “It’s a stroke of evil genius, really, to have the main consumers for worker-exploiting products be exploited workers.”

    Did you extract this from WalMart’s mission statement?

    ;-)

    Lately, there’s been a groundswell of anti-WalMart sentiment in movies and whatnot, and generally speaking, I applaud it.

    However, a kneejerk is a kneejerk and they’re all suspect in my book.

    The kneejerk response to the corporate evils Twisty listed off is often to dedicate ourselves to avoiding products from evil companies. Soon we learn that our very lifestyle would be completely undone if we were even 25% successful at such an endeavor and wonder, “how the f–k am I supposed to pull this off?”

    I’m no big defender of the American Way or anything like that, but I propose to you that it’s nigh on impossible for a person caught up in the US system of consumption to suddenly shock themselves out of that system. Are there folks who pull it off? Yeah, but are they really pulling it off? I mean, if you dig hard enough into their story, you almost always find some part of their subsistence comes from a dependence on the infrastructure of US capitalism. Does that make them less pure? Not really, I guess, but stay with me.

    So, back to the WalMart thing… it’s not hard to avoid WalMart and I think that’s one of the reasons it’s become such a popular axe to grind. It’s easy. You can go to Target instead and they have more fashionable stuff anyway, right? Well, if we looked hard enough into Target, I’m sure we could find something there.

    The real problem is trade imbalance and even that can’t be pigeonholed as patently negative. I mean, sure, some American jobs are lost as manufacturing jobs go to China or elsewhere, but our lazy asses didn’t want to make plastic chochkies anyway, right? Especially not for $5 a day. But, that woman in China who would’ve had $0 a day is evidently damned glad to get $5. So, whatcha gonna do? Take it away from her?

    Like many of you, it makes me unhappy to see bad things done to good people. If there’s one thing we’ll agree on, it’s that women tend to get treated crappier than men. How to remedy that is anybody’s guess, but I would guess that selling your Honda and trying to find a “clean” car manufacturer is not the answer.

    Starting a blog and calling ‘bullshit’ is a great start and we thank Twisty every day for her contribution. Kicking some elected officials in the nuts would be a good 2nd move. It does appear that the nation is moving in that direction, lately, but you can never be sure which nuts to kick, so keep your eyes open.

    In closing this sprawling rant, I would add that it must be a conservative that somehow re-framed the cultural dialog such that we immediately take it upon ourselves to assume that adjusting our participation in a commercialized culture is somehow a responsibility akin to f–king voting and/or revolution. How the hell did that happen, anyway?

    -Finn

  21. Reecie

    I’ve not seen the documentary Karenology mentions, but I spend a lot of time in Las Cruces, NM, and around there, it’s widely accepted/assumed the local Mexican cops are involved. If not taking part in the murderous free-for-all themselves.

    Utterly unchecked corruption + misogyny = a whole lot of dead women.

    Makes my skin crawl.

  22. Kelley

    Finn,

    When we get to start the part about kicking elected officials in the nuts, let me know ASAP. I’ve got a list. I’m checking it twice. Really.

  23. CafeSiren

    How about buying second-hand? You can get a used car, a used pair of jeans, a used sweater.

    In the world we live in today, it may be impossible to completely avoid somehow financially supporting companies who hold to reprehensible, exploitative practices. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying: every little choice adds up.

    Yes, CafeSiren is an idealist, pissed off that she can’t change the world. But I can control my own behavior, and gently encourage others to do the same.

  24. the ghost of Abbie

    Twisty this post on Mexico was truly great…funny and appalling…so kuidos to youdos. The comments posted here have been very good…Finn’s was very thoughtful. It’s times like this when I see some real potential in blogs. Continue with your brilliance.

  25. Summer

    Finn wrote: “So, back to the WalMart thing… it’s not hard to avoid WalMart and I think that’s one of the reasons it’s become such a popular axe to grind. It’s easy. You can go to Target instead and they have more fashionable stuff anyway, right?”

    Well, Finn, I sympathize with the sentiment, but your statement isn’t entirely true. In my little town of 600, the nearest stores are 15-20 miles away. Wal-Mart is the only place to do any one-stop shopping. I could find much of what I need at other stores–Kroger, Dollar General (a subsidiary of Wal-Mart, no?)–but I would have to drive all over town to get those supplies. Target–that bastion of class consciousness–is 55 miles in the other direction.

    So, what’s a gal to do? Spend my money at the evil WM, or burn up lots of fossil fuels and try to fling stones at Goliath?

    Really, the “what the hell am I supposed to do?” question comes up a lot more often than I care to admit. And the answer, well it typically suggests: “begrudingly do what you have to do and hate yourself for doing it.”

    I can’t ignore what I know. I can’t move. I can’t grow my own toilet paper.

    Twisty, I’m with the rest of ‘em up there: brilliant post. My brain is bellowing, “more, more!”

  26. the ghost of Abbie

    In response to Summer and some others concerned about where to shop, etc. My thought is this: Making ANY stand is better than making no stand at all. Sure, Target is a big nasty coporation like Wal-Mart BUT it isn’t as predatory as Wal-Mart and it doesn’t (as far as I can tell) give a majority of it’s political campaign money to Republicans like Wal-Mart does. To quote Watergate’s Deepthroat…”follow the money.” Since Republican politics favor unfettered capitalism which in turn exploits workers and the environment to reap profits…which coporations give a majority of their ‘political’ money to the Repugs? Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and probably the place where you buy gasoline, and most cattle ranchers. (Some corporations that give more money to Democrats would be Barnes & Noble and Starbucks. Check out Buy Blue. com.) Anyway, pick a handful of places that you KNOW are unhealthy and boycott them. I haven’t been in a Wal-Mart for more than six years. I don’t eat cows or other mammals or birds. And I drive a small Subaru. And, I might add, I don’t get suckered into holidays that demand I purchase gifts for people (except birthdays.) No over-eating on Thanksgiving. No Christmas nonsense. We have, as a nation, created this ugly exploitive capitalist beast, let’s do what we can to bleed it to death. Nothing direct and revolutionary (because Americans simply won’t do that, I’m afraid) but a whole bunch of persistent small cuts. Okay, I’m off my soapbox.

  27. Anonymous

    “Sure, Target is a big nasty coporation like Wal-Mart BUT it isn’t as predatory as Wal-Mart and it doesn’t (as far as I can tell) give a majority of it’s political campaign money to Republicans like Wal-Mart does.”

    Ok, but isn’t Target the retailer I recently read was allowing their pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for ‘morning after’ pills?

  28. the ghost of Abbie

    About the morning after pill…I don’t know. But I’m not claiming ANY corporation is perfect or, for that matter, good (see the movie ‘The Corporation’)…all I’m saying is that it is important to start consuming less and certainly don’t support places that plainly don’t give a shit for anything but the bottom line. This might be a better world if we could reduce our consumeristic impulses by around 25%. (even more would be better but I don’t believe in miracles.)

  29. Iximche

    As an American ex-pat living in an unnamed Latin American country, I find that I am forced to delurk to point out that while it is appalling and sick that over 400 women and girls have been killed (and presumably raped and tortured) in Juarez, Mexico in the past twelve years, things are considerably worse in neighboring Guatemala, where between 480 and 580 women (depending on who one asks) have been killed (and presumably raped and tortured) THIS YEAR ALONE. Its femicide of the worst kind.

  1. Pandagon

    We’re gonna have an abortion party tonight!

    I hate to draw inferences about Virgin Ben and his unfamiliarity with women, since I’m trying to get past shallow judgements like that. But really, today’s Townhall takes the cake. I will say, however, that there are a lot of…

  2. Pandagon

    We’re gonna have an abortion party tonight!

    I hate to draw inferences about Virgin Ben and his unfamiliarity with women, since I’m trying to get past shallow judgements like that. But really, today’s Townhall takes the cake. I will say, however, that there are a lot of…

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