|Introduction to the Voices Project|
The Voices Project grew out of the desire to examine the impact of immigration law and public policy, as reflected in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) at the U.S.-Mexican Border. The published study used the maquiladora industry, and the words of working women in these factories, some of which date since the 1960s, to question the law and policy that opened the doors to expanded foreign investment and free trade during the Clinton Administration. Public rhetoric in Mexico and the U.S. applauded the massive growth of the maquiladora industry in the nineties. In Mexico neo-liberal economic policymaking justified the expanded free trade with the U.S. under NAFTA as increased employment opportunities for all. Others argued that it would modernize the Mexican working woman--that is, the nation's experiment in "gender liberation" would free her from the bonds of domestic slavery. On both the U.S. and Mexico sides the expanded opportunities for cheap transnational labor south of the border were touted as a means for stopping the flow of illegal immigration and for reduced costs in the production of goods that would be assembled in Mexico and ultimately purchased by American consumers.
None of the legal or political jargon, however, has ever revealed the human drama that underlies the assumptions and expectations that surrounded the negotiations for NAFTA, or that have infused the continuing public rhetoric to extend NAFTA through the Free Trade Area of the Americas to over thirty countries in the Western Hemisphere. The VOICES PROJECT seeks to fill this gap with the words and experiences of people who lie behind the terms "offshore assembly factories" or "foreign manufacturing" whether in Mexico or in other parts parts of the world. Women on the Border seeks to capture and convey to the public the voices of the laborers who ultimately replace the once unionized worker in the U.S. who may have lost his or her job to the shutdown of a factory that "couldn't keep up with the competition" and moved away to Mexico" (or China, India, etc.).
Women on the Border seeks to produce public information about who the people are that represent "the ghosts in the machines," the excellent metaphor for the invisible worker articulated by sociologist Devon Peņa in his study of the maquiladora industry THE TERROR OF THE MACHINE (1997).
VOICES PROJECT I primarily sought to describe the operations of the maquiladora industry. This is the large study called "Voices from the Barbed Wires of Despair," which uses the sociological data gathered by Devon Peņa and Norma Iglesias Prieto from her study LA FLOR MAS BELLA DE LA MAQUILADORA (Beautiful Flowers of the Maquiladoras) (trans. 1997).
VOICES PROJECT II is a work-in-progress which has a special focus on examining the unhealthy conditions, medical injuries and environmental damage that may be attributed to the expanding global economy as witnessed in the ecologically fragile regions of the Mexican border.
Public Education: As part f its "Voices Projects" Women on the Border often uses and promotes for its educational programs documentary films it believes will advance knowledge about maquiladora workers' lives. Women on the Border does not produce copies of such educational videos for distribution to the public but wherever possible will provide helpful contact information.
|VOICES PROJECT I - The Study|
This study served as the catalyst for establishing Women on the Border as a vehicle for documenting the lives and health conditions of maquiladora workers, their families and their communities. Summary Download Article in Word Format
|VOICES PROJECT II - The Interviews|
The Environmental and Health Impact of the Maquiladoras on Women, Families and their Communities.
The following short bio-sketches or articles detail some of what it is like to live at the Mexican border and to be a maquiladora worker. The interviews that are being gathered by Women on the Border are sought as a means of illustrating the impact of the maquiladora industry on the people who depend on the industry for their livelihood. The stories interrogate whether continued corporate global economic expansion facilitated by unregulated free trade policy does anything to preserve and protect the basic human rights to adequate food, shelter, clothing, health and safety.