With the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo on February 2, 1848, the border dividing the Mexican people was formed. The Mexican border means various things to different people. To date, 600 miles of border wall has already been built. This wall would extend from California, to El Paso, to the valley. The first reason given by the government for construction of the wall was to prevent terrorist attacks, the next was to keep illegal Mexicans out, and the most current one is to combat the drug smuggling into the United States.
For some Mexicans and Mexican Americans, the border poses threats, and for others, it establishes possibilities for oneself and one’s family. The border industrialization program, which began the 1970s, increased significantly from its previous conditions. Migration to border towns became highly prevalent. Border cities led to population growth and, simultaneously, high unemployment rates. In reaction, government officials started the maquilladora program. Maquillas (from the Spanish maquillar, ‘to make up’) are the giant sweatshops of the global economy, where armies of poor women are put to work to assemble goods for export.
The supply of women is so great that these women are treated with no value. Border industrialization began to rise and power companies such as Samsung and RCA, as evident in the movie, Maquilapolis (2006) by Vicky Funari and Sergio de la Torre, by always having lines of women ready and willing to work. Mexican government officials viewed the Maquiladora Program in a positive light, claiming it to be “an integral part of Mexico’s strategy for development. ” The movie depicts the maquiladora workers in Tijuana, Mexico to balance life working in these factories with their struggle for justice in the system that governs their place of work.
This reiterates how machismo affected gender relations in Mexico and how woman are devalued. These maquiladoras are good because of the labor they give to Mexican citizens. However, it’s not fair for the low wages and cruelties taken on by the employees in these factories. Unsanitary and dangerous factory conditions pose threats to these women’s lives each day. The women are looking for the means of life and survival. They face jobless times, so they are forced to find jobs in labor. Despite the conditions these women have been subjected to, they still continue to remain hopeful.
Senorita Extraviada (2001) is a documentary by Lourdes Portillo about the hundreds of unsolved murders of young women that have occurred over the past 10 years in Juarez, Mexico—the Mexican border city across the Rio Grande from El Paso. The Coalition of non-government organizations (NGOs) for Women (1994-2000) was created by female activists; their main aim behind the coalition was to change the cultural, economic, and political context of gendered violence in the city. This coalition organized events such as marches, press conferences, and domestic and international press was prevalent.
There were many challenges against this coalition: it was the city’s first ever cross-class women’s political organization and the city’s first feminist-oriented political coalition. An external attack began to form on the Coalition. Many “elite” political and economic leaders argued that the violence was “normal” for Juarez. They argued that many of these women knew what they were doing—living the “doble vida” (double life) as factory workers during the day and prostitutes by night. Many asserted it was a recycled discourse of female trouble.
The notion of these “public women” mimicked the negative talk surrounding the prostitutes as women who “contaminated” all associated with her from family, community, and nation. A “public woman” was regarded as an illegitimate citizen. Government authorities used this as a way to dismiss the influx of crimes and blame the women for the surge of violence in Juarez. Alejandro Lugo presents an analysis of the social dimensions along the border from color hierarchies to the notions of borderlands.
He suggests that border crossings are “constituted by ‘inspection stations’ which inspect, monitor, and survey what goes in and out in the name of class, race, and nation. ” He asserts that the term ‘border crossings’ has become an exceedingly hopeful phrase. Lugo further claims that people are, indeed, afraid to cross these borders. There are a few reasons for that. Those who have legal residence in the U. S. , who are light-skinned, and those who speak English, cross borders without much concern.
However, those are not American citizens, who are dark-skinned, and who don’t speak English face tough circumstances. As Lugo suggests, “while borderlands implies multiple sides, ‘border’ implies two sides. ” The division between the United States and Mexico is ever-present, separating those who are residents and those who aspire to live the American dream to better themselves and their family. Violence is being exercised against Mexicans at border crossings. The Border Patrol continues to isolate those who do not have legal residence and force these Mexicans back to where they supposedly ‘belong.
’ There is no in-between. As described by Lugo, many Border Patrol agents possess no acceptance for uncertainty. You must prove you belong or you’re forced back to the other side. This border symbolizes such positive things for many hopefuls seeking freedom, work, opportunity, however, at the same time, is a complete, unwelcoming division. Color hierarchies exhibit this discrimination against many dark-skinned Mexicans who are forced out of the U. S. by their own Mexican American people along the border. The border transforms itself.
As evident of this border transformation is the drug smuggling. In a recent article, “Drug smugglers from Mexico move into NM town,” the border town of Columbus, NM has seen an influx of fancy cars with nice rims and a boom in the housing market. Many of these drug smugglers have fled from Palomas, Mexico where the Mexican army had previously been stationed. According to some residents, such as Maria Gutierrez, “The problem is in Palomas. It’s serene here” Many have refused to come to terms that crime is starting to flood their town.
This also alludes to the border transformation—not just a sign of hope to those who seek to cross it, but, now, a means of making big money for some. The Columbus police department has faced its share of “bad” cops within the force, yet the new appointment of police chief, Angelo Vega, is meant to restructure things within the town. However, even some residents believe that it would be impossible for this town to survive without illegal money flowing in. Not only is violence witnessed between Mexicans and Mexican Americans, but also amongst Caucasians.
Racial injustice continues to exist to this day. Similar to the story of Esequiel Hernandez, the 18-year-old U. S. high school student killed on May 20, 1997 by Marines along the US–Mexico border in Redford, Texas, Luis Ramirez was recently murdered by two Anglo males in Pennsylvania. Ramirez, a 25-year-old illegal Mexican immigrant, was assaulted by “a gang of drunken white teenagers motivated by a dislike of the growing Hispanic population in their small coal town of Shenandoah. ” Both the Marines and the two men accused of this crime were acquitted of all charges.
These types of racial tensions exhibit the racial hierarchies in society. Many guilty people can be set free just because of the color of their skin. In contrast, the story of the maquilladora program, the surge of violence along the border, gender relations, the influx of drug trading, and prevalence of racial tensions and color hierarchies amongst Mexicans and Mexican Americans all illustrate the dangers that face the border. These combinations of problems all make up the transformation of the border within the past several decades. It truly depicts the war of the frontiers.
Many residents along the border, as in the town of Columbus are fighting to keep their town as it was by trying to rid the drug trafficking. Many Mexican Americans want a better life for their family, as well as, to not be treated inferiorly by their own people because of the color of their skin. As put by Salman Rushdie, “By crossing those frontiers, conquering those terrors and reaching their goal, they themselves were now what they were looking for. They had become the god they sought. ” For many this “god,” is the crossing at the border.
For some, it leads to a life filled with promises and opportunities, and for others, false hopes and empty promises at their homeland are ever changing. The war of frontiers will continue to exist until the government does more to change how things are run along the controversial border. ———————–  Maria Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, “Chapter 2,” in For We are Sold, I and My People: Women and Industry in Mexico’s Frontier, (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983), 35.  Alejandro Lugo, “Theorizing Border inspections,” Cultural Dynamics 12:3 (2000), 355.  Lugo, 359.
 Alicia Caldwell, ” Drug smugglers from Mexico move into NM town,” Austin American-Statesman, May 1, 2009, http://www. statesman. com/search/content/shared-gen/ap/National/US_Drug_Smugglers_Town. html, accessed on May 1, 2009.  Michael Rubinkam, ” Luis Ramirez Killers Found Not Guilty After Beating Mexican Immigrant To Death,” Huffington Post, May 2, 2009, http://www. huffingtonpost. com/2009/05/04/luis-ramirez-killers-foun_n_195535. html, accessed on May 4, 2009.  Salman Rushdie, “Step Across This Line,” in Step Across This Line: Collected Nonfiction, 1992-2002, (New York: The Modern Library, 2002), 351.
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