Organizing from the Maquiladoras to the University: Dialogue and Reflections Among Women Migrant and Maquiladora Workers in Mexico
n February researchers from the International Migration Research Centre (IMRC) participated in “the First Forum on International Migration and Transnational Studies” hosted by the “Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla” (BUAP) in the capital of the state of Puebla in Mexico. This forum was part of a joint initiative with the centre through a Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) “North American Research Linkages” grant. The forum convened researchers from all over Mexico, as well as Europe, Canada and the United States, to discuss points of interest in the ample field of transnational migration studies.
The IMRC sponsored a community mesa (round table) that bridged the divide between researchers and “the researched” that powerfully closed the forum. The community mesa in turn was organized by “Justice/Justicia for Migrant Workers” (J4MW) and the “Centro de Apoyo al Trabajador,” Puebla (known as el CAT in Spanish) by bringing together women from the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) and women maquiladora workers in the auto-parts industry along with activists from grassroots organizations for much needed dialogue and reflection. This community mesa attests to the longstanding transnational work and networks established by J4MW in Mexico and Canada. These spaces and exchanges are crucial to building new alliances and strengthening movements for transnational change. They also speak to the importance of activist based scholarship that seeks to democratize academic spaces with the voices and representations of the very people and movements that inspire our academic and political commitments.
From the onset, it may appear that women migrant farm workers to Canada and maquiladora workers in Puebla and Tlaxcala, Mexico, have little in common. Yet both groups of women are integrated in the global economy through their work as transnational/internal migrant workers bound to foreign capital. Moreover, it could be argued that women in the SAWP work in rural spaces that function like agricultural maquiladoras, with lax labour laws and an absentee state favouring employers, profit and industry over the labour and human rights of workers. The women share hardships from their low income working class status and vulnerabilities that render them disposable to employers. Furthermore, the women have similar work and life trajectories. Many women in the SAWP have worked in maquiladoras, and many in the maquiladora industry—whether in textiles, electronics or auto parts - are internal migrants from diverse regions within Mexico and at some point in their lives become transnational migrants to mostly the US and some to Canada. Essentially, they live and work in the same place; in this instance in Puebla and Tlaxcala. They work in maquiladoras in one form or the other. And most importantly, both groups of women face serious reprisals and repercussions when they organize themselves and resist unfair labour practices. After their testimonies and reflections, any remaining differences faded with powerful intersecting commonalities among maquiladora and migrant women farm workers.
Encalada Grez, E. (2010). Organizing from the Maquiladoras to the University: Dialogue and Reflections Among Women Migrant and Maquiladora Workers in Mexico. Just Labour 16, 76-83.
This article was originally published in Just Labour 16, 76-83. © 2010 by Evelyn Encalada Grez. Reproduced with permission.