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Mexican Lives

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Autor:  anton  22 October 2010
Tags:  Mexican
Words: 1243   |   Pages: 5
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Mexican Lives

The author of Mexican Lives, Judith Adler Hellman, grapples with the United States' economic relationship with their neighbors to the south, Mexico. It also considers, through many interviews, the affairs of one nation. It is a work held to high esteem by many critics, who view this work as an essential part in truly understanding and capturing Mexico's history. In Mexican Lives, Hellman presents us with a cast from all walks of life. This enables a reader to get more than one perspective, which tends to be bias. It also gives a more inclusive view of the nation of Mexico as a whole. Dealing with rebel activity, free trade, assassinations and their transition into the modern age, it justly captures a Mexico in its true light.

All walks of life are presented, from prevailing businessmen of white-collar status, to those of the working class and labor industry, as well as individuals who deal in the black market of smuggling illegal immigrants across the border into the U.S. Hellman's work explores the subject of Mexico's economic situation in the 1990s. NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) closely tied the United States and Mexico during this period, as well as similar policies such as GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) that were also created. These issues pertaining to economic policies between the two nations, Mexico and the United States are seen highlighted throughout her work.

Hellman opens with three individuals at three different times. The reader is first introduced to Lupe Gonzalez at 3 A.M., whose story is a harsh reality for many. She lives in the vecindad of San Miguel Iztacalco where "eighteen families in eighteen single-room dwellings share a single water tap in the courtyardВ…" (pg.15) This is the daily life for many other Mexican families, as well as families from all over Latin America. She lives in a single room home with six children and her second husband. The reason for the set time is due to a schedule that each family must abide by, in order to obtain a simple necessity of life, water for their "drinking, bathing, cooking, and household cleaning." (pg.15) With this the reader witnesses how there isn't even enough water for all members of the community and city for constant usage. They share three beds for all eight family members and make considerably less then minimum wage in the United Sates. The reader gains insight into the dealings with the migra, as well as the difficulties of acquiring a sewing machine illegally from the United States.

Many may use the argument that Hellman purposely picked lifestyles of a harsh and poor nature, in order to fully drive home her point of supposed economic growth. Unfortunately, it's the truth, a truth that faces many each and every day of their existence. A life that for all intent and purpose was meant to flourish with the newly formed relationship established with Mexico's neighbors to the north, the United States, ultimately took a turn for the worse. She is able to presents the effects of this supposed economic development in a very humanistic light, seeing the interviewees unmistakably describe the negative conditions in which they endure. This being said, one can only help but notice this downward spiral, which manifested itself with the ties to the American economy.

In chapter seven, the issue of water is seen rehashed yet again for one. Adelita Sandoval,

whom Hellman interviews, shares her reasons for escaping to Tijuana, due to "a violent alcoholic husband" (pg.162), and the new life she began there. Her willingness to work in any situation enabled Sandoval to adjust quickly to her new environment. She sought out employment like everyone else, in what is known as a maquilina. "Mostly foreign-owned, these factories were constructed under the special tariff arrangements of the Border Industrialization Program." (pg. 163) Sandoval paints a vivid picture of the long and monotonous hours in which she worked. One learns of the harsh conditions and neglectful attitude that was directed at these workers. One could only come to a conclusion that the foreign owned companies, which for the most part were American owned, installed these factories in Mexico in order to take full advantage of the low production costs and overhead as well as codes one must lawfully abide by. Though this may save money for the American companies, it simultaneously creates an every growing populous of Mexicans close to the boarder, which begins to cause another issue unto itself. One point I feel compelled to rehash is the fact, "When citizens cross in the other direction, going from San Diego County into Baja California, the border may well seem most open in the world, and the welcome they receive on the Mexican side is eager, to say the least." (pg.161) Many take this for granted and never really comprehend the truth to Adelita's statement, it is completely taken for granted. Yet again, Mexico does not have a constant influx of illegal immigrants like the United States, but who's fault is that?

In this same chapter, three separate individuals live on the boarder of the United States and Mexico. These unique windows into another's world clearly reveal key issues concerning the intertwined nature of Mexico and the United States economies. This forced nature in which Mexicans must submit and conform to the pressure that the United States exerts, if one is to make an earnest living, is rigorous and harsh. Thus, it seems natural that one would begin to rely on the country that prospered from their labor, in order for them to survive in their own country.

This is where Hellman presents two individuals where this is relevant. The stories of Maria del Rosario Valdez, who travels hours upon hours to Laredo, Texas where her journey leads her to, "Los Tres Hermanos, a huge wholesaler of used clothing." (pg.153). This is not the expensive or complicated part of the trip, "The real uncertainty and expense comes with bringing the goods back to Mexico." (pg. 155) However, the reader sees that Maria accepts these conditions as part of life: "You have to understand, thousands of people at the border live from collecting bribes. The entire economy of cities like Nuevo Laredo rests on the money people extort from others. It's a way of lifeВ… The NAFTA treaty isn't meant to rescue people like us, it's meant to help the rich" (pg. 157) Later, the reader learns that Maria was driven out of business by competators after NAFTA took effect.

Mexican Lives is a rare piece of literature that accounts for the human struggle of an underdeveloped nation, which is kept impoverished in order to create wealth for that of another nation, the United States. The reader is shown that the act of globalization and inclusion in the world's economies, more directly the United States, is not always beneficial to all parties involved. The data and interviews, which Hellman has put forth for her readers, contain some aspect of negativity that has impacted their lives by their nation's choice to intertwine their economy with that of the United States. Therefore it can only be concluded that the entering into world markets, that of Mexico into the United States, does not always bring on positive outcomes. Thus, one sees that Mexico has become this wasteland of economic excrement; as a result it has become inherently reliant on the United States.

Work Cited:

Judith A. Hellman: Mexican Lives.

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