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2003 Summer Institute for Teachers

Ten Years After NAFTA:
How Has Globalization Affected Mexico?

Photos

Conditions on the San Diego/Tijuana Border

Since 2000, the Center for Latin American Studies has organized visits to Tijuana for the International Association of Machinists (IAM). In November, 2002 the program was extended to the Executive Committee of the International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF). The trips focus on the maquiladora industry and its effects on the communities of the border region. The following are photos from these trips.

Crosses Along the Border, 2002
Photo: CLAS Staff

Crosses memorializing immigrants who died trying to reach the United States have been placed on the heavily fortified border wall that separates Tijuana from San Diego.

State-of-the-Art Maquilas, 2002
Photo: CLAS Staff

This maquila in one of Tijuana’s new industrial parks could easily be mistaken for a building in San Diego. The roads in this area are new and well-paved, and professional landscaping surrounds the factories.

Factories on the Hillside, 2002
Photo: CLAS Staff

These factories — part of an older maquiladora development — sit on a hillside overlooking residential areas below.

Prohibido El Paso, 2002
Photo: CLAS Staff

Adjacent to the working factories is a sign reading: “Restricted Area. It is prohibited to enter this property. Dangerous waste.” Behind it, a fence surrounds the abandoned Metales y Derivados factory.

Metales y Derivados, 2002
Photo: CLAS Staff

Metales y Derivados was a factory opened by an American businessman in 1972 to recycle batteries. It moved to its current location in the Otay Mesa Industrial Park in 1982. The maquila was shut down by the Mexican government in 1994 after repeatedly flouting Mexican environmental regulations. The owner moved back across the border to San Diego to evade arrest, leaving 6,000 tons of toxic waste — including lead, arsenic and cadmium — in the open air. In spite of years of legal wrangling, the Mexican government has been unable to force the company to clean up the mess.

A complaint was filed with the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (NACEC) in 1998 alleging that the Mexican government had failed to enforce its own environmental regulations. In November, 2002 NACEC — the body created to monitor environmental problems in the NAFTA side agreements — issued a factual record documenting the problem. Publishing a factual record is the harshest sanction the NACEC has ever imposed in any case brought before it.

Piles of Lead Slag: Metales y Derivados, 2002
Photo: CLAS Staff

Piles of lead slag are left out in the open or in rusting barrels at the site of the abandoned Metales y Derivados factory. When it rains, the toxins contaminate the soil. When the wind blows, piles of fine ash form along the hillside.

Danger, 2002
Photo: CLAS Staff

A sign on the wall around Metales y Derivados reads: “Danger: Lead Contamination!” Looking closely, one can see where toxic run-off from the site has eaten away at the concrete along the bottom of the wall (at lower right).

Path Along the Hillside, 2002
Photo: CLAS Staff

Members of the IMF walk along a path beside the Metales y Derivados site. The path leads to a squatter’s camp, Colonia Chilpancingo, at the bottom of the hill where many of the maquiladora workers live. Workers use this path to get to work. Children walk this way to go to school.

It is no coincidence that children in the community test positive for elevated levels of lead in their blood. In addition, Chilpancingo has an abnormally high rate of birth defects, including anencephaly, a rare condition in which babies are born with no brain.

Colonia Chilpancingo, 2001
Dionicia Ramos

Colonia Chilpancingo lies in the valley beneath the Otay Mesa Industrial Park. Most of the families that live here have one or more members working full-time in the maquilas. They choose to live in this squatter’s camp because rents in the established neighborhoods are unaffordable. Colonia Chilpancingo is not connected to the electric grid and has no garbage or water service. Community members must purchase their water at inflated prices from a vendor who comes by weekly with a water truck.

Packing Crate Houses, 2002
Photo: CLAS Staff

Many of the homes in Chilpancingo are made out of packing crates the workers buy from the maquilas.

Run-Off, 2001
Dionicia Ramos

This fetid creek runs through the middle of Chilpancingo. The water flows down from the polluted mesa above. Community members claim that a drainage pipe carrying toxins from the maquilas still in operation runs only at night to evade detection by government officials.

Bridge, 2002
Photo: CLAS Staff

Community members built this makeshift bridge across the river of run-off that divides the two sides of Chilpancingo.

 

MORE PHOTOS

National Geographic’s web site “Journey” chronicles Michael Parfit’s flight over Mexico in a Cessna 210. Included are photos from different areas of Mexico.


Research Questions

What is globalization?

Why did the U.S., Mexico and Canada sign NAFTA?

Why were the labor and environment side agreements added?

Does the labor side agreement protect workers?

Does the environmental side agreement protect the environment?

What is Chapter 11?

How has globalization affected growth in Mexico?

Who benefits from NAFTA?

What is sustainable development?

Should NAFTA be expanded?

 
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