Date: Sat, 10 Aug 1996 21:24:12 -0400 (EDT)
To: (Multiple Recipients of List Mexico2000)
Subject: [PNS] The Life of a Maquiladora Worker 

The key phrase in this interview is: "just so that we can live a
little better". Without the maquiladora, how would they survive? How
would they "live a little better"? The problem with most people who
write about the "miserable condition" of the maquila workers is that
they are comparing with U.S. standards of today.  What about living
standards of U.S. workers when we were beginning to industrialize? I
believe that you could paint just as bleak a picture of the condition
of workers here in many industries a century ago. It takes a long time
to develop a higher standard of living. No one is going to give it to
Maria or anyone else. It will be earned through greater skills
developed on the job, through better education, and through the
gradual evolution of the maquilas into factories producing for Mexican
and worldwide markets.

I live in Laredo, Texas and I often go to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. I have
observed the gradual development of newly created slums occupied
mostly by maquila workers. A typical slum that I have been observing
started out about 10 years ago when squatters came in and occupied a
large tract of unoccupied land on the outskirts. Most of the units
were mere shelters made of packing boxes, pallets, and cardboard
cartons. There was no running water, no sewage system, and the trails
of dirt became rivers of mud several times each year.  After about
three years, many of the houses began to have permanent roofs, and
some had walls of concrete block or wood. A couple of years later, the
government provided some funds to purchase gravel, cement and sand for
gravel streets and cement curbs. The people contributed most of the
labor.  The gravel streets made it possible for the workers to go to
their jobs without being wet and muddy to their knees.

A couple of years later, more houses had concrete block walls and
cement floors. Then the government started a new project for water and
sewage. Again, the people contributed most of the labor.

Last week, I drove through the area and found that all of the streets
are gravel (some are even paved), all have water and sewage, most have
wooden or concrete walls, almost all have cement floors. The people
are building fences, and a few are beginning to plant trees.

It is true that most families have two or more working members. It is
true that they make much less than U.S. workers. It is true that they
live a hard life. But it is also true that they are living much better
today than they did 10 years ago, and it is true that they have done
most of it through their own efforts. They are proud of what they have
done. They are suffering because of Mexico's current economic

The most important point is that they are progressing. If they had
stayed in the villages from which they came, they would most likely
have no possibility of employment. They might not have survived. The
maquilas have provided an opportunity to work and progress. They are
learning how to survive in and industrial environment. They are
becoming more valuable workers, and they will be receiving higher pay
because they will be producing more. It will not be fast, and it will
not be easy=but progress is being made.

The Mexican worker is at least as efficient as the UP.SE. worker given
the training and experience. When Mexicans do not have a job, they
shine shoes, sell tacos on the street, clean windshields, or any of
100 different small tasks. They do not sit and wait for someone to
come and provide them with food and shelter.

The conditions in many maquiladoras are equal to those in U.S.
factories. In almost all of the maquilas, conditions are much better
than they were back in the villages the workers came from.

I am sick of hearing tear jerking stories about the "poor abused"
maquila workers. It is time that some reporter goes out and really
learns what is happening and writes about the great spirit, quality,
and hard work of the workers, and the opportunities that the maquilas
are providing to people who would otherwise have no work. If someone
wants to write the real story, I will donate time to show them what is

Bert Kraus