Alternative Assignment to Attending Field Trip To Nogales, Sonora
Short End of The Stick
It appears that what is being seen all along the national border is now taking place in some of our "in city" borders. For years, Mexicans and Mexican Americans have been getting the shaft in agreements that appear golden on paper but quickly tarnish when they are put into effect in the real world. In Miriam Davidson's "Lives On The Line: Dispatches from the U.S.- Mexico Border" readers are walked through tons of scenarios and situations in which Mexicans are constantly taken advantage of by their Mexican counterparts. My experience at the Pick-a-Part junkyard on Broadway Road and 35th Avenue furthered the stories in the book.
Yolanda, Jimmy, Dario Miranda's family, the children of Barrio Libre Sur, Jose and Hope are all perfect examples of how Nogales has fallen ill to empty promises. Yolanda worked hard for a very long time and still barely got by. But despite this, she was positive and put all of her faith in the Lord and thanked him for what he did give her. Jimmy fought a long battle with cancer as well as with politicians and scientists and all of his work lies in wait. Dario Mirandas's family got to see the American penal system do them no justice in allowing the wrongdoings of Michael Andrew Elmer to go umpunished. The children of Barrio Libre Sur are forced into the underground world to make a decent living for themselves that they would never get from working an honest day at a maquiladora. Jose and Hope did all they could to help and it strained them. In the end Jose was taken to be with his God and Hope handed off House of Mercy to Borderlinks to help in any way she could. All of these people have seen firsthand the damage that NAFTA and the entrance of tons of maquiladoras has done to Nogales, Sonora and Arizona. The story of George and Edgar are no different than those Davidson wrote about in her book. No different except for their location.
I met George and Edgar, Saturday March 28th 2009. I always go to the junk yards on the weekends to get spare parts for my or my boyfriend's car but really opened my eyes to see what was clearly in front of me. The junkyards are such a vast inner city border that you cannot look any direction without being inundated with Hispanic culture. From the taco stands at the entrance to the hundreds of Hispanic males taking cars apart inside, you would never guess you were in the United States. George and Edgar preferred that I did not take a picture of them as they are undocumnted and therefore were also uncomfortable with my line of questioning.
They are from Cananea, Sonora, Mexico and have been in Phoenix for just over six months. They are brothers; George being 19 and Edgar beig 24. The junkyards are where they conduct all of their business to make money. Their cousin owns a car dealership slash repair shop and they collect spare parts for him. Whatever he needs and more they bring him by the truckload. He pays them 50 dollars for atruck bed. I would not have said this in front of them, but it really appeared as if their cousin may be taking advantage of them. Just as maquiladoras underpay workers and glorify the situation by saying that they would be a lot worse off, the same situation in applied here. The cousin pays them 50 dollars and they figure it is oaky since they could be doing worse so they continue to collect parts for meager wages. Edgar and George send everything they can home to their families. George is married with two children and Edgar sends money home to help their mother.
They, unlike the case of some other migrants we have studied about in class, do want to permanently reside in the United States someday. They save money so that they can hopefully send for thei families some day. Cananea has become extreely overrun with drug cartels and therefore the city has become extremely volatile and dangerous. The pressure to send more and more drugs to the United States has the drug business booming with nothing in it's way to stop it. As with the children of Barrio Libre Sur, people turn to crime as a means to make money as the profits are far better. Edgar tells me a story of their little brother who was recruited as a bodyguard for a drug lord back home. His face is burdened with sadness and he discusses his brother.
Mexicans on both the Mexico side of the border as well as the US side all share similar stories. Their work ethic and propensity to be honest make them great candidates for employees, but unfortuanately, not employees worth paying fair wages. As Davidson reports in her book Douglas Chapman had different ideas about Mexican employees that all should follow suit after. As the CEO of a company with a maquiladora in Nogales he one day visited there. The living conditions astonished him and he started raising money to give Mexicans the lifestyle that they deserved. Though it was not quite a raise in wages it was a good start. Just stepping outside of yourself and caring about others, especially those who pay your bills is a huge step for a CEO of a macho company.
Unions that cannot be rejected be maquiladoras should be a next big important step in the Mexican government. While some unions have been set up, without the backing that they needed from the Mexican government they were easily thwarted, their demands going unheard and unresolved. In Davidson's book, Jose and Hope were a gracious example of caring for others. Though Hope may have had some issues with her anger, her intentions were pure and she sought to help others as her husband Jose unrelentingly did as well. Even in his last year he begged Hope to keep the House of Mercy alive. After his death she did so, but in a much different way. With Borderlinks' help she was able to keep the cafeteria abd help in the way of education. Educating outsiders is an important step in rehabilitating the city of Nogales. But it is not just Nogales that is suffering due to outside influence.
As said before Edgar and George are from Cananea, Sonora, a hotbed for drug growth and distributiom. The DEA would love to get their hands on Cananea if only it was not outside of their jurisdiction. Edgar recalss a spike in the demand for marijuana around 2001. All of a sudden people were running around with more guns and bigger trucks. That was when the drug lords got their little brother. When he was just 11 they made him an offer and he has not returned home since. It is not sage and it breaks their hearts that their families are back there amidst all of the turmoil. I am of course paraphrasing and summarizing this interview to the best of my ability. They did not say much but what they did say had a great impact on me. From their little brother to their families and their wages the interview was a great success on my part. It really helped me tie the situation of these migrants into the book.
One of the things that I was suprised by was the lack of border control agencies present. While I would not have wanted my new friends Edgar and George to be taken in, it seemed that in such a predominantly Hispanic area of town that the enforcement would be stepped up just a bit. Broadway Road is just a few blocks from my home on Apache Boulevard so I thought, after reading the assignment prompt over, that it would be interesting to take Broadway Road all the way home as opposed to taking the freeway so I could really see where Mexico "ended" and America "began"/ Let me tell you that most of Broadway Road is Hispanic territory. I drove far down Broadway and it was not until I was past the I-10 that I started seeing familiar sights. As I got closer to the ASU Tempe campus all of the Hispanic culture I had encountered seemed to wash away. No more no- name taco shops or broken down cars in empty lots. No more Hispanic families waiting for the bus or girls dancing home rather than walking. Just America. Plain, boring America. Buses, brand new cars, 7-11's and apartment complexes. All of the history and culture I had driven through was gone. It was as if Edgar and George had not even existed even though my notebook said otherwise.
That's the way it is though. It is not so much that they Edgars, Georges, Cristinas and Yolandas do not exist; it is that the United States does not want them to. CEO's of important companies like Delta or Foster Grant know that real people, not dogs, are working in their factories and yet they treat them no better than dogs. Edgar and George's cousin, their own family, knows that they wages are unfair after they have slaved in the hot sun with no cover for a day picking parts, but he does not care. Mexicans working both in Mexico and in America are the true invisible children and it is not beacuse they are quiet or actually invisible, it is because we aren't listening and definitely not looking. The evidence that Mexicans are being mistreated and taken advantage of is as plain as day and can be viewed by anyone who cares to know. A historic culture is being driven into the ground be forces outside of itself. What will we do to aide them? When will our helpful attempts not come up wanting? It is time for Americans to step up, to acknowledge our hand in Mexico's dwindling economy and to stop taking advantage of an innocent hard working people. The time to act is now. It is time to help Mexixo out of the hole we helped them dig.