Nafta

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The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) wields a double-edged sword in Mexico. This trilateral trade agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the United States, signed into force in 1994, has evidently favored the United States while Mexico has taken a downturn in the very areas the agreement claimed would it help. With a frustrated economy and heightened rates of unemployment, Mexico has seen an interesting cultural shift as a result. With distinct gender roles for men and women, known as "machismo" and "marianismo," which dictate certain behavioral expectations for members of that community, NAFTA has significantly refined this convention. With the opening of the maquiladoras, or foreign-owned border factories, in Mexico, there has been a noticeable shift in gender roles and a subsequent increase of misogynic violence and homicide. The 2006 film, Bordertown, directed by Gregory Nava, examines this issue surrounding the numerous homicides in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, and presents to the audience not only the atrocities of the murders themselves, but also how local authorities have attempted to cover these events up and prevent such stories from being publicized. This essay will examine NAFTA’s impact upon Hispanic culture and the reshaping of gender’s relationship between employment and the media in Mexico.

Globalization has complicated class relations nationally and internationally. As corporations utilize different global locations for differential production and outsource labor, they transform these spaces and people. Jessica Livingston, author of Murder in Juárez: Gender, Sexual Violence, and the Global Assembly Line, explains that with major corporations constructing factories in nations such as Mexico, a new phenomenon of migration and independence has occurred among working women. The maquiladoras are understood to favor women when hiring, due to their “manual dexterity and… ability to tolerate tedious and repetitive work” (Livingston 61). Further, “women tend to put up with poor working conditions more readily than do men” (Pantaleo 14). Yet, by hailing women from afar to come work, albeit in a highly expendable position, the companies behind these factories are disrupting this rather conservative cultural idea of the "machismo" and "marianismo", where men are understood support the family with an income while the women tend to the household and children. This increase of women in the workplace, as Livingston states, “undermines men as workers by defining women as the ideal workers” (Livingston 69). However, the Mexican economy has shown that one income is no longer sufficient enough to support a household. “NAFTA promised jobs and prosperity, but in 1995 Mexico lost more than a million jobs, and the peso devaluation cut the standard of living in hald for most workers. While real wages decreased, the cost of living continues to rise. Over the past twenty years, income of Mexican workers has fallen to twenty-five percent of its previous purchasing power” (Livingston 65). It would appear that it has become almost a necessity for women to seek employment, even at the risk of the gender hostility that ensues. Bordertown closely resembles Livingston’s article, as they both examine the homicides in Juárez, but what is of most interest is the police investigations and media coverage that follows. The careless police work, in both preventing and solving the crimes, along with the shoddy coverage by local media is something that Bordertown stresses. As the film shows, the victims are often isolated young, poor women leaving from work and assaulted by the male bus drivers. After one woman, Eva, assaulted and left for dead, survives, reporter/protagonist, Lauren Adrian, played by Jennifer Lopez, arrives in Juárez to reveal and report the culprit(s) of the murders by baiting herself as an employee at the same maquiladora as Eva. She is eventually attacked in a similar way as Eva but manages to escape. She implores...
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