Segments in this Video

Meet Maquiladora Worker Carmen Duran (02:35)


Maquiladora worker Carmen arrived in Tijuana at age 13; she has worked in 9 factories. In the '60s, the maquiladoras paid better wages than in the rest of Mexico, attracting migrants. C(Credits)

Political Economic Basis of Maquiladoras (01:35)

In the '60s, the U.S. and Mexico initiated the maquiladora industry with a trade treaty. Foreign companies come for tax breaks and cheap labor.

Unfair Labor Practices (02:53)

A woman who made flybacks for TVs produced in Mexico complains of labor practices. The company moved production to Indonesia; workers filed a labor claim when it refused to pay severance.

NAFTA and Tijuana Products (01:24)

NAFTA brought more factories to Tijuana. Workers list products made there.

River Pollution in Mexican Neighborhood (01:52)

Lourdes Lujan shows us the poor neighborhood where she has always lived. Families once came to swim in the river, but pollution has ruined it.

Pollution and Health Problems (01:33)

This Mexican industrial city is on a mesa; its chemicals end up in a neighborhood down below. People discuss the health effects.

Mexico's Promotoras (02:56)

"Promotoras" are women who have worked in Mexico's factories, have learned their rights and formed a movement. Promotoras participate in a border tour with U.S. activists.

Globalization Commoditizes Workers (03:40)

Women come all over Mexico to Tijuana for work; factories see them as vulnerable and easy to exploit. With globalization, if a woman defends her rights, the job can be shipped elsewhere.

Legal Challenge Over Severance (02:28)

Government legal assistance for workers' severance claims against Sanyo in Mexico is inadequate. Workers turn to Jaime Cota, who explains that Sanyo seeks to use this case as a precedent; he prepares them for a long fight.

Lead Contamination (01:46)

A woman working the night shift at the Panasonic factory in Mexico talks about lead contamination at the factory, and health effects such as the risk of leukemia.

Life of Mexican Working Mother (01:29)

A poor woman shows us her daily life caring for her kids and house by day, then working the night shift.

Cost of Basic Necessities (01:10)

A Mexican woman talks about the amount of work needed to buy milk and water. She sends her son to buy a jug of water, which he carries home.

Lead Recycling Plant and Health (01:56)

A Mexican woman became an activist after she participated in a health survey and learned about birth defects resulting from pollution. An abandoned lead recycling plant leaves people exposed.

Downsides of Capital Mobility (02:48)

After the environmental agency shut down a Mexican plant, the factory was abandoned and left contaminated as the owner fled to the U.S. He makes millions in profits off the parent company.

Mexico's Labor Arbitration Negotiations (02:46)

The labor arbitration hearing is about to begin. The company has made an offer. A woman thinks the arbitration board takes the company's side.

Ghost Unions (01:38)

A woman who worked in a Mexican pantyhose factory says the union failed to fight for workers. "Ghost unions" protect the employer, who pays them. Companies fire union organizers with impunity.

IMF Control (01:32)

Mexican labor law is worker-friendly but unenforced. The IMF and World Bank got Mexico to promise wages would not increase.

Repetitive Job (01:07)

A Mexican woman wonders how her kids are doing at home as she does her repetitive job.

Polluting Factory (01:57)

We see one of Mexico's factory drain pipes point straight at the river. Ash falls on women walking nearby.

Mexican Factory Creates Floods (01:57)

The San Diego Environmental Health Coalition helped found Chilpancingo Collective, which is holding a Christmas party. Factories release waste water as soon as it starts to rain, creating flooding.

Protesters Demand Government Environmental Help (01:42)

The Collective has grown. It holds demonstrations outside PROFEPA offices to demand a visit by an environmental official.

Mexican Government Thwarts Activists (01:48)

A PROFEPA official addresses protesters, arguing PROFEPA has done what it could and it is up to the attorney general to pursue environmental crimes. President Fox denies there is a problem.

Life of Mexican Poor (02:06)

A woman's house is made of garage doors from the U.S. The neighborhood lacks sewage lines. Kids play in infected water.

Loose Wires and Bad Government (03:01)

Short-circuiting electrical wires on the ground are an electrocution danger. Parents talk about the near-fatal electrocution of their daughter. The Mexican government provides inadequate services.

Loss of Jobs to Asia (01:45)

2001 economic crisis and cheap labor in Asia has caused job losses. Asia, has replaced Tijuana, Mexico as the cheap labor source.

Activists Talk to Business Leaders (02:44)

A border tour visits Baja California's Office of Economic Development. Business leaders answer activists' critical questions, arguing their workers have adequate living standards.

Repetitive Labor (00:51)

Using their hands in an empty room, Mexican factory workers demonstrate their repetitive jobs.

Victory for the Collective (01:13)

The U.S. and Mexican governments agree to pay for cleanup of a polluted site; Collective members boast that the governments fear them. We watch a signing ceremony for the agreement.

Signing Ceremony for Cleanup Project (02:49)

We watch the signing ceremony for a cleanup agreement between the Collective and U.S. and Mexican environmental agencies. An activist notes that despite the victory, hundreds of other factories pollute.

Worker's Struggles and Victory (01:38)

A woman got repeatedly got sick due to led at a Mexican Panasonic factory, so they fired her. In her and her fellow workers' dispute with Sanyo, however, she was awarded $2,000.

Mexican Company Deceives Employees (02:37)

A woman shows us a now-empty factory where she worked. The factory moved to avoid taxes, claiming it was bankrupt and could no longer rent the building.

Tijuana's Problems and Hopes (02:19)

Tijuana, Mexico is home to exploitation, but also dreams. Workers talk about their dreams and struggles.

Credits: Maquilapolis (02:12)

Credits: Maquilapolis

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Carmen worked the graveyard shift in a Tijuana maquiladora, one of the hundreds of factories owned by transnational corporations who ship components to a free trade zone to be assembled at slave wages, then sent back to the country of origin duty-free. But when the plant relocated to Asia and refused to provide severance pay, Carmen became a promotora, or grassroots activist and challenged its illegal tactics. Lourdes became a promotora when the U.S. owners of a battery-recycling factory neglected to clean up the tons of toxic waste that was causing significant health problems in her community. This program tells the story of the two promotoras and their quest to hold corporations accountable for unethical practices in Mexico’s free trade zone. Portions with English subtitles. (68 minutes)

Length: 69 minutes

Item#: BVL49801

Copyright date: ©2006

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

2007 Award of Merit in Film—Latin American Studies Association


”By making the women themselves an integral part of the filmmaking process the director enables them to successfully tackle challenges many would consider hopeless. Refusing pity, these women exhibit a determination and faith in the future that can only be described as uplifting.”  Variety 


 “A portrait of the perils of globalization that admirably seeks new forms of expression...a stirring work that will provoke genuine outrage.”  The New York Times


”Argues not for special privileges but for a flicker of justice.”  Time

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