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The Maquiladora Reader – Cross-border Organizing Since NAFTA
Edited by Rachael Kamel and Anya Hoffman

Pennsylvania: American Friends Service Committee, 1999
131 pp.; $14.95; discount 30% 5+ copies
$3.50 S&H, $2 ea. Additional copy
ISBN 0-910082-35-9

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In the post-NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) era, little information has been available in the media about the continuing effect of maquiladoras on the U.S./Mexico border. The Maquiladora Reader was designed to fill this gap. It is a compilation of articles that have been published since NAFTA's signing.

Some of these articles show their age, but many are still pertinent to the struggles that continue to this day. There is an overview of the Maquiladora industry today — how the number of maquilas is expanding greatly, and the number of labor groups trying to organize is also increasing, but at a much slower pace. It is a struggle for organizers to break into this industry, to try to reform a system that doesn't want to reform. We see how women are directly affected — they are the majority of people hired, are economically exploited, sexually harassed, and even killed (the Ciudad Juarez murders in 1995-7).

Health and environmental issues are also featured. The continuing health problems — babies born with spina bifida (neural tube defect) and anencephaly (when babies are born with incomplete or missing brains) — is of great concern to many living and working along the border. Maquiladora communities have been called a "virtual cesspool and breeding ground for infectious diseases." While there is hope that the NAFTA creation of the Border Environmental Cooperation Commission (BECC) and the North American Development Bank (NADBank) will be of some help in cleaning up the border, the consensus is that their usefulness won't come anytime in the near future.

There are other articles about cross-border initiatives, labor organizing, and NAFTA's future. The Maquiladora Reader is primarily a post-NAFTA history of maquiladoras along the U.S./Mexico border. The articles are excellent, but they don't go into as much detail as one would hope. One is left with more questions than answers. Thankfully, there is a resources directory at the end of the book — names, addresses, phone numbers, and some web sites, to get more current information. Overall, this book would be helpful to anyone interested in some of the history of social justice, women's issues, and environmental health along the border.

Annette Aguayo

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"Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth…that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have dreamt would have come his way."
– W.H. Murray in The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.

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