48-101 Lecture Notes - Tsar, United Farm Workers, North American Free Trade Agreement
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• The term borderlands refers to the area of a common culture along the border between Mexico and
the United States. Legal and illegal emigration from Mexico to the United States, day laborers crossing
the border regularly to go to jobs in the United States, the implementation of the North American Free
Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the exchange of media across the border all make the notion of separate
Mexican and U.S. cultures obsolete in the borderlands.
• The economic position of the borderlands is complex in terms of both businesses and workers. Very
visible is the presence of maquiladoras on the Mexican side. These are foreign-owned companies that
establish operations in Mexico yet are exempt from Mexican taxes and are not required to provide
insurance or benefits for their workers. Pay at $1.60 to $2.20 an hour is considered very good by
prevailing wage standards in Mexico. By the year 2000, an estimated 1.3 million Mexican people were
employed in 3,600 maquiladoras. The emergence of factories has been criticized in the United States as
contributing to the flight of manufacturing jobs from other parts of North America to Mexico.
• Immigrant workers have significant economic impact on their home country while employed in the
United States. Many Mexicans send some part of their earnings back across the border to family
members remaining in their country. This substantial flow of money, called remittances or migradollars,
is estimated at a minimum of $9 billion in 2001.
• Inland from the border, hometown clubs have sprung up well into northern cities with large
settlements of Mexicans. Hometown clubs typically are nonprofit organizations that maintain close ties
to immigrants’ hometowns in Mexico and other Latin American cities. Hometown clubs collect money
for improvements in hospitals and schools that are beyond the means of the local people back home.
The work of over 1500 hometown clubs in the United States or Mexican communities (where they will
match funds to encourage such public-inspired efforts) alone reflects the blurring of border distinctions
within the Latino community.
Stereotypes in the Mass Media
• Despite the decrease in the use of some extreme stereotypical depictions of Mexican Americans in
advertising and the media, serious problems remain. For example, a 1990s’ study of the portrayal of
Mexican Americans and other Latinos in television programming found that most shows ignore Latinos
in or present them disproportionately as criminals:
– Latinos made up only 1 percent of television characters during the 1992-1993 season, down from 3
percent in earlier years.
– Sixteen percent of Latino characters in network series programs committed crimes, compared with
only 4 percent of white characters.