Thursday, August 25, 2011

Reflection on Maneadero Trip

Spacial Configurations in Maneadero
By Elizabeth Chaney

"Space depends crucially on the notion of articulation, in terms of the articulation of social relations which necessarily have a spatial form in their interactions with one another." (Doreen Massey, as quoted by Mary Pat Brady. Extinct Lands, Temporal Geographies. 2002. Duke University Press)

A rectangular pond/echoed/in/corrugated tin.
Los niños/están/jugando fútbol/en la calle polvorienta.
The ball flies/over clay levies/into irrigation water.
Hay un polo de PVC/Next to the pond.
They fish the ball out/every time.
Excepto en un ocasión/pero/piedras pueden ayuda mover el balón del centro.
It’s peculiar/how distant/los cuarteles son del campo/from the road.
Un hora en el camion/every morning/every night.

Hills fade into a patchwork of fields. The highway runs straight as a pole south from Ensenada. It later curves to hug the landscape as topography interrupts the patchwork. Si acuerdo correctamente, los cuarteles son oeste de donde los campos son interrumpidos por topografia.

I remember clearly a roll of bolsas de plastico, frijoles secos. Two scoops is about a pound-it becomes easy to visually approximate weight, after about 20 bags. "¿Cuáles son?" I feel very uncomfortable being blessed for the effort. We fill the shopping cart to the brim.

I'm hyper-aware of the make and condition of vehicle we drive over dusty roads. It's pretty fuel efficient, it's not a good use of time to fret over what the car may signify in this context. And I can't help but think in the same terms about the car I drive.

"But, the more its shown that "the sort of thing which happens in that place" is partly an outcome of policies designed in this place, the more responsibility we have to do something about it...There is a need, as Susan Sontag once said, to put privilege and suffering on the same map." (Nally, David. "Architectures of Violence: Famine and Profits." Al Jazeera. 2011.

The notion of privilege, I think, has to be wrestled with to avoid rendering it immobile. Its "inflexibility" can seem implicit in the notion of "charity," which depends on a unquestioned verticality of social relationships that extends moral privilege to the resource-privileged. It is, thus, an interesting predicament, when charity serves as a guise to initiate relationships based en horizontalidad. Shouldn't structural conditions that ensure verticality (i.e. polar conditions of resource access) be challenged (opposed) directly?

This is certainly one approach, which edges on allopathy. The basis of Modern Western medicine (i.e. introduce a factor that counters symptoms to attack the ailment), the allopathic approach is effective in sudden crises, but potentially sustains maladies of a more subtle variety. Might the appropriation-subversion of one mechanism that provides ideological backing for the verticality we aim to challenge provide an entry toward addressing structural violence behind conditions weathered by migrant workers?

Perhaps only when subversion of the mechanism runs its course. That is, when "charity" is twisted to serve simply as a means of initiating equitable relationships that may develop over time.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Trip to Maneadero

Recently CAFE members took a weekend trip to Maneadero, Baja California where they experienced firsthand the effects of “free trade”, NAFTA and the hidden cost of a cheap tomato. They brought humanitarian donations (food, vitamins, medical supplies) for the migrant laborers who work on the industrial farms, harvesting the vegetables that fill supermarkets in the U.S. Visiting various encampments where the migrant workers live, they saw the poverty that is created and reinforced by lopsided trade agreements and exploitative labor practices. Most of these workers are of the indigenous Mixtec ethnicity—unable to survive in their hometowns of southern Mexico, they face discrimination and marginalization in northern Mexico where they come to work on these “factory farms”. These “agro-maquiladoras” mirror the massive assembly line factories that dot the landscape near the border.

Participants learned about the economic and political forces that have created this situation, pushing Mixtec men, women and children north to labor in brutal conditions. In addition to visiting the encampments on the farms, visited an orphanage in Maneadero that provides care to the children of the farm workers who are born with birth defects. Back in Tijuana, they visited a group of Mixtec women in the Tijuana neighborhood of Valle Verde who have formed their own sewing coop as an alternative source of income.

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