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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