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Missing on the Border

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Since the early 1990s, many women have gone missing on the U.S.-Mexico Border. Many of them are found dead, while others are never found at all. J. F. Galarte, a women’s studies professor at the University of Arizona, gives insight to the issue below.

In 1994 when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was established, it was viewed as a promise of economic mobility for Mexico, Galarte said. However, what it did was displace a lot of people from their land, causing the larger cities to become overrun. People began to travel north, and a lot of men went to find work in the U.S.

As women were not able to provide for their families, they became identified as a labor source. Galarte said NAFTA allowed for the building of cheap factories that did not have to adhere to certain environmental and human rights laws, causing women to be heavily recruited to work in the factories, or "maquiladoras," on the border.

These women were recruited to come work because they were perceived as less likely to organize for their rights and the maquiladoras were able to manage their bodies, including forcing women to have menstruation checks and be on birth control to avoid pregnancy.

This movement led to these women being highly exposed and therefore at risk of being captured and murdered.

Many women live in the desert, miles away from their work and have to rely on public transportation to get there.

“Because these women are working 12-hour shifts, that means that in a given day, it is highly likely that they are going into work and getting out of work after midnight between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m.,” he said. This is a time where it is viewed unsafe for a woman to be alone.

A good resource to examine the different theories about who is responsible for taking these women is the documentary Señorita Extraviada by Lourdes Portillo.

Galarte believes it is important for people to understand who pays for the progress we enjoy, because it is these maquiladoras that provide the U.S. with goods like flat screen TV’s and cell phones that we use everyday.

“With the enjoyment of progress and technology, there’s a cost, and in the cost we’re seeing the lives of women being taken and highly scrutinized,” he said.

Now, in a moment where the world is in economic crisis, there is a surge of deaths again. But activist groups on the border like womenontheborder.org are trying to make a change. They are seeking out justice for victims and their families and doing investigative work that the cities don’t have the desire to pursue for the women who are missing, Galarte said.

“Violence can’t only be stopped on one side of the border,” he said.

Written by Hope Jamieson You are reading Missing on the Border articles

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