In Juarez, women have no worth. They are treated like sex symbols and lowly laborers. When hundreds of them end up missing and murdered in this border town, the authorities don’t take full notice or conduct very complete investigations. Many people claim that these girls simply run away from home or go off to be with their boyfriends. However, more often than not, these theories are incredibly far from the truth. If those were actually the case, then maybe all of these girls wouldn’t end up being brutally beaten, raped, and eventually murdered. Although there have been some arrests, the murders continue, and in a greater multitude than ever before. While Alicia Gaspar de Alba provides many reasons as to why these femicides are occurring, her biggest argument is that the United State’s economy and globalization impact (through the North American Free Trade Agreement) on Mexico is primarily to blame.
Desert Blood, shows that the very places where girls go to work to provide for the rest of their family is also the place that puts them in the greatest danger. Many of the girls who fall victim to the atrocities that continue to occur in this border town work at maquilas. Often times girls lie about their age so that they can get a job at these factories. As if that weren’t bad enough, the conditions that these ladies have to face to make their wages are completely degrading. The demeaning nature of the factories’ actions against their workers adds to the already poor treatment of women in Mexico’s culture. The maquiladoras are forced into situations to make sure they don’t get pregnant, so that the company can have as much productivity as possible. “Listen, you have no idea the kinds of things they do to women at some of those maquilas. They give them birth control shots, they make them show their sanitary napkins every month, they pass around amphetamines to speed up their productivity. Hell, they’ve even got Planned Parenthood coming to insert Norplant, which basically sterilizes the women for months” (Alba 90). Obviously, it is very important for these women to keep their jobs, regardless of their employers’ harmful tactics. They are constantly reminded that there are other girls who will take their jobs if they do not comply with these standards. The author obviously blames these disparaging acts on the whole design of NAFTA. She reasons that because Americans get this labor for cheap, they are less concerned with the environment in which these women must work. Beyond this, however, is a deeper rooted problem that she sees as having a direct correlation to the disappearances of so many women. The girls frequently have to walk alone through very dangerous areas in order to get back to the colonias in which they live. Herein lies a huge issue regarding the murders. In addition to the dangerous working conditions they face, they also face dangerous situations when they try to return home. Many kidnappings happen during these solitary walks. Obviously, these women are not of much worth to the Americans that they labor for or the men that kidnap them after a long day of work. De Alba makes the point that if NAFTA had not come into existence, these women wouldn’t be put into these perilous situations.
De Alba also describes that the cheap labor that NAFTA provides disrupts the gender and economic systems central to Mexicans, thus causing an even deeper problem in Juarez. The maquilas set up a condition in which women become the main bread winners for their families. However, this does not fit into the patriarchal culture of Mexico. “… Juarez is not ready for the liberated woman, at least not in the lower classes. Their traditions are being disrupted in complete disproportion to changes in their economic status. They are expected to alter their value system, to operate within the cultural and political economy of the First World, at the same time that they do not move up on the social ladder. The Mexican gender system cannot accommodate the First World division of labor or the First World freedoms given to women” (Alba 252). So, obviously the ideals that America has are edging their way into Mexico. The problem is, however, that the country’s culture cannot fully assimilate these values because of its own setup. De Alba’s suggestion is that because of this, men are becoming angry. This anger transfers over into a hatred toward these women. This hatred turns into murderous activities.
While NAFTA cannot be directly blamed for the Juarez murders, Alicia Gaspar de Alba believes that its influence on Mexican culture has compelled people to these actions. The dangerous situations that these women face at work, and while leaving work, and the new culture these factories are instilling in the town are largely contributing to the crimes.
De Alba, Alicia Gaspar. Desert Blood. Houston: Arte Publico Press, 2005.