Mexican Lives Essay

This essay has a total of 1259 words and 6 pages.

Mexican Lives

Mexican Lives


The author of Mexican Lives, Judith Adler Hellman, grapples with the United States'
economic relationship with their neighbors to the south, Mexico. It also considers,
through many interviews, the affairs of one nation. It is a work held to high esteem by
many critics, who view this work as an essential part in truly understanding and capturing
Mexico's history. In Mexican Lives, Hellman presents us with a cast from all walks of
life. This enables a reader to get more than one perspective, which tends to be bias. It
also gives a more inclusive view of the nation of Mexico as a whole. Dealing with rebel
activity, free trade, assassinations and their transition into the modern age, it justly
captures a Mexico in its true light.

All walks of life are presented, from prevailing businessmen of white-collar status, to
those of the working class and labor industry, as well as individuals who deal in the
black market of smuggling illegal immigrants across the border into the U.S. Hellman's
work explores the subject of Mexico's economic situation in the 1990s. NAFTA (North
American Free Trade Agreement) closely tied the United States and Mexico during this
period, as well as similar policies such as GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade)
that were also created. These issues pertaining to economic policies between the two
nations, Mexico and the United States are seen highlighted throughout her work.

Hellman opens with three individuals at three different times. The reader is first
introduced to Lupe Gonzalez at 3 A.M., whose story is a harsh reality for many. She lives
in the vecindad of San Miguel Iztacalco where "eighteen families in eighteen single-room
dwellings share a single water tap in the courtyard…" (pg.15) This is the daily life for
many other Mexican families, as well as families from all over Latin America. She lives in
a single room home with six children and her second husband. The reason for the set time
is due to a schedule that each family must abide by, in order to obtain a simple necessity
of life, water for their "drinking, bathing, cooking, and household cleaning." (pg.15)
With this the reader witnesses how there isn't even enough water for all members of the
community and city for constant usage. They share three beds for all eight family members
and make considerably less then minimum wage in the United Sates. The reader gains insight
into the dealings with the migra, as well as the difficulties of acquiring a sewing
machine illegally from the United States.

Many may use the argument that Hellman purposely picked lifestyles of a harsh and poor
nature, in order to fully drive home her point of supposed economic growth. Unfortunately,
it's the truth, a truth that faces many each and every day of their existence. A life that
for all intent and purpose was meant to flourish with the newly formed relationship
established with Mexico's neighbors to the north, the United States, ultimately took a
turn for the worse. She is able to presents the effects of this supposed economic
development in a very humanistic light, seeing the interviewees unmistakably describe the
negative conditions in which they endure. This being said, one can only help but notice
this downward spiral, which manifested itself with the ties to the American economy.

In chapter seven, the issue of water is seen rehashed yet again for one. Adelita Sandoval,
whom Hellman interviews, shares her reasons for escaping to Tijuana, due to "a violent
alcoholic husband" (pg.162), and the new life she began there. Her willingness to work in
any situation enabled Sandoval to adjust quickly to her new environment. She sought out
employment like everyone else, in what is known as a maquilina. "Mostly foreign-owned,
these factories were constructed under the special tariff arrangements of the Border
Industrialization Program." (pg. 163) Sandoval paints a vivid picture of the long and
monotonous hours in which she worked. One learns of the harsh conditions and neglectful
attitude that was directed at these workers. One could only come to a conclusion that the
foreign owned companies, which for the most part were American owned, installed these
factories in Mexico in order to take full advantage of the low production costs and
overhead as well as codes one must lawfully abide by. Though this may save money for the
American companies, it simultaneously creates an every growing populous of Mexicans close
to the boarder, which begins to cause another issue unto itself. One point I feel
compelled to rehash is the fact, "When citizens cross in the other direction, going from
San Diego County into Baja California, the border may well seem most open in the world,
and the welcome they receive on the Mexican side is eager, to say the least." (pg.161)
Many take this for granted and never really comprehend the truth to Adelita's statement,
it is completely taken for granted. Yet again, Mexico does not have a constant influx of
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