Academic journal article Wagadu: a Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies

From the Revolution to the Maquiladores: Gender, Labor, and Globalization in Nicaragua

Academic journal article Wagadu: a Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies

From the Revolution to the Maquiladores: Gender, Labor, and Globalization in Nicaragua

Article excerpt

Review of From the Revolution to the Maquiladores: Gender, Labor, and Globalization in Nicaragua by Jennifer Bickham Mendez. Duke University Press.

In 1994, a small group of women in post-revolutionary Nicaragua founded an organization called Maria Elena Cuadra (MEC), dedicated to improving the lives of Nicaraguan working class women. Jennifer Bickham-Mendez, the author, documents the organization's political evolution from 1994 to 2000. Bickham-Mendez was able to trace the history and tactics of this organization through the adoption of the participant-observer method, yet she is careful to justify this approach. Bickham-Mendez appropriately points out that despite her close ties to the organization, MEC, she was still considered an outsider because of her status as a foreigner and researcher. The majority of her data was collected in Nicaragua from 1996 to 1997. The objective of this study was to provide a view of globalization from the bottom up. Thus, the Bickham-Mendez seeks to emphasize how female workers reacted to globalization and transformed its impact in a small and relatively powerless country. The author arrived in Nicaragua at a particularly challenging time for labor organizations.

As Bickham-Mendez points out, the Left, in both the world at large and Nicaragua, had lost much of its prestige and legitimacy. A changed national and international context, which included the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas and the collapse of the Soviet Union, compelled the MEC to elaborate new political strategies. The new economy that emerged in the mid-1990s reflected these political changes. Workers that were previously employed by state-owned or national companies were now working for multinational corporations. Indeed, many of the women that the MEC sought to empower were employed by multinationals in the newly established free trade zone. Thus labor and grassroots tactics that were effective in placing pressure on national companies no longer functioned in this new transnational environment. However, this new transnational political and economic environment also presented new political opportunities in that funding from NGOs in Canada and Europe became available to Nicaraguan activist organizations. …

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