The Anthropology of Globalization: Cultural Anthropology Enters the 21st Century

By Ted C. Lewellen | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

Introduction: Who Is Alma?

Finally, it is necessary to emphasize the global character that productive processes assume in the maquiladoras, and the advantages and difficulties this poses for workers' struggles.

Norma Iglesias Prieto 1

Alma was born in the small village of Cacahuatepec in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. While she was still in primary school, her father sacrificed to buy her a sewing machine, in the hopes that as a seamstress she could escape a long heritage of poverty. However, she married young to a subsistence farmer who could barely eke out enough corn and beans from the wasted land to feed his family and almost immediately she began to have children, ultimately seven. At age 32, leaving her husband behind to continue to struggle on the paltry plot of land, she took her children and moved to Tijuana to join a sister-in-law who was part of a kin-based network in that border city.

After a couple of months working as a maid, Alma crossed the border illegally. In Long Beach, near Los Angeles, she was able to put her abilities as a seamstress to work in a small clothing factory, run by Cubans, that hired undocumented aliens. This and other similar jobs allowed her to enroll her children in school and to send money to her husband who had now moved to Tijuana and was living with her eldest son. After many trips back and forth across the border, periodically being caught by immigration and deported, she resettled in Tijuana and found work in one of the maquiladoras there. 2 The maquiladoras or maquilas are border factories owned by or closely af-

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