Maquila Zoned Out (poem)

Maquila  Zoned Out

Barely begins to capture
The weight of the grief
That sits
Mountain sized
Upon my soul
As a departing visitor to
El Paso/Ciudad Juarez
A land of divides
Rich and poor
Brown and white
Citizen and not
Identities crafted
By powerful attitudes in
Custom and law

Citizens also
Who are ignorant and not
Of the ironic embrace
Of the dizzying pace
of the twin plants’
economic growth
In one more city seduced
By the dream of
The “package deal” of boom trade
Maquila zones of prosperity
That have forged in this part of the world
Paths that die in the desert
Surrounded by silently
Weeping mountains
El paso a la muerte

To Women
Young and old
Victims both
One kind to the violence
By men who stalk them
For inhabiting the young female body
Their mothers and fathers equal victims of the
Tragedy and horror of losing a daughter sister wife to
sexual terrorism
Assaulted by haunting images of
A loved one’s last few
Hours and minutes of
A stolen life
And of a youthful beauty
And brutally burned
And killed

Meanwhile my own
Image of silent screaming
And wanton abduction
Occurring in the day or night
Is permanently etched in my  tired
And frightened mind

I find myself suspiciously staring
At presumed terrorists
Inhabiting male bodies
And directing my silent
Raging stares
At clean bodies
And suited men in elegant ties

The other terrorists
I charge
Those capable of crippling
Governments and countries
With an offer to sign here
On the dotted line
And welcome to free trade
Licentious trade
The wonders of working
Your poorest citizens into legal slavery
And sending their children
Into early graves

The indifferent terrorist
Selling his country’s and
His company’s wares
His cheap wages
To a cheapened and
Once loved culture
Of safety and simplicity
We once knew in Old Mexico
The Mexico he only sees through
The lenses of ancient class divisions
And bigotry

The Mexico one President
Must salvage from international shame
While the other curries favor
To the immigrant labor he must
At once welcome in his own country and blame

Yes these are the terrorists
Fighting global wars
Pressuring nations with
Candy bars and iron sticks
Never stopping to think
Oh not at all
Of the part they play
Big or small
In this nightmare of a time
To be a woman and to be living and working
On the border
In the horror chambered
Export processing zone

Elegant terrorists who with their complacency have violated spaces of privacy
Corners of safety
Valleys of desire, need and despair
The terrorist in a blue suit checking into fancy hotels
Holding business meetings aimed at neighborly mutual profit as they ignore the symbols of poverty knocking at the door
Never to be made part of the conversation
Other than to ask for
Another clean towel
On which to wipe the
Dainty sweat of working
Hard to ignore
The chant and plaintive cry of the young dead women’s families
Who ask but Why?
Who demand that all that could  be done
Will be done

When a woman welcomed
To be their workers
Might be honored
And reclaimed in spirit and name
If not in her rotting remains
By the man in that thousand dollar suit
Who helped to recruit
Her innocence and her labor
Her lethal trust and confidence
For a cheap little wage that to her
Was a small liberation from
Poverty and despair
When in fact iit sent her
Daily walking to a factory to and fro until one day
Approaching it
Or headed home
She was met
By bloodthirsty
Depravity who drove
Her to a desert
And the Palace of Crime
Erected in the devil’s playground
In Ciudad Juarez’
Exploit and murder
processing zone.

Elvia Arriola April 27, 2002



Writer, attorney, Lawprof Emerita from Northern Illinois University.
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