Other WOB Writings

Women on the Border Writings

This page contains summaries and excerpts of Women on the Border’s essays, commentary, and links to border workers’ stories and delegates’ reflections first published on this site plus journal articles of closely associated publishers.  Earlier research is also available, archived on Website 1 and Website 2 of Women on the Border.

The December 2014 essay, “Going on a Delegation to Get at the  Truth” on this page provides an enlightening history of the context and activities of the work of Women on the Border.

Women on the Border is happy to share our research with researchers and writers as long as you give us credit. Please contact us via email womenontheborder@gmail.com and identify the material you plan to use.  Send a copy of your proposed text as a word document attachment or by mail to Women on the Border, P.O. Box 303338, Austin, TX 78703-0056. You can also write us an e-mail. Thank you.

Commentary by the leadership and associates of Women on the Border:

ESSAY:  “Going on a Delegation to Get at the Truth” by Elvia R. Arriola,  Executive Director, WOMEN ON THE BORDER, December 2014

This essay provides the history of our organization, Women on the Border and an overview of our typical, collaborative NAFTA or “solidarity” delegations. It is essential background information for another essay forthcoming in 2015 — a comprehensive report about the May 2014 “Journey of an Immigrant” Delegation in which delegates toured the South Texas Detention Center at Pearsall, Texas.  Read more…

ONLINE JOURNAL:  Social Justice Today is an online, quarterly, not-for-profit journal which seeks to unite academics and other citizens passionate about social issues. We are interested in social, political, pedagogical, and cultural essays which examine issues of civic significance within a social justice framework.

SIX YEARS UNDER NAFTA (A view from inside the maquiladoras)

LAW JOURNAL ARTICLE  “Voices from the Barbed Wires of Despair:  Women in the Maquiladoras, Latina Critical Theory, and Gender at the US-Mexico Border”, by Elvia R. Arriola, DePaul Law Review, Volume 49, Spring 2000, Number 3, Page 729.

Quote & Excerpt:    “One time I had just spoken with one of the girls about our treatment in the workplace, and right away the boss knew about it. All I tried to do was organize study groups for women who had never finished primary school, because their general awareness is quite limited. Some cannot even add or subtract, which indicates the kind of barriers there are to improving workers’ lives.”  — Alma, a maquiladora worker.

“The Maquiladoras: Licensed to Exploit, Profit, and Oppress   It is not difficult to pick out the setting of a maquiladora in a Mexican border city. Their physical infrastructure broadcasts power…”   Click here to read a summary.   Click here to read the complete article.

THREE ESSAYS published in series in the journal Frontera Norte-Sur.  Thank you, Frontera Norte Sur.

Essay One on leadership.  “Becoming Leaders: the Women in the Maquiladoras of Piedras”  by Elvia Rosales Arriola, J.D., M.A., Summer, 2000

As I think about returning to Piedras Negras, Coahuila for a second set of interviews this weekend with women maquiladora workers, I remember the faces of the first group of obreras I met through the Comité Fronterizo de Obreras (CFO, or in English, the Border Committee of Women Workers) who talked about their struggles as poorly paid workers and their continual efforts to obtain a true living wage for themselves and their co-workers. The CFO is a group of women workers who use home meetings  Continue reading

Essay Two on housing conditions for workers and families.  “Looking Out from a Cardboard Box: Workers, Their Families, and the Maquiladora Industry in Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila”  by Elvia Rosales Arriola, J.D., M.A., December 2000

It was late morning when I parked outside the home of Rosa María “Rossy” Ramos Rivas, 34 years old and the mother of two young boys. As I stepped out of the car, I was careful to zip up my briefcase, a little worried that my tape recorder would fall into the mud left from the heavy rains that had fallen over Ciudad Acuña, a border town with a booming maquiladora industry that sits across from Del Rio, Texas. Rossy had just awakened, as she works a 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. night shift at General Electric in Ciudad Acuña. She, her boys César and Marco, and her husband Abraham live in a two room house that she considers an improvement to the days when her family had no more than a blanket…Continue reading

Essay Three, on working women organizing for justice.  “Of Woman Born: Courage and Strength to Survive in the Maquiladoras of Reynosa and Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas”  by Elvia Rosales Arriola, J.D., M.A.,

As 27-year old María Elena García Sierra pulled off her white sock to show me the places on her feet where she suffered a recurring infection that began when she was 17, I struggled to contain my horror as I fumbled with a video camera to look at the scars. Pointing to the affected areas, she continued with her personal history as a maquiladora worker. . . Continue reading

ESSAY on Mexican farmers’ displacement and Mexico’s rejection of genetically modified organisms.  “Farmers, NAFTA, and Global Agricultural Corporate Power” by Elvia R. Arriola,  Women on the Border,

A visit to the Mexican border to view the conditions for workers in the maquiladoras often provides surprises about who the people we meet are and where they came from.  So many of the workers are doing factory work for the first time in their lives.  They are migrants who came to the border because their lives on the farmland had been drastically transformed by the intersection of changing economic policies and natural disasters… Continue reading…

ARTICLE available in both Spanish and English, by Professor Carmen G. Gonzalez of Seattle University School of Law analyzes the applicable international law and places the GMO issue in the larger context of agricultural trade policy and the pauperization of small farmers in the developing world.

Organismos Geneticamente Modificados (OGM) y Justicia (Spanish version)

Genetically Modifiied Organisms (GMO) and Justice (En Inglés)


This commentary includes links to reports by el Comité Fronterizo de Obrera, other studies and feminist scholarship. Excerpt:  Women, especially poor women, continue to play a significant role in the work of global employment.  American companies have been relocating to Mexico since 1965, and with the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA, cross-border trade has expanded with new factories being built and jobs created.  However, fewer rights for workers at the Mexican border have been guaranteed.  As the working women’s group,Comité Fronterizo de Obreras (CFO), wrote in their 1999 report Six Years Under–  NAFTA, free trade had failed them.  Under NAFTA, wages and working conditions for maquiladora workers had gone from bad to worse… It is ironic that females continue to dominate as ideal workers in export processing zones, while females are also the consumers most often targeted by ad campaigns to buy the goods coming from these exploitative zones.  Read more…

WOB COMMENTARY:  Workers in the NAFTA factories should earn a living wage.

Why buy fair trade?  Fair trade is a commitment to the idea of a “living wage” for the first producer of a product sold in the world economy…U.S. companies hire Mexican workers for wages that are about 1/10th of the wages earned in the U.S… The idea of a living wage is different from the minimum wage.  Meeting the minimum wage does not necessarily meet the basic needs of typical workers…  A multinational corporation that does not pay a living wage is sending out a product into the market economy that is not fair trade.   Do you know if your household purchases are fair trade?  Read more…


by Elvia R. Arriola, Seattle Journal for Social Justice, Volume 5, Issue 2, Spring/Summer 2007

Excerpt:  In less than a decade, a city that once had very low homicide statistics now reports that at least 300-400 women and girls were killed between 1994 and 2000. Along with an increase in murder rates, the rates of domestic violence have increased as the border town of Ciudad Juarez has experienced heavy industrialization since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)…  This paper argues that the Juarez murders are an extreme manifestation of the systemic patterns of abuse, harassment and violence against women who work in the maquiladoras, whose treatment derives from privileges enjoyed by the investors who employ them pursuant to the North American Free Trade Agreement. I begin by acknowledging that there is a critical relationship between women, gender violence and free trade as noted by Professor Weissman and others, but I also seek to understand how the absence of regulation to benefit workers in standard free trade law and policy perpetuates the degradation of maquiladora workers and produces environments hostile to working women’s lives, including discrimination, toxicity in the workplace and threats of fatal assault. The unquestioned right to exploit the mostly female working poor incites gender violence while it makes Mexico a major player in global economic politics, even if rapid industrialization is encouraging more domestic violence and occasional incidents of female murder.  Read more…



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