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Mexican Lives

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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 courtyardÐ'..." (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



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(2010, 10). Mexican Lives. Retrieved 10, 2010, from

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