Jim Winstead/Flickr

NAFTA’s effectiveness at boosting the American economy at the expense of Mexican livelihoods is just another indication of the U.S.’s overall view of Mexico: Expendable and even convenient, except when not. NAFTA is an unspoken factor in Mexican immigration to the U.S. (although those numbers have been dropping for some time now.)

I recently read a CNN Money article that highlights the struggles of Griselda Mendoza, a woman from Oaxaca whose community of corn farmers was decimated by NAFTA thanks to cheaper American corn exports to Mexico.

As cheap American corn came pouring in from the border, it had a devastating effect on her family. Her father, Benancio Mendoza, couldn’t compete and make a living wage selling corn. He had to give up and move to the United States looking for a job. He took up a job as a cook in Tennessee, saving up money to send home so his kids could attend school.

Mendoza then goes on to say that she didn’t see her dad again for eighteen years. And she’s not alone in this experience; countless Mexican families have been torn apart in the wake of NAFTA.

Americans often fail to realize that behind harsh economic conditions—which in this case, are directly caused by the U.S.—there are people who are as deserving of basic necessities as them. We are so used to seeing those in other countries as numbers that we turn a blind eye to our government’s policies that result in unjust, unnecessary hardships for them. It seems that in this country, believing that every person in this world deserves basic necessities makes you a fringe, extremist freedom-hater.

NAFTA has been tantamount to destroying Mexican communities and families, and has contributed to an erosion of traditions in a culture that heavily centers itself around the family.

So yes, NAFTA’s drafting and implementation is admirable in its cold, inhumane precision. But the sooner the U.S. stops treating Latin America like its backyard, the better for human rights and humanity in general.

Randal Sheppard/Flickr

1 Comment

  1. We’ll see where the renegotiations go. But one thing for sure: El Paso gained a lot of commerce because of NAFTA, as did Juarez. But around this time is when maquiladoras started showing up in Chihuahua, Sonora, and Nuevo Leon. Also the rise of organized crime and new modes of smuggling. El Paso also got a lot of money for border security from the federal government.

    NAFTA also changed the face of places across the country, like Tennessee, where Mexicanos started arriving en masse. Same goes for NYC. And a lot of folks from Oaxaca found their ways to NYC for sure. There’s a big Oaxacan community on Staten Island.


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