Occupied Borderlands: Homenaje a Mayra
While working on a three-year project about the violent murder of young women in Ciudad Juárez, I became aware of numerous other atrocities associated with the Neo-liberal economic policies which had allowed multi-national corporations to build assembly plants on the Mexican side of the border. Beginning 1964, when the Mexican government implemented the Border Industrialization Program, then after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was passed in 1994, thousands of assembly plants sprung up in the border city. Tens of thousands of people migrated to Cuidad Juárez and other border cities in hopes of finding work. The treaty exempted these foreign-owned companies from paying local taxes, leaving the cities without the financial resources to build the infrastructure needed to accommodate the needs of the rapidly growing population, such as housing, waste disposal, clean running water, electricity roads and schools. It also failed to address important environmental issues, like air pollutents and toxic waste from the assembly plants.
I was reminded about the “other” dangers of living in this industrial boomtown, when a dear friend was diagnosed with a brain tumor, which almost always occurs in small children. My friend, who had grown up in a working-class neighborhood in Ciudad Juárez, endured six months of combined chemo-therapy and radiation therapy, after under-going surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Her prognosis is still un-determined. This diagnosis of an extremely rare tumor in adults made me think about the devastating health effects caused by the toxic waste dumps, polluted air and water that occur because of the lax environmental regulations of these industries. Although very little is known about the causes of this particular disease, the rarity of this tumor caused me to think about the possibility that hers and thousands of other cancers and birth defects could possibly be the result of the irresponsible and unconscionable lack of environmental standards.