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69 four Maquiladoras, Gender, and Culture Change Postcolonial Developments in the Making of a Border City of Laborers As was noted in Chapter 2, Paso del Norte was named Ciudad Juárez in 1888. Since the 1848 American occupation of the southwestern borderlands, and particularly since the late nineteenth century, Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, has grown according to the needs of its American counterpart, El Paso,Texas. Between 1848 and 1880, many Anglo-Americans, in their search for gold, rested in El Paso, Texas, while on their way to California (Christopherson 1982, 58).The naming of this American border city developed from Franklin in 1849; to Post Opposite El Paso, also in 1849; to El Paso,Texas, in 1852 (Timmons 1990, esp. chap. 5, 105–106 and 111). Contrary to some scholars’ beliefs (i.e., Rodríguez and Ward 1992, 20), it must be clarified that El Paso, Texas, proper has always been a distinct urban locality and should not be confused with Paso del Norte. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, El Paso was a stopping place along the trade route between several cities in the United States. Ciudad Juárez was characterized mainly by an agricultural economy that subsisted by the production of cotton (Christopherson 1982, 61). In 1881, however, a drastic transformation occurred on the Mexican side of the border: the introduction of American investment. As Susan Christopherson (1982, 59) says: “The center of this investment strategy was the development of railroad lines to increase access to Mexico’s mineral wealth,” especially copper and silver. These railroad lines served mainly the U.S. markets. 70 Late-Twentieth-Century Ciudad Juárez Consequently, the labor demand that characterized the economy of the area as it evolved from 1890 to 1910, emphasizing railroads and agriculture as the major sources of employment, meant that the region became a temporary home for thousands of male workers. These men came to the border mainly from the northern Mexican states of Durango and Zacatecas and from southern Chihuahua . But throughout most of the twentieth century, many of these underprivileged men migrated to the American Southwest to work first for the transcontinental railroads and later in the agricultural fields. In 1942, the Bracero Program (Mexican Labor Program) permitted the legal contracting of Mexican male workers, who were again needed to maintain American productivity (mostly in the agricultural sector) during World War II. Mexico’s relationship of dependency with its powerful northern neighbor throughout most of the twentieth century can be described in these words by Christopherson: “During periods of war, Mexico benefited from the demand of labor and raw materials in the United States. During periods of recession or depression, dependence on the United States decreased but at the cost of high unemployment” (1982, 68; also see Fernández-Kelly 1983; Heyman 1991; Kopinak 1996; and Peña 1997). It is crucial to emphasize that, until 1965, most of the individuals who came to such border localities as Ciudad Juárez and then to the southwestern United States (including southern New Mexico and West Texas) were males—especially fathers and older brothers who were economically responsible for families left behind. This gender specificity, which characterized the labor force until the mid-1960s in Ciudad Juárez, manifested itself first through the main types of jobs available in the area: construction, agricultural farm labor, smelting of iron and steel, meatpacking, baking, and peddling in the streets (Martínez 1978; see also Castellanos 1981). Most women who worked were laundresses, waitresses, cooks in restaurants, or prostitutes. Second, the gender specificity also manifested itself through the Bracero Program, which controlled the flow of braceros (contracted male migrant workers) into the American Southwest. In fact, Christopherson notes that during the period between World War II and 1965, Ciudad Juárez attained tremendous growth due to labor demand from the United States (1982, 143). The population of Ciudad Juárez increased from 48,881 in 1940 to 122,566 in 1950 and to 252,119 in 1960 (Martínez 1978, 158; also see Arreola and Curtis 1993). Most of the migrants were dispossessed peasants who immediately became proletariats in the border city. Since the majority of them worked, at least temporarily, on the American side, Ciudad Juárez ended up becoming a “labor depot” serving mainly the economy of the southwestern United States (Christopherson 1982, 68). This high influx of people eventually stimulated settlement expansion, particularly to the western side of Juárez (ibid., 145). Since the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780292794207
Related ISBN
9780292717664
MARC Record
OCLC
471130697
Pages
339
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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