A harrowing documentary reminds the students of CSUSB of the often-overlooked human cost of the products they purchase.
On Nov. 14, Dr. Liliana Conlisk Gallegos and Dr. Yvette Saavedra held a screening of the 2006 documentary film Maquilapolis in the theater of the Santos Manuel Student Union .
The film, whose title translates to “The City of Factories”, depicts the everyday lives of women working in the numerous factories scattered along the US-Mexico border and their struggle to obtain justice for wage theft and environmental pollution.
“I chose this film because it highlights the labor of Mexican and also Central American women who are working in the maquiladora industry,” said Dr. Saavedra.
Saavedra touts the importance of films that show the conditions of labor for women in these regions, “because there are so many social and cultural consequences to it.”
The screening of the film marks the third in a series of four lectures on Borderlands Studies, which seeks to highlight scholarships on the US-Mexico borderlands, in particular scholarship conducted by Latinas/Chicanas working in the field.
By screening this film, Saavedra hopes to illustrate how grassroots activism can make a difference.
“If [the women in the film] can participate in grassroots movements that can engender change, I think that can speak volumes to people who may feel that they don’t have a voice or political or social agency,” said Saavedra.
She prefaced the screening of the film with a brief presentation on the negative effects that neoliberal trade policies, in particular NAFTA and the structural adjustment programs proposed to Mexico by the IMF and World Bank, have had on the women living and working in this area.
Dr. Gallegos then addressed some of the misconceptions regarding Tijuana, the city in which the film is shot.
Drawing on postcolonial theory, Hegelian dialectics, and Jean Baudrillard’s concept of simulacra, she also commented on the effects of colonialism on Mexico and challenged traditional notions of what can be considered “knowledge.”
One of the most emotional scenes in the film is when a father is interviewed about an incident in which his young daughter was electrocuted after falling into a puddle containing a downed power cable.
“It’s stuck in my head,” said Basim Aleaze, a communications major, shortly after viewing the scene.
The father tears up as he recounts attempting to revive his daughter in the back of car on the way to the hospital and asking God to help him.
Public and oral history major Haley Carter cites that as the most striking scene in the film. “If it had just been slightly different, she [the daughter of that man] would’ve been dead.”
While most CSUSB students have been fortunate enough not to have worked in one of these factories, the issues that this film explores are not as far removed from our campus as one might think.
During the Q&A section of the presentation, a student noted a parallel between the toxic waste dump featured in the film and the problem of the Stringfellow Acid Pits in Jurupa Valley.
“We are a Hispanic serving institution,” cited Dr. Saavedra as the reason why she elected to screen the film at CSUSB. “And considering that we’re really not that far from the border, I think that it would speak to experiences that students may have with people that they’ve known or people in their families.”