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About the Delegations
In defiance of the official story about “free” trade agreements—such as NAFTA—Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera takes solidarity delegations to the maquiladora communities three times a year bringing people from the US who want to see the reality for themselves. A prime outgrowth of “free trade,” maquiladoras are foreign-owned low-wage factories on Mexican soil, manufacturing and assembling goods for export, mostly to the US. International agreements exempt them from Mexican tariffs and taxes and in some cases respect for Mexican labor laws.
Delegations offer a view of maquiladora laborers’ communities and their working and living reality without the window dressing. Workers speak for themselves as visitors sit in their homes and stand in their communities or the colonias. Relaxed, hospitable and open camaraderie and conversation are possible because people from both sides of the border come together in a solidarity relationship that ATCF and our Mexican partners the Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s (Border Committee of Women Workers or CFO) have carefully nurtured for 18-years (since 1999). Delegations are an irreplaceable source of information and a bridge across charged boundaries of history, difference, and exploitation.
The CFO hosts each group’s visit, sharing with US delegates their struggles and strategies to defend human rights, justice and dignity in a harsh labor environment. Delegates tour maquiladora industrial parks passing plants of well-known US-based multinational companies. They then meet with workers in their homes to learn about working conditions, current labor struggles, and the empowerment process of women workers. CFO organizers describe their organizing strategies, including popular education methods that use the Mexican Federal Labor Law. Many delegates continue their involvement by sharing their experience with family and friends, organizing forums and study groups, and responding to direct action alerts and legislative activity at the intersections of trade, labor, and migration.
"I always remember the ATCF trip as one of those formative experiences in the way I think about immigrants, trade policy, labor rights, and all that stuff that I'm still working with today, only now in El Salvador. Thanks for all you do!" --Catie Johnson, El Salvador Coordinator for US-El Salvador Sister Cities. Formerly Assistant Director of Posada Esperanza, a shelter for immigrant women and children.
To allow for an intimate experience, each delegation is limited to about 10-12 participants and travels in a 15-passenger van. Delegations are usually scheduled for January, May and October. Each departs from Austin on a Friday morning and returns on Sunday evening. The cost is $325 which includes transportation, meals, and two-nights hotel lodging. An interpreter, a facilitator and a driver are present for all activities. Limited financial assistance is available. To request financial assistance, please contact Cristina Gonzalez (see contact information below).
Testimonials from previous delegates:
"If multinational corporations can erase the national borders to make more money by enjoying the privileges created for them by free trade law and policy, then American consumers can also join in solidarity with workers in other parts of the world to produce a more just globalized economy." --E. Arriola, participant and translator on many delegations
"What touched me most was that this city of sweatshops lies closer to my house in Austin, Texas than does the city of Dallas. The border is a part of who we are as Texans, and as US citizens." --S. Taylor, delegate to Ciudad Acuña in January 2007.
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To request an application form or for more information, contact Cristina Gonzalez at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (512) 474-2399.