She is Me: Gender, Immigration, and Economics in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
by Sarah Van Deusen Phillips — Center for Research Libraries--Global Resources Network
November 10, 2009 – 15:47
Public discourse in the U.S. about Mexican immigration rarely moves beyond a discussion of how it affects economics on our side of the border: Minutemen say that Mexicans steal our jobs, while conservative fear-mongers debating public health claim that "illegals" prevent Americans from receiving care. But there is more at stake than ecomomics—the implicit discourse is about gender: a masuline discourse of young Mexican (read: "violent" and "other") men arriving to emasculate the U.S. by hitting us where it hurts—in the economy and the ability of our men to work and provide for our families. However, there is a mirror image at work here, too—one that this video illustrates by calling attention to the relationship between "American Economic Interest" and the act of feminincide (the targeted erradication of women) in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Since the 1990s, hundreds of women in Juarez have been kidnapped, raped,and murdered, presumably by desperate and dispossessed men suffering from unbearable economic conditions created by U.S commerce with Mexico. These women disappear as they travel to or from their jobs in U.S.-owned maquilladoras (sweatshops) where they fill the posts abandoned by men who cross the border. We see a mirror image of Mexican social structure—one that is inverted and turned inside out. But it is also a mirror image of us (or U.S., if you prefer). American economics—our consumer choices as individuals and our corporate choices as industires—create the structural necessity of immigration that then leads to violence against women. In another twist of the mirror, the narrator tells us that they are us; She is Me. The narrator uses video to powerfully evoke this reversal, drawing on the violence of hip-hop and the shock of unexpected reflections to illustrate that the only difference between us and them is the where we stand vis-a-vis the border. At the end of the day, we help create the need for immigration because our consumer decisions at home shape the political and economic conditions of Mexico. And if this is true, then we are faced with a very ugly reflection indeed: Personal responsibility for economically disenfranchised Mexican men and the feminicide of their women.