3D Printed Houses in Mexico
Tabasco, Mexico, a state located in the southeast of the country, hosts a population of over 2.5 million people, and more than half of the population lives in rural areas. As with many poverty-stricken countries, struggles with poverty hit the rural areas of southern Mexico disproportionally hard. While residents of Tabasco report among the highest levels of life satisfaction, unemployment and poverty create undue challenges, especially in rural populations. Luckily, 3D printed houses in Mexico are providing residents of Tabasco with affordable homes.

Living in Tabasco, Mexico

Tabasco first became a state in 1824 and now consists of different governmental areas called municipios. The region experiences a rainy season, in which the land is subject to flooding due to its mostly low and flat relief. Heavy rains and floods can be particularly devastating for those living in poverty in Tabasco. Oftentimes, residents who cannot afford to purchase housing will craft their own out of wood, metal and other scavenged or purchased material. When heavy rains come, these homes can flood drastically, sometimes for months at a time.

A New Look at Affordable Housing

In December 2019, the struggle for affordable, safe and durable housing took an innovative turn in one neighborhood in Tabasco where residents live on an average of $3 a day. Developers have begun using a large-scale 3D printer to build houses for residents in the neighborhood, planning to complete the construction of 50 new homes by the end of 2020. The prospect of these 3D printed houses in Mexico has numerous implications for Tabascan residents and the fight for affordable housing at large.

These massive printers emit a sturdy concrete that one can layer into a wall, with the complete simultaneous construction of two homes taking only 24 working hours. The homes feature 500 square-feet of living space, with two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and a living area.

The Organizations

The three foundations that are collaborating to make these 3D printed houses in Mexico a reality are ICON, a construction technology company; New Story, a San Francisco-based nonprofit; and ÉCHALE, a Mexican nonprofit.

ICON focuses on revolutionizing the construction of homes, utilizing printers, robotics and other technology tools to contribute to efforts surrounding affordable housing construction. ICON developed its first commercially available construction printer, called the Vulcan II, in 2018.

ÉCHALE saw its beginnings in 1985 and has since become a successful organization that works for social housing and community development in Mexico. ÉCHALE focuses on the main sustainable development goals for 2030, including ending poverty, promoting gender equality and responsible consumption and production.

Founded in 2014, New Story aids families in need of housing and shelter. Since then, New Story has built over 2,700 homes using traditional construction methods in Haiti, El Salvador, Bolivia and Mexico. ICON and New Story first collaborated on a 3D printed home in Austin, Texas in March 2018.

Most importantly, these three organizations that are creating 3D printed houses in Mexico have worked with residents of the Tabascan neighborhood every step of the way. They hired local construction workers to complete aspects of building such as land clearing and installing windows and roofs, ensuring that printing homes do not take jobs away from residents. The design of the homes also came from a collaboration with the very same residents that will live in them, ensuring that these houses will meet the specific needs of the community. This type of community involvement is critical for the long-term success of affordable housing programs, and one that can serve as a model for future technology-based affordable housing solutions.

Elizabeth Baker
Photo: Flickr
Mexican Farm Laborers
Developed countries often see grocery stores overflowing with fruits and vegetables from all over the world. Unfortunately, not every shopper questions the origins of their products and more importantly, the stories of those who cultivated the crops. Mexico is a significant figure in international agriculture trade totaling $31.5 billion in 2018 with the United States accounting for 78 percent of its sales. It has had success in exchange for the poor quality of life for the Mexican farm laborers who provide the resources, and this fact highlights a significant wealth disparity throughout the world.

The Cycle of Poverty

Today, Mexican farm laborers face poverty levels so extreme that they often must become perpetual migrants, traveling from state to state in order to maintain a steady wage. According to the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI), a Mexican governmental data collection agency, 78 percent of 5.2 million farmers are in a condition of multidimensional poverty. Families move across Mexico to seek work, which affects the dynamic population fluctuations based on the harvest in that town. The average worker makes around 11 pesos an hour, which is equivalent to around $0.59 USD. Even more alarming is that it is not uncommon to see children working in the scorching sun due to poor regulations and pay.

One of the main flaws of Mexico’s policies is that authorities do not regulate them as diligently for smaller farms. Workers rarely receive proper safety equipment and are often in poor living conditions. In addition to their low wages, farmers are, at times, under pressure from cartels in their areas that extort agricultural business. The cartels have established taxes that farm owners must pay in a few states such as Michoacán. While the United States ensures that the U.S. Department of Agriculture examines all of Mexico’s produce, it is incapable of inspecting the working conditions of the neighboring country. This dilemma spans across generations, as the next wave of children might become stuck in a similar position as their parents and face a related situation of wealth disparity. Many of the children grow up working on the same farms and will likely never have the opportunity to experience life outside of them.

Potential Resolutions

It has been nearly two generations since revolutionary civil rights activist César Chávez originally formed his United Farm Workers labor union. One of the key aspects of the success of his campaigns was their ability to increase awareness peacefully. His organization remains intact and continues to advocate for laborers’ rights in California. A similar social movement is necessary for Mexico and the change must come internally for others to hear the voices of the forgotten laborers.

Chavez proved that reform was achievable two generations ago, but his methods are still applicable today. Several organizations, such as the Center for Farmworker Families, give a platform for the difficult lives of Mexican farm laborers and are currently working on projects to increase pay and improve legislation. It is essential for people to be conscious that these conditions not only occur throughout Mexico but the entire world, as people experience exploitation in exchange for lower prices amongst all goods and services as the wealth disparity continues to grow. People must challenge one another to think beyond a product and about the stories of those who helped produce it. It is a reality that those who have a significant role in putting food on the tables of others often have little to none for their own families. It is necessary for people to value human life over materialism and remain conscious of consumption. If humanity can change as individuals and develop compassion for one another, then it can build a better future.

– Nicolas Montuffar
Photo: Flickr

Femicide in Mexico“Mexico is a deadly place to be a woman.” That is the line Isabel Cholbi used in her piece in Berkeley Political Review on femicide in Mexico. The definition of femicide is the intentional murder of women simply because they are women. However, some broader definitions say it is all murder of women and girls. Intimate femicide—the killing of women by a current or former boyfriend or husband—is one of the most common forms. More than 35 percent of all women’s murders are, in fact, a result of intimate femicide. In contrast, only 5 percent of all men’s deaths are by an intimate partner. Understanding the hate crime of femicide is incredibly relevant. This piece will cover femicide in Mexico as well as current efforts to stop it.

Femicide in Numbers

There are more than 63 million women and girls in Mexico, which equals approximately 60 percent of the population. However, there is an escalating wave of violence happening against them, occurring more frequently and becoming more brutal. It began in the 90s in Ciudad Juarez but now has spread throughout the entire country. In fact, between 2015 and 2019, more than 3,000 women reported acts of violence Every day and estimate 10 women are murdered in Mexico. Per 100,000 people, 0.66 percent of women were murdered in 2015. This number has nearly doubled from then to 2019, rising to 1.19 percent.

Taking Action

Prompted by these cases, the Mexican government took action. In 2007, the government launched the Program Against Gender-Specific Violence (AVGM). This program envisions prevention and emergency measures that have been established in 18 out of 32 states. Some of these measures involve increased patrolling, more light in public spaces, higher supervision to public transport and follow-up to protection orders in cases of family violence.
The European Union has provided foreign aid mainly from its “Spotlight” initiative to combat gender violence.  Mexico has joined this initiative. The first phase involves investing 500 million euros in the top five most conflictive areas to be a woman or girl. This program is set to last four years before expanding into a second phase. Short objectives are to better the current public politics, strengthen the institutions, change the “macho” culture and strengthen the job of civil society organizations. “These initiatives are like a mouthful of air,” said Irinea Buendía, mother of Mariana Lima, who was a victim of femicide in Mexico.

Looking Forward

Femicide is increasingly relevant in the world, especially in Mexico. In Mexico, the government with AVGM, and the international community with Spotlight, are a beacon of hope for decreasing violence against women and femicide in Mexico.

Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

North American Free Trade Agreement
In December 2019, the United States House of Representatives passed the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, ushering in a new paradigm for trade between the three North American countries. In doing so, it ended a 30-year trading period governed by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This was a landmark trade deal that George H. W. Bush initiated in 1989 with the passage of the U.S. Canada Free Trade Agreement. Negotiations with Mexico ensued, with Canada joining the talks and a conclusion of a deal between the three, signed into force under the administration of Bill Clinton in 1994. With the adoption of the USMCA, the previous agreement has become obsolete. One can now assess the legacy of the North American Free Trade Agreement, though the countries will update and analyze the agreement throughout the next few years as the components of the new deal take effect.

Proponents and Opponents of NAFTA

NAFTA broke ground in neoliberal terms. Free trade principles that Bush, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Regan championed dissolved tariffs and liberalized trade with a focus on the agriculture, textile and automobile industries. Supporters of the deal proclaimed the benefits that the deal would bring, including boosting the trade and economies of the three countries, particularly Mexico’s developing one. They forecasted that Mexicans would find better jobs in Mexico. Therefore, they would stay, rather than immigrating illegally to the United States. Furthermore, NAFTA would benefit U.S. and Canadian companies seeking markets for goods and cheap labor.

There were many arguments against NAFTA from the onset. Critics jeopardized the legacy of the North American Free Trade Agreement before it even started. Headlined by then third-party U.S. presidential candidate Ross Perot, opponents claimed that opening the Mexican border to free trade principles would result in what he called a “giant sucking sound” as companies outsourced American jobs to Mexico to seek lower wages.

The Results

With the benefit of hindsight, experts now say that NAFTA had neither as good nor as bad of an impact on the economies of the United States, Canada and Mexico as some initially predicted. Like many things, the reality lay in the middle. While trade objectively increased, even tripled by some accounts, American jobs did indeed flee to Mexico. Many left the Midwest and created the so-called Rust Belt. An article published by the Economic Policy Institute details the extent of the losses, contending that 682,900 jobs suffered in the U.S. at NAFTA’s expense. Many of these job losses, 60.8 percent, were in manufacturing. Supporters predicted manufacturing would see an increase of up to two million in five years.

In short, U.S. companies benefited at the detriment of Mexican families. Further, two million Mexican families with previous engagement in farming activities lost their livelihoods. In addition, small businesses closed in the 10s of thousands. Between NAFTA and subsequent free trade deals with countries like Peru, Colombia and some Central American and Caribbean countries, millions experienced displacement from their homes and fled. Many fled to the United States, proving to exacerbate illegal immigration rather than alleviate it. Mexico did see an increase in jobs for a while, especially in the automotive industry, expanding from 120,000 to 550,000 since 1994. However, this has not been nearly enough to offset the harm caused; even when accounting for a boost in trade and considerable improvement in foreign direct investment to Mexico from $15 to $100 billion.

The Potential Future

Overall, companies in the U.S., Canada and Mexico benefited in some ways from free trade. Generally, this left a significant legacy of the North American Free Trade Agreement. However, it came at a substantial loss for individuals and worsened existing problems like outsourcing and illegal immigration. The biggest hope for the future lies in the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement. The USMCA, agreed to by the three countries, passed with bipartisan support in the House of Representatives. Ideally, it will right some of the wrongs that NAFTA inflicted, while continuing to promote trade and economic growth in North America.

Alex Meyers
Photo: Flickr

8 Facts About Migrant Caravans from Central America
Over a year has passed since the migrant caravans from Central America arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border. The migrant situation is complex and continues to have great effects on the economy, U.S. international affairs and the lives of thousands of people. The issue is far from resolving and continues to require attention, so here are eight facts about Central American migrant caravans.

8 Facts About Central American Migrant Caravans

  1. Central American Migrants: The first of the eight facts about Central American migrant caravans is that the migrants are mostly from Central America’s Northern Triangle, which consists of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. The caravans began in Honduras and most of the migrants are Honduran but their Central American neighbors have joined them because they face similar issues of violence and poverty. These people traveled through Central America and Mexico until they reached the U.S.-Mexico border.
  2. The Largest Caravan: The biggest caravan, migrating in late 2018 and drawing international attention, started as a small grassroots social media movement in Honduras. One hundred and sixty Hondurans gathered at a bus terminal in San Pedro Sula on October 12, 2018. More and more people joined them along the route; the U.N. estimates that the group was as large as 7,000 people by the time it arrived in Tijuana.
  3. Reasons for Migration: Those who joined the caravans are migrating for a better future which they hope is waiting for them in the United States. Gang violence and persecution threatens them in their home countries; the murder rate in Honduras is 800 times higher than in the U.S. The migrants are leaving in an attempt to save their lives. In addition, there is widespread poverty in the Northern Triangle and the migrants are hoping for higher salaries and better lives for their children in the United States.
  4. Challenges on the Road: There are many hardships and health risks that the migrants face when traveling on foot, by bus or hitchhiking. The journey is arduous and results in road injuries and fatalities such as when a young Honduran man fell off a truck during the journey and passed away. Sunburn, dehydration and a continuous lack of access to clean water and sanitation are threats as well. The migrants also faced violence when crossing borders, such as when authorities used teargas. The group was dependent on local aid, such as church and civic groups or local government entities that provided food and water in the towns they passed.
  5. International Law on Asylum: International law on asylum states that anyone who enters U.S. soil or wants to enter U.S. territory to claim asylum must be able to do so and receive a chance to have a court hear their case. Because of this, the United States legally cannot ban asylum seekers according to their countries of origin or force asylum seekers to return to countries where their lives are in danger. However, President Trump labeled the caravans an invasion and the U.S. responded with a zero-tolerance policy and threats to close the border. The U.S. passed the Migrant Protection Protocol in January 2019 which forces asylum seekers to wait for their court date in Mexico. Between January and December 2019 only 11 migrants out of 10,000 cases at the border received asylum, a rate of about 0.1 percent in the whole year.
  6. Changes in Caravan Numbers: There was a swell of caravans until late 2018, but patterns in migration are changing. The caravans, while safer in numbers during the journey, were not successful at gaining asylum at the border. Current migrants have been traveling in smaller groups which are harder for others to track. Those who were in original caravans are now spread out, some suffering deportation back to their original countries, others opting to stay in Mexico or waiting in Mexico for a chance to apply for asylum or for their court date in the U.S. A small subset is even living in the U.S. undocumented or after gaining asylum.
  7. Doctors Without Borders: Health issues are a pressing concern for members of the migrant caravan especially as they are living in temporary camps near the border. Many migrants suffer from injuries and illnesses that they sustained through their long journey and exposure to the element along with violence they may have encountered on the way. Aside from physical issues, the migrant community is also suffering from many mental health issues including anxiety and depression, a result of the prolonged stress of their journey and precariousness of their position. Doctors Without Borders has sent an emergency team to provide aid and treatment, collaborating with the Mexican Ministry of Health to attend to the needs of the migrants.
  8. Border Kindness: Migrant caravan members at the border are not always able to meet basic needs. However, organizations such as Border Kindness have stepped in to provide immediate needs including shelter, food, water, clothing, medication and legal aid to a population with low resources. Its work is ongoing and pivotal in protecting and providing for the especially vulnerable including women, children and the elderly at the U.S.-Mexico border.

With so much happening globally all the time, people can sometimes push important issues aside as agendas shift. These eight facts about Central American migrant caravans are a brief overview of the basic situation and the changes occurring over time. The realities of the migrant crisis at the border continue to be relevant and pressing.

– Treya Parikh
Photo: United Nations

Technology in Mexico
Mexico’s image tends to receive negative portrayal in news reports depicting violence and crime. However, advancements of technology in Mexico provide an alternate image of the country as a pioneer in the Latin American technological scene. Here are five key facts that represent the country’s incredible achievements.

Guadalajara is a Growing Tech Hub

Located in Jalisco, Guadalajara presents itself as Mexico’s own Silicon Valley due to its massive community of 600 tech companies, 35 design centers and four research centers. With this cluster of tech companies, Jaslico exports more than $148 billion tech products to global consumers.

Guadalajara houses 13 universities such as Tecnologico de Monterrey, which graduates 85,000 students in IT yearly. This is especially notable considering that the city has 78,000 employed IT professionals, 57 percent of whom come from Guadalajara, presenting an excellent investment into the growth of the Mexican IT community for a sustainable tech hub.

Technological Outsourcing and Nearshoring Favors Mexico’s Location

Up until the 1990s, outsourcing in Mexico existed mostly in manufacturing capacities, such as Ford manufacturing at the south of the border. Now, thanks to the startup movement in the 2010s, Mexico is also an outsourcing hub for nearshoring. This is the process of conducting business operations in a nearby country that shares the same time zone. This results in convenience, consistency and better collaboration. For example, border neighbors such as the U.S. and Mexico adopt this relationship in software development companies such as ITexico, which have relationships with U.S. clients such as McDonalds and IBM. With low labor costs and a thriving technological community, companies such as ITexico with revenues of $5 million view Mexico as a great source of outsourced nearshoring.

Technology in Mexico Receives Vast Amounts of Venture Capitalist Investments Yearly

From 2014-2016, the U.S. invested nearly $120 million into 300 Guadalajara startups. In 2017, out of all Latin American countries, Mexico received one-quarter of total investment at $80 million in funding for 59 venture deals. Viewing investments from a grander scale, nearly 1,900 venture capitalists received $22 billion in investments between 2010 and 2018.

Investments per company vary between $80,000 – $120,000. Companies such as Voxfeed provide investors with a great return on investment considering its $2 million in revenue.

Such financial growth benefits the Mexican economy as it is currently the world’s 11th largest economy. It has the potential to gain $245 billion GDP by 2025, and the possibility of being the world’s largest economy by 2050.

Fintech Growth in Mexico Surpasses Other Latin American Countries

In 2017, Mexico led Latin America with the growth of 80 Fintech companies in 10 months, amounting to a total of 238, and ahead of Brazil which had 230. In 2018, Mexico retained its lead with 394 Fintech startups, still ahead of Brazil which had 380.

Fintech is continually growing thanks to entrepreneurship to create Fintech startups, as well as low banking and lending. For instance, 44 percent of the population does not use any banking products.

In this sense, growth not only increases the size of this sector but also aids the Mexican population in becoming more financially secure with platforms like Konfio that assists individuals and businesses with access to affordable loans.

Aside from Fintech expanding the function of technology in Mexico, investors such as Goldman Sachs view the sector as an opportunity for growth. Just recently, in September 2019, Goldman Sachs invested $100 million into Konfio, a small business loan lender. This allows $250 million in loans to 25,000 companies.

Technology in Mexico Advances With New Urban Landscapes

As Mexico advances technologically, the city landscape in Guadalajara does so to sustain a future generation of tech. As part of the 2012 Ciudad Creativa Digital project, the city has undergone construction to reinvent the historic district of Parque Morelos with the aim of creating a more urban, media/tech center and a 21st-century creative workspace. Developers envision Guadalajara with new educational and cultural institutions such as the Digital Creative Institute, as well as a Middle School in Visual Arts. On a cultural scale, institutions such as The Mexican Marketing Museum and Media Center engage the public to learn more about media. Outdoor theatres, pools and playgrounds provide a recreational experience.

By investing in this new landscape, Mexico will tap into the $1.5 trillion media and entertainment sector. Allowing more revenue, jobs and new technology to overall ensure a durable urban fabric to foster the growth of media in Mexico.

These five facts prove the successes of technology in Mexico in the forms of a new tech hub, nearshoring, venture capital investment, Fintech growth and a media/tech-oriented environment. Such successes in investing and growing a solid tech foundation will allow the country to sustain a future in the continuously digitizing world.

– Elizabeth Yusuff
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Why are More People Trying to Cross the Border?
With America’s current politicians, U.S. border security is tighter than it has been in decades. In the spring of 2018, the Trump Administration introduced the zero-tolerance immigration policy to discourage migration into the U.S. The policy required detention of all individuals who crossed the border illegally, with or without children.  This resulted in the separation of children from their parents and their placement in shelters around the country. The U.S., however, halted the policy on June 20, 2018, due to widespread backlash.  The government has been letting thousands of held migrants go free because it lacks enough beds to hold them in detention facilities. However, these implementations have not been successful in deterring people from attempting to illegally enter the country. With the heightened security, why are more people trying to cross the border?

The Decrease in Mexican Immigration

The important thing to note with the changing migration patterns is the demographics of the people. Undocumented immigrants are no longer mainly coming out of Mexico, which is how it has been in the past. In fact, the number of people fleeing Mexico is on the decline.  Since 2007, the number of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. declined by 2 million. They now make up less than half of illegal immigrants in the U.S. This is due partially to the increasing militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border and the increase in price for human smugglers, but there are other factors too.

  • The economy in Mexico has improved and Mexican employment opportunities are rising.
  • Fertility rates in Mexico have dropped significantly in the last 60 years, from seven births in 1960 to only 2.1 in 2019.
  • Not only are there fewer immigrants, but the Mexican immigrants that are crossing the border have higher education and are more fluent in English than the U.S. has seen in the past.  Mexico is undergoing a demographic shift and a technological transformation that is making it more habitable for its population.

With the decrease in Mexican immigration due to an increase in Mexico’s living conditions, why are more people trying to cross the border? As Mexico increases opportunities, immigration statistics are shifting to the impoverished Central Americans.

Increase in Central American Immigration

In Central American countries, over half of the population lives below the poverty line. The Northern Triangle of Central America, or NTCA, which includes Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, has one of the highest homicide rates on earth and many consider this area to have some of the most dangerous countries. America is not the only country seeing a huge influx of these immigrants as well. Mexico, Belize, Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica have seen a 432 percent increase in asylum applications, the majority coming from the NTCA.

Over 90 percent of the new illegal immigrants entering the U.S. is coming out of Guatemala specifically. Why are more people trying to cross the border? It is because of the challenges of poverty and violence in Guatemala.

  • About two-thirds of Guatemalan children live in poverty.
  • Over two-thirds of the indigenous population live in poverty.
  • The wealth distribution in the country is one of the most uneven distributions in the world. In fact, the top 1 percent control 65 percent of the wealth, and the top 5 percent control 85 percent. The economic elite is not indigenous either as most members have European heritage.
  • Guatemalans are itching to flee areas ridden with conflicts over land rights, environmental issues, official forced labor policies, gang violence, prostitution and human trafficking, and depressing crop prices that destroy farmers’ ability to make profits.

What the US is Doing to Help Guatemala

Fortunately, the U.S. is working to help improve conditions in Guatemala.  Traditionally, Guatemala and the U.S. have had a good relationship with a few disagreements over human rights and military issues. Guatemala has a strong trade system in place and the U.S. benefits by working to improve conditions there regarding security, governance, food security, civil rights, education, crime reduction and health service access for the people.

The U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America put in multiple initiatives including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Central American Regional Security Initiative and Food for Peace. The U.S.’s goal is to spur development in Guatemala and reduce the desire for illegal immigration into the U.S. The Trump Administration proposed to substantially cut funds for the country and to completely eliminate food aid. Congress shot down much of these cuts in the Consolidated Appropriations Acts of 2018 and 2019. However, in March 2019, the Trump Administration did suspend all U.S. military aid in the country when the Guatemalan government misused armored vehicles that the Department of Defense provided to combat drug trafficking. The Trump Administration is still actively trying to cut or eliminate all U.S. aid to Guatemala and the NTCA, but Congress remains actively invested in the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America.

– Gentry Hale
Photo: Flickr

 Female Weaving Co-op in Mexico
Female weaving co-ops began to proliferate in Mexico in the late 20th century, especially in the country’s most impoverished areas. Indigenous Mexican women living in these areas found it imperative to collectivize to navigate an oppressive socio-political landscape. Vida Nueva is one example of a co-op that grew out of this context. This female weaving co-op promotes gender equality in Mexico in ways that people never before imagined.

How This Female Weaving Co-op Promotes Gender Equality in Mexico

Oaxaca is the second-poorest state in Mexico, with historically low GDP growth relative to the national average. In Oaxaca, 28 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty, a statistic due mainly to income disparities between rural and urban centers and the region’s low manufacturing capacity. In the small township of Teotitlán del Valle, Zapotec women feel social and economic marginalization the hardest, because they must contend with a communal infrastructure that favors men and limits their participation in municipal government. Until the 1990s, women could not pursue education or obtain a drivers’ license.

Today, many Zapotec women are still illiterate and bound to male intermediaries so they may engage meaningfully with the economy. This is especially the case regarding the textile industry, their principal export. Under these conditions, even their own reproductive health can present a source of ignorance.

Weaving Cooperatives as a Means of Social Change

The establishment of weaving cooperatives has benefitted Zapotec communities like Teotitlán in confronting the onset of globalization and neoliberal economics in Mexico. This phenomenon has proven to be damning to rural indigenous communities throughout the country. However, the biggest impact changes in textile production have been in improving gender relations in otherwise patriarchal contexts.

Since Zapotec women began weaving, their stake in local politics has increased, as well as their lobbying ability. Exposure to new markets through access to technology and travel has led to instances of financial and ideological independence. They have placed new importance on education and female empowerment, reshaping social norms to value female labor and domestic contributions at home.

Vida Nueva

Vida Nueva (New Life in Spanish) is an all-female weaving cooperative changing the social geography for women in Teotitlán for the better. The group comprises of solteras or unmarried women, widows and the wives of migrants, who banded together in an attempt to circumvent merchant control over their products. When starting, the women struggled to sell their rugs independently due to a language barrier (most do not speak any Spanish), stigmas against indigenous Mexicans in the city, exploitative bureaucracy and male backlash within their community.

A chance encounter with Flor Cervantes, a social justice promoter in Oaxaca with over eight years of self-esteem workshops under her guidance, gave Vida Nueva the architecture to develop into what it is now. Under Cervantes’ guidance, the women learned about their bodies, their business potential and how best to advocate for themselves. With this knowledge, Vida Nueva began to expand. It eventually gained recognition from the United Nations and the licensure to sell its goods worldwide. Through education and cooperative production, Vida Nueva regained control over the production and sale of its work.

While Vida Nueva’s biggest impact on gender equality in Mexico is qualitative, concrete change also exists. By 2004, nearly 15 percent of households in Teotitlán participated in textile cooperatives. This is a considerable increase since Vida Nueva’s inception in 1996.

According to the New York Times’ measure last year, the textile industry involves almost all of Teotitlán’s 5,500 residents in some way. Since the early 2000s, higher volumes of female co-op members received invitations to attend community assemblies. Now, it is commonplace for whole collectives to receive written invitations. This serves as evidence that a once-rigis, patriarchal local government is finding women to be more valued assets.

Giving Back

At no point in becoming independent artisans did the women of Vida Nueva compromise their practice. They continue to use the natural dyes (made from pomegranate, marigolds, pulverized insects, etc.) and the arduous weaving techniques that predated colonization. Vida Nueva is a community-driven project with a localized vision. Every year, the collective sponsors a new initiative to improve the quality of life in Teotitlán for all residents. Since starting, the group has championed recycling and forestation efforts, senior care services and feminism.

Elena Robidoux
Photo: Taken by Elena Robidoux

10 Facts About the United State's Southern Border
The border between the United States and Mexico is the second-largest border in the world, spanning about 2,000 miles long. The fences have made it harder to cross but Mexico has been the driving force of U.S. immigration control and has deterred hundreds of thousands of Central Americans from traveling north of the border. Despite the recent headlines surrounding the border dividing the U.S. and Mexico, many people do not have much knowledge about the topic. Here are 10 facts about the United State’s southern border.

10 Facts About the United State’s Southern Border

  1. Arrests at the Border: Arrests at the United State’s southern border are at their lowest in history. Though the number of apprehensions has more than doubled between 2018 and 2019, that number is still below the historical high. Statistics show that U.S. authorities made more than 1.6 million arrests at the southern border, a figure that has been steadily declining. In fact, the number of immigrants arrested at the southern border in 2018 was the fifth-lowest total since 1973, where apprehensions regularly exceeded 1 million each fiscal year during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
  2. Reduced Asylum Seekers: Only a limited number of asylum seekers are passing through the United State’s southern border. The Trump Administration has implemented and proposed changes that have limited the number of asylum seekers seeking refuge in the U.S., causing them to wait weeks and even months along the southern border before legally crossing. One of the changes to stem from the Trump Administration is the metering and queueing process that allows U.S. officials to limit the daily number of individuals who can make asylum claims. Before these changes, most asylum seekers apprehended were able to live the U.S. while awaiting a decision on their immigration status.
  3. Families at the Border: Fact three of the 10 facts about the United State’s southern border is that the rate of families attempting to cross the border is at an all-time high. According to the Pew Research Center, people traveling in families accounted for the majority of apprehensions at the southern border in 2019, totaling 473,682 apprehensions of family units. The cause of family separation is simply because the U.S. does not have enough facilities licensed to detain them. President Trump’s zero tolerance policy has been the result of apprehended families and their separation at the southern border, separating over 4,000 immigrant families. However, a federal court has since blocked Trump’s Administration efforts for now.
  4. Overstays vs. Border Crossings: More people are overstaying their visas than those that authorities arrest at the border. Though the President claims that the issue of illegal crossing at the border stems from immigrants and bad people, the Department of Homeland Security reports otherwise. It reported having had a suspected 606,926 people in-country overstays in 2018 alone, thus, pressuring the President to suspend travel from countries with high rates of overstays.
  5. Illegal Drugs: Most illegal drugs are entering the U.S. through legal ports of entry. Illegal drugs are making their way into the U.S. but not in the way that President Trump suggests. According to a report from the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2018, most drugs entering the United States are not coming from the southern border, but through official border crossings that U.S. authorities safeguard. However, there are efforts to prevent drug trafficking into the U.S. at legal ports of entry. The Trump Administration is working toward providing more customs and border protection officers along the U.S.’s southern border.
  6. Central Americans: The majority of border crossers are Central Americans. Non-Mexicans have far outnumbered the Mexicans crossing at the United State’s southern border. In an attempt to flee extreme violence and poverty-stricken circumstances, Central Americans – those individuals from the Northern Triangle nations including Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador – have accounted for nearly half of the people crossing the southern border illegally today. According to the Pew Research Center, individuals from these three countries accounted for 71 percent of all apprehensions in fiscal 2019, totaling 607,774 combined.
  7. Spread of Disease: Border crossing has lead to increased health issues. A large number of people crossing the United State’s southern border, whether legally or illegally, has led to an increase in health issues, mainly the spread of diseases such as Hepatitis A, HIV, measles and tuberculosis. However, there have been efforts to treat or prevent the spread of disease across the United State’s southern border. Programs such as the Binational Border Infectious Disease Surveillance Program (BIDS) have emerged to detect, report and prevent infectious disease threats and outbreaks.
  8. History at the Border: What some may not know about the United State’s southern border is that the U.S. did not target Mexican immigrants until the early 1900s. Efforts to keep Mexicans out of the U.S. did not begin until the Mexican Revolution in 1910. Armed forces began monitoring the border to keep fighting from spilling over into the U.S. The Texas Rangers and other militias were among the first to form along the border to keep the Mexicans fleeing battle from immigrating to the states.
  9. The Most Crossed Border in the World: The U.S.’s southern border has the most frequent crossings in the world with more than 350 million legal crossings each year and more than 200,000 illegal crossings through Texas. Though the majority of those crossing are seeking refuge and fleeing to escape poverty and violence at home, others are crossing simply for the economic freedoms that the country promises.
  10. Barriers at the Border: Contrary to what most Americans believe, fact number 10 of the 10 facts about the United State’s southern border is that there are already barriers in place. The U.S. has been initiating fencing and other physical barriers with Mexico since the mid-1990s. President Bill Clinton is the first to advocate for a physical barrier between the U.S. and Mexico.

These 10 facts about the United State’s southern border have shown that cutting off aid to the countries of Central America, closing the U.S.-Mexico border and increasing family apprehensions and separations are not going to make the issues circling the border disappear. However, people are doing work on all sides, from Mexico’s government to the CDC and Customs Border Protection officers, in an effort to improve the structure, avoid chaos and move forward with the progress at the southern border.

– Na’Keevia Brown
Photo: Flickr

 

countries that have eliminated trachoma

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) affect more than 1.4 billion people in 149 countries. These diseases flourish in areas of the world where there is a lack of basic sanitation, which means that the global poor have the highest risk of contracting them. These diseases are preventable and treatable, but due to a lack of resources and aid, millions of people still suffer from these diseases that can cause them to be disfigured, disabled and may even result in death.

However, with the help of several different organizations and national campaigns, many countries have successfully eliminated some NTDs, including trachoma, which is the leading cause of blindness in the world. Trachoma is a bacterial eye infection that affects the eyes and eyelids, causing the eyelashes to turn inward toward the eye leaving patients blind.

Here are three countries that have eliminated trachoma.

3 Countries That Have Eliminated Trachoma

  • Ghana – In 2018, Ghana became the first country in West Africa to eliminate blinding trachoma. Three groups were instrumental in this effort: FHI 360 – a nonprofit human development organization; END in Africa Project (financed by USAID) and Ghana Health Service’s NTD program. Working together, the three organizations eliminated blinding trachoma over an eight-year period. From 2010 to 2018, the END in Africa Project supported the global distribution of more than 464 million NTD Program treatments for trachoma and other diseases. They also mapped disease distribution, treated at-risk populations and monitored treatment impact while also documenting successes along the road to eliminating this terrible disease. FHI 360 provided technical and financial assistance for trachoma post-treatment surveillance, which will help with further prevention of the disease. The program’s long surveillance and treatment of patients is a testament to its dedication and commitment to ending NTDs.
  • Laos – In 2017, Laos became the fifth endemic country in the world to eliminate blinding trachoma as a public health problem. Blinding trachoma was especially common among young children. The United States government had been supporting Laos since 2012 through several USAID projects, such as END in Asia and ENVISION. These projects assisted the Ministry of Health in collecting reliable data on the status of trachoma, which helped determine the correct approach to eradicate the disease. Laos was able to place ophthalmologists at national, provincial and district levels to detect and operate on cases of patients with the disease. The projects also trained primary health care workers to screen patients for trachoma, and they gave patients with less severe conditions the antibiotic eye treatments they needed. Nongovernmental organizations also helped train health volunteers in villages on ways to prevent trachoma. Education ministries invited volunteers to come to their schools and educate their students on facial cleanliness and showed how the infection spread from person to person. Laos achieved amazing success with its partners, working to not only diagnose and treat the disease but also to educate people on how to prevent trachoma.
  • Mexico – Mexico became the first country in the Americas and the third country in the world to officially eliminate trachoma in April 2017. In 2004, the Secretary of Health of the state of Chiapas formed a group of health professionals called Trachoma Brigades to implement SAFE, the strategy recommended by the World Health Organization to eliminate the disease. In their fight against this disease, Mexico provided surgery for people at imminent risk of blindness, administered antibiotics in affected communities to reduce infection in children as well as to stop transmission, promoted personal hygiene and improved environmental conditions. The SAFE strategy’s 4 interventions have been especially successful in the state of Chiapas. Trachoma was endemic in 246 communities in the state and affected over 146,000 citizens. Trachoma Brigades, alongside national, state and community efforts and international partners, eradicated this disease. Trachoma Brigades visited communities several times a year to conduct surveys, eye examinations, identify cases, administer antibiotics, educate children about proper hygiene and perform surgeries.

These three countries worked for years to eradicate this trachoma and improve their citizens’ quality of life. The combined efforts of multiple organizations and governments brought medication, surgeries and public education to these countries toward achieving this goal. In addition to Ghana, Laos and Mexico, countries such as Cambodia, Togo, The Marshall Islands, Oman and Morocco have also made progress against this disease.

It is a U.S. foreign policy objective to support the treatment, control and elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). The World Health Organization recognizes 17 NTDs which currently afflict 1.4 billion people around the globe. Urge Congress to support the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act to advance U.S. foreign policy interests and safeguard national security.

Email Congress to End NTDs

Jannette Aguirre
Photo: WHO