The author of Mexican Lives, Judith Adler Hellman, grapples with the United States’ economic relationship with their neighbors to the south, Mexico. It also considers, through many interviews, the affairs of one nation. It is a work held to high esteem by many critics, who view this work as an essential part in truly understanding and capturing Mexico’s history. In Mexican Lives, Hellman presents us with a cast from all walks of life. This enables a reader to get more than one perspective, which tends to be bias. It also gives a more inclusive view of the nation of Mexico as a whole. Dealing with rebel activity, free trade, assassinations and their transition into the modern age, it justly captures a Mexico in its true light.
All walks of life are presented, from prevailing businessmen of white-collar status, to those of the working class and labor industry, as well as individuals who deal in the black market of smuggling illegal immigrants across the border into the U.S. Hellman’s work explores the subject of Mexico’s economic situation in the 1990s. NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) closely tied the United States and Mexico during this period, as well as similar policies such as GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) that were also created. These issues pertaining to economic policies between the two nations, Mexico and the United States are seen highlighted throughout her work.
Hellman opens with three individuals at three different times. The reader is first introduced to Lupe Gonzalez at 3 A.M., whose story is a harsh reality for many. She lives in the vecindad of San Miguel Iztacalco where “eighteen families in eighteen single-room dwellings share a single water tap in the courtyard…” (pg.15) This is the daily life for many other Mexican families, as well as families from all over Latin America. She lives in a single room home with six children and her second husband. The reason for the set time is due to a schedule that each family must abide by, in order to obtain a simple necessity of life, water for their “drinking, bathing, cooking, and household cleaning.” (pg.15) With this the reader witnesses how there isn’t even enough water for all members of the community and city for constant usage. They share three beds for all eight family members and make considerably less then minimum...
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...ople extort from others. It’s a way of life… The NAFTA treaty isn’t meant to rescue people like us, it’s meant to help the rich" (pg. 157) Later, the reader learns that Maria was driven out of business by competators after NAFTA took effect.
Mexican Lives is a rare piece of literature that accounts for the human struggle of an underdeveloped nation, which is kept impoverished in order to create wealth for that of another nation, the United States. The reader is shown that the act of globalization and inclusion in the world’s economies, more directly the United States, is not always beneficial to all parties involved. The data and interviews, which Hellman has put forth for her readers, contain some aspect of negativity that has impacted their lives by their nation’s choice to intertwine their economy with that of the United States. Therefore it can only be concluded that the entering into world markets, that of Mexico into the United States, does not always bring on positive outcomes. Thus, one sees that Mexico has become this wasteland of economic excrement; as a result it has become inherently reliant on the United States.
Judith A. Hellman: Mexican Lives.
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