Everyone has a story. Being able to give a voice to an untold story is what inspired me to become a writer in the first place. I was lucky enough to pitch and write this investigative piece titled “Behind the Label and Inside Maquiladoras” for Urban Latino, which highlights the experiences of several factory workers in Mexico and Nicaragua. For those of you who don’t know, a maquiladora is a sweatshop that offers low pay and poor working conditions for its workers. As a first generation born American, the piece was personal since my mother and aunt also worked as factory workers when they first came to this country from Cuba. Of course, their experiences are different, but I think the common thread is the struggle strong women face to provide a better life for their families.
I remember interviewing Zulema Mena Garay and instantly feeling connected to my deceased grandmother who also shares her last name. As she explained her daily routine of working in a sweatshop and having a production quota of 5,000 shorts per day, I kept imagining myself in the same position. I didn’t get very far. I was so inspired by her strength and determination to fight for her rights as a factory worker. She later joined a non-profit organization named Nueva Vida, which allows women to become business partners and earn rightful assets for their work. In essence, she was a part of a revolution dismantling the oppressive cycle clothing corporations currently have on Latin America and other countries.
I hope you enjoy the piece and share your thoughts on the topic. Do you make it a point to support sweatshop-free apparel? I’m not sure if shopping at Forever 21 counts.