From the Revolution to the Maquiladoras
is a major contribution to the study of globalization, labor, and women’s movements. Jennifer Bickham Mendez presents a detailed ethnographic account of the Nicaraguan Working and Unemployed Women’s Movement, “María Elena Cuadra” (mec), which emerged as an autonomous organization in 1994. Most of its efforts revolve around organizing women workers in Nicaragua’s free trade zones and working to improve conditions in maquiladora
factories. Mendez examines the structural and cultural elements of mec in order to demonstrate how globalization affects grassroots advocacy for social and economic justice. She argues that globalization has created opportunities for new forms of organizing among those local populations that suffer its effects and that mec, which has forged vital links with transnational feminist and labor groups, exemplifies the possibilities—and pitfalls—of this new type of organizing.
Mendez draws on interviews with leaders and program participants, including maquiladora workers; her participant observation while she worked as a volunteer within the organization; and analysis of the public statements, speeches, and texts written by mec members. She provides a sense of the day-to-day operations of the group as well as its strategies. By exploring the tension between mec and transnational feminist, labor, and solidarity networks, she illustrates how mec women’s outlooks are shaped by both their revolutionary roots within the Sandinista regime and their exposure to global discourses of human rights and citizenship. The complexities of the women’s labor movement analyzed in From the Revolution to the Maquiladoras speak to social and economic justice movements in the many locales around the world.