Mexico’s Border Industrialization Program and The Rise of Las Maquiladoras

This year, we are taking a look at the history of the Texas-Mexico border and what events shaped it to where it is today. Join us for this series as we explore the key moments that built the foundation for the relationship between Texas and Mexico.

The term Maquiladora refers to a factory in Mexico which is run by a foreign country, uses Mexican labor to assemble products with imported materials, and exports the products back to the original country. Maquiladoras arose in the mid-1960s following the initiation of Mexico’s Border Industrialization Program, which was introduced as an effort to make up for job loss resulting from the dismantling of the Bracero Program. The Border Industrialization Program aimed to attract foreign investment and produce jobs in the Northern border region, and the cheap labor and breaks on duties and taxes offered by maquiladoras helped the program achieve these ends with enthusiastic participation from many countries, particularly the United States. Under the maquiladora program, factories could temporarily import all supplies and equipment necessary to manufacture products in Mexico. This could be performed duty-free as long as the output was exported back to the U.S. and, in return, the U.S. only taxed the value added. The signing of NAFTA in 1994 greatly expanded the power of the maquiladora industry, with the sector growing to generate 48% of Mexico’s exports by the year 2000.

The United States’ heavy involvement with maquiladoras has led to around 90% of these factories being located along the border with around a third located in Juárez alone. Unfortunately, the continued draw of maquiladoras depends on wages for Mexican laborers being kept at exploitatively low rates. Even with the recent doubling of the minimum wage in Mexico, assembly-line workers in Ciudad Juárez make some of the lowest wages in the country. Other concerns relating to the maquiladora industry include failure to employ former braceros, environmental damage in and around the Rio Grande, and job loss in the United States’ manufacturing sector.

To learn more about the History of the Texas-Mexico border, go here.

This post was written by Katherine Rossmiller ’21. She is a Meadows Scholar studying Public Policy and Music with minors in American Politics and Statistical Science. She is on the Pre-Law track and is also involved with SMU’s Symphony Orchestra and the Belle Tones.

Information cited from the following sources:

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