For thirty years Margarita worked in factories throughout El Paso, including a factory that made Levi jeans. Margarita’s job and that of more than 40,000 other El Paso workers, were offshored since NAFTA.

When people began to speak of free trade, they would ask something like, “What is free trade?” And everybody said it was something that was going to be beneficial for us. The problem came when we saw that because of free trade, companies began to leave. And then we didn’t like it. Still today, and I don’t understand why, people say that free trade has been beneficial for those inside the United States, and that the only people who have been hurt are those of us in the borderlands. But we in the borderlands also make up part of the United States…

My future is very unclear. Although I understand it’s hard to find work at my age, at the same time I can’t stop thinking that I eat just like everybody else, and pay bills. … I also can’t retire because I’m too young for that. But nobody gives me work because I’m very old. So all doors are completely shut to me. The only good thing that I’ve had is coming here to la Mujer Obrera …

I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, for me personally, working in the factory had a tremendously good impact on me because I did a lot. Personally, I believe I achieved my American Dream: buying a house, buying a new car, traveling, and becoming a citizen. If everything is bad right now, which it is, it’s because of the system, free trade and all of that. But if all of that hadn’t come into play, we people in the borderlands probably wouldn’t be going through this. I’d be happy there [at the factory], waiting for my moment to retire with a good pension and benefits.

Margarita is a member of La Mujer Obrera, an El Paso organization dedicated to creating communities defined by women. These quotes come from an oral history interview with Margarita, recorded by Refugio Cuca Arietta and Rosa Breceda in 2008. Her story is part of La Mujer Obrera Collection at the University of Texas El Paso’s Museo Mayachen. For more information on La Mujer Obrera, click here.

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