UA professors speak out about Mexico's plight

By Yvonne Condes

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Three UA professors spoke at the Ya Basta conference Saturday to help raise money so representatives can be sent to Washington, D.C., next month. The representatives will attend the state visit of Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo.

The conference was held at the American Friends Service Committee House, 931 N. Fifth Ave.

Raquel Rubio-Goldsmith, adjunct lecturer in Mexican-American Studies, spoke about the North American Free Trade Agreement and the reasons why the United States agreed to it.

One reason was the ability to hire workers for American companies in Mexico at a very low cost, she said.

"This is cheaper than owning slaves because you have to feed and house slaves," Rubio-Goldsmith said to the roughly 40 conference participants.

The devaluation of the Mexican peso had a disastrous effect on workers in Mexico. They are being paid in pesos even though the value has decreased, she said.

The labor in Mexico is so cheap that jobs are being lost in the United States. One example she used was California. In order to save money, factories have moved across the border to Tijuana or overseas, resulting in higher unemployment rates. The blame falls on Mexican workers in the farms and the restaurants, she said.

"It has been so easy to scapegoat this loss of jobs," Rubio-Goldsmith said.

That is why Proposition 187 which denies education and health care for undocumented people passed in California, she said.

Wealth is being produced in Mexico, but not put back into the community. This is also one reason the Zapatistas, a band of peasants in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, began their uprising.

Representatives from Tucson are needed in the Washington conference to show that there are people in the United States who support the Mexican people and the Zapatistas, Rubio-Goldsmith said.

Martin Taylor, UA assistant entomology professor, spoke about agriculture and the loss of genetic and human diversity.

"Western systems of agriculture is a system of plunder," Taylor said.

Agriculture, as it is developed, uses up resources such as energy and topsoil. The infusion of different genes from wild plant species is needed. One example is wild corn. It is the source of many genes and is put into other crops to make them stronger to fight disease and insects, he said.

Mexico, the Middle East and China are where agriculture and the original crops started in the fields of small-scale farmers, he said. International organizations in the 1970s collected different varieties of plant life that were in danger of being lost in third world countries. The diversity is captured and put into a gene bank. It is then used to make more resilient crops. The gene banks are used mostly by the more affluent countries even though the genes are being taken from Third World countries, he said.

The purpose for the gene banks was to find a way to help feed the poorer countries, but mostly the genes are utilized in more affluent countries, Taylor said.

This has made for the displacement of the Mexican farmer because he is unable to compete with crops being produced in high yield.

The futility of competition has led to a massive influx of the Mexican people from the countryside into the cities, he said.

The conference was organized by Naomi Mudge, history senior, and Terri Becker, bilingual education senior, to raise money and to "use as means to inform people and raise consciousness," Becker said.

Bert Barickman, UA history assistant professor, spoke about the debt crisis of the 1980s in Latin America.

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