Traditional Mexico and Machismo

By analyzing the crime scene, one can deduce that the sexualized murder suggests anger at the increasing sexual independence of young women in Mexico. The mutilated breasts suggest anger at women’s use of their bodies for more than mothering and nurturing. The victims are primarily working women, suggesting resentment at women’s increasing economic independence. Abandonment of their bodies in the desert like garbage reveals that these women are considered cheap and disposable. What is not apparent at the crime scene is the class hierarchy – embedded in global capitalism and expressed through gender – that plays an integral part in these murders.

Jessica Livingston, “Murder in Juárez: Gender, Sexual Violence, and the Global Assembly Line,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 25.1 (2004): 71, JSTOR, 1 Sep. 2010 <>.

The idea that young women would be the optimal labourers as they are docile and malleable was central to the founding of maquiladora systems in 1965.[i] Although since 1990 there have been increasing numbers of men working in the maquila districts, the ideal of the female worker remains. Frequently women directly contradict this through protest and expressions of extreme lack of malleability; however the myth of their disposability continues in corporate rhetoric.[ii]



Two processes are enacted upon these female workers that render them scapegoats of the globalization process in Mexico. The first is the blame placed upon them for the breakdown in traditional Mexican society, as a result of their strong presence as labourers in foreign-owned production plants, and the second involves the application of the idea of the machismo.

First, the entrance of women into the denationalized zones of the maquiladoras removes them from the nationally protected traditional spheres. With the potentiality for greater economic autonomy by entering the labour force, women leave traditional roles and thus come to be blamed for the “erosion of basic social values within the community.”[iii] On top of their movement into greater economic and personal independence, they are also open to attack for caving to foreign invasion.

Second, some theorists, through the idea of the machismo, have explored the idea that the western invader is able to threaten Mexican traditional society because of the acquiescence of women. As the mainstay of the workforce, although now perhaps more imagined than real as men increasingly enter into labour in maquila zones, women have become scapegoats for the processes of globalisation. International businesses enter into Mexico to take advantage of cheaper labour and longer working weeks, and women are conduits of their success by accepting this reality and applying for jobs. Furthermore, they are essentialised as passive, docile and submissive workers, which contributes to their conceptualisation as accomplices to foreign invasion. Thus, they are constructed as betrayers of Mexican tradition by aiding the expansion of western economic and social hegemony.

The sexualisation of women in maquiladoras is complimented by the sexualisation of their acceptance of Western invasion. By entering into zones that provide birth control and assume sexual activity through pregnancy screenings, the idea of cultural or economic invasion is transferred into that of sexual invasion. Namely, the machismo is insulted because the potential mothers to a new generation of Mexican citizens are compromised by their roles as labourers for foreign employers.




[i] Jane Collins.  Threads: Gender, Labour, and Power in the Global Apparel Industry (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003) 132.

[ii] Collins 132.

[iii] Darryl Williams and Nuria Homedes, “The Impact of the Maquiladoras on Health and Health Policy along the U.S.-Mexico Border,” Journal of Public Health Policy 22.3 (2001): 326, JSTOR. 16 Aug. 2010 <>.