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Madonna of the Maquiladora
Alex Steffen, 2 Oct 03

Gregory Frost's story Madonna of the Maquiladora is further proof to my mind that some of the best journalism being done these days is being published as SF:

"The shack she takes you to is barely outside the fire line. The frame is held together by nails driven through bottle caps. The walls are cut up shipping cartons for Three Musketeers candy bars. No floor, only dirt. There’s an old, rust-stained mattress and a couple of beat-up suitcases. She comes up with a bottle of tequila from God knows where, apologizes for the lack of ice and glasses. Then she takes a long swig from the mouth of the bottle. Her eyes are watering as she passes it to you. You smell her then, the odor of a woman mixed in with the smoke smell, sweat and flesh and dirt. You almost want to ask her why she does this, lives this way, but you haven’t any right. ...

"It’s not north against south anymore, rich whites against poor Mexicans. That’s only a thing, a speck. It’s the whole world, Deputy. The maquiladora is the whole world now. Japan is here, Korea is here, anyone who wants to make things without being watched, without having to answer to anyone, without having to pay fairly. They’re here and everywhere else, too. Ya, basta! You understand? Enough! It’s not about NAFTA, about whose treaty promises what. Whoever’s treaty, it will be just the same. Here right now in Mexico the drug dealers are investing. They buy factories, take their money and grind their own people to make more money, clean money. This is clean, what they’re doing. And it’s no different here than anywhere else, it’s even better here than some places. It’s a new century and the countries they bleed together, and the only borders, the only fences, are made of bodies. All the pictures you’ve seen, but if you don’t see this thing in all of them, then you’re seeing nothing!"...

"It’s on the dusty cowpath of a road, on foot, that they grab you. Three of them. They know who they’re looking for, and everyone else knows to stay out of it. These guys are las pandillas, the kind who’d kill someone for standing too close to them. A dozen people are all moving away, down the road, and the backward glances they give you are looks of farewell. Adios, amigo. Won’t be seeing you again. They know it and so do you. You’ve seen the photos. The thousand merciless ways people don’t come home, and you’re about to become one...

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