Thursday, December 13, 2007

Group Heads to Mexico to Make a Difference

By Courtney Westlake

When a professor suggested that Julian Borjas take a class that corresponded with his area of study, political economy, he jumped at the opportunity. Now the class is leading him south of the border to gain some firsthand information and perspective on globalization.

A group of UIS students, known as the Mexico Diez (which means Mexico Ten), will be traveling to Mexico in the spring to study the effects of globalization nationally and internationally. They will spend ten days in poverty-stricken areas of Mexico City and rural communities such as Chiapas.

The Mexico Diez is part of a class called "Mexico and Globalization," said Borjas. During the trip, they will act as delegates for Witness for Peace and interview families, grassroots activists, scholars, labor organizers, and other experts in everyday life.

"We're going to be studying globalization, including contracts like NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) and CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement), which will go into effect soon, and then we'll be going to Mexico to see how workers are actually affected by these different trade agreements," Borjas said. "There is going to be a lot of groundwork, which I'm really interested in."

As the world becomes increasingly globalized, many feel it is important to pay attention to the repercussions of the economic policies that guide Western society today. Borjas said he hopes he and others in the group will gain new perspectives about trade workers and agreements and looks forward to the opportunitity to provide service to others.

"We're taking a lot of natural resources from other places and displacing our own labor force in doing it," he said. "It's not really a good system; it's not benefiting most Americans, not benefiting other countries. So we figure it's kind of our obligation to go out and say 'this is what our country is doing'."

The group has been actively fundraising for the trip for the past three months, said Kris Bein, graduate assistant in Women and Gender Studies. At least $15,000 must be raised to cover the costs, she said. (Anyone interested in contributing can contact Bein at or 206-8205).

"The students have worked so hard and raised quite a large sum in three short months, but we're not done," she said. "We still have about $1,000 to go, so we still need support from the campus community."

The research the group compiles will enable students and community members alike to better understand the effects that trade policies have on the developing world, Bein said. The group will return home after the trip to present their work to the UIS campus and Springfield community.

"We're going to come back and talk to schools, organizations and civic groups and talk about what we did and what we saw there," Borjas said. "Witness for Peace in its entirety is to let people see the influence that our economy and government is having worldwide, and just to come back and say what you honestly saw and felt."