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Reactions to Made in L.A.

Like Lupe, Maura and María, many other immigrant women around America struggle to make a better life for themselves by working in garment factories with low pay and unsafe working conditions. POV asked activists and policymakers in the fields of immigration and labor to comment on the film, and on the opportunities and setbacks that immigrants encounter in America.

Lupita Castañeda

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Lupita CastañedaThis movie, from beginning to end, shows us the similarities of many women in the working world. These are three unique women dealing with many of the problems immigrants face. They are stitch workers fighting for their human and labor rights.

María married very young. She came to the United States filled with dreams but her lack of education and the fact that she didn't speak English meant she could only get low-paying jobs at maquiladora factories. She also struggled in her personal life, as her chauvinistic partner didn't allow her to improve herself or fight for what she wants.

Maura's tearful face captivated me. I related to her as she remembered the moment she said goodbye to her children, what they were wearing and what her little boy said to her: "Don't go, Mom." I guess anyone watching can think of a member of their family or a friend who had to leave them and how heart-breaking that journey is.

Maura handed herself over to a "coyote" to cross the border. As an undocumented immigrant, she can't leave the U.S. to visit her family in Mexico. She finds work wherever she can, usually at garment factories where she has to withstand being humiliated on a regular basis in order to keep the job and send money to her family. It's very painful.

It was inspiring to me to see how working at the Center gave every one of them strength and enthusiasm. It gave them joy and happiness. María felt happy as she forgot about her family's problems for a while. Participating in a protest made Lupe feel important. Maura overcame her shyness to speak in public. It's amazing to see these women become more and more empowered throughout the movie.

I also liked the part when Lupe explains how immigrants arrive in the U.S. thinking they'll be able to get a job. When she visits the museum in New York, she sees the poverty in which stitch workers and ironers lived at the turn of the 20th century. She sees the boats arriving in the harbor filled with people, and thinks of herself when she arrived and the way she feels today, after having worked in the stitching industry for 13 years. The way she felt when she saw how other immigrants worked and lived 100 years ago, drove her to let others know the things she saw on those ships filled with immigrants and the "Organiza" (ILO) signs of the protestors in the streets. Scenes such as these motivate you to think things can't continue to go on in this way. Action has to be taken.

I think the movie helps viewers to better understand what low-wage workers are going through because it shows the challenges that immigrant workers face when fighting for their rights to be acknowledged. It shows the different stages of the process, from the time they ask for support with the help of the Center to the moment they decide to proceed with the lawsuit. One thinks about how important it is to never lose hope, no matter how long the fight takes. There will always be an end to any legal process. The boycott and the lawsuit sent a message and empowered workers and organizations dedicated to immigrant rights. Others will find in it the strength to go on with their own fight.

Throughout the film, you learn about the challenges immigrants in the United States have faced for many years — and sadly, still do. You also end up committing to take action and effect positive social change.

Next: Bill Richardson »

Lupita Castañeda is an ex-maquiladora worker and a community advocate.  She worked in a pantyhose maquiladora, but after taking a medical leave was unable to find another job because she was past 35, an age typically considered by the maquiladora industry to be "too old" for factory work.  It was this dilemma that led her to seek the support and training of local organizations and led to her becoming a "promotora," or advocate, for women's and workers' rights. Lupita has collaborated on the POV film "Maquilapolis" since 2001, and has coordinated the film's Community Outreach Campaign since the beginning of 2007.





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You'll see that Lupe and Maura and Maria could have been any of us if born under different circumstances.”

— Congresswoman Diane Watson (CA)

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