October 22, 1999

Latina Filmmaker Exposes Women Fleeing Slave Wages in Mexican Maquiladora Factories as the New Source of Illegal Immigration

Barbara Martinez-Jitner, Producer of Gregory Nava's documentary The American Tapestry, lived in Tijuana in one of the shanty towns that have sprung up around the Maquiladora factories sparked by NAFTA. She lived in a makeshift shack with Eva Canseco, a Mixtec Indian factory worker from Oaxaca and her family. She posed as a Maquiladora worker and even documented Eva's preparation for her attempt at crossing the border illegally to create a moving personal look at the crippling poverty and gender discrimination that forces thousands of women to enter the U.S. illegally.

This November, Showtime Networks will premiere the last documentary of In The 20th Century, a series films made by famous Hollywood directors like Norman Jewison, Barry Levinson, Robert Zemeckis and Garry Marshall. The last film is director Gregory Nava's The American Tapestry, a look at America's immigrant roots that covers the migrations of Europeans, Blacks, Asians and Latinos into the United States throughout this century. The documentary premieres in November and continues airing throughout December on Showtime.

Eva Canseco, a Mixtec Indian from Oaxaca looks over her homeland of Monte Alban before she leaves it forever.

As Director of the Mexico sequence, Latina filmmaker Barbara Martinez-Jitner immersed herself into the world she was to document by living and working with Eva Canseco, an impoverished factory worker in Tijuana, Mexico. Canseco has hopes of crossing the U.S. border illegally to seek a better life for her family. Martinez-Jitner lived with Eva and her husband and three children in a makeshift shack with no electricity and running water for weeks. The Cansecos eke out a meager existence on Eva's wages at a Maquiladora. Eva is the only breadwinner since the factories will only hire women because they can pay them less money and are less apt to complain. Posing as a factory worker herself, Martinez-Jitner uncovered a dark world of grueling poverty and abuse. Japanese and American companies taking advantage of the cheap labor by employing mostly women to assemble electronics or other products.

Eva says goodby to her son before crossing the border into the United States.

After being fired on her 30th birthday, Eva Canseco makes the painful decision to leave her family and make a break for the U.S. But before she leaves, Canseco must return to her homeland in the southern Mexican State of Oaxaca. She returns to her ancestral land to visit her mother's grave, seeking a blessing for she must now commit the horrible act of abandoning her children in order to provide for them a better life. Canseco's family was forced to move to Tijuana to find jobs to pay for new land taxes the Mexican government had imposed. "As we leave, our culture is erased," says Canseco from the Mixtec ruins of Monte Alban. "My village and my people will be forgotten and lost for all time."

In addition to Producer of The American Tapestry, Barbara Martinez-Jitner also received Director credit for the Mexico Sequence and was also Co-Director of Photography. Martinez-Jitner was 2nd Unit Director and Visual Effects Production Supervisor of Warner Bros' Selena and Why Do Fools Fall in Love. She began her career as an award-winning director of El Teatro Campesino and documented Cesar Chavez's 36-day Fast For Life.

Return to Frontpage