Students Raise Funds to Help Exploited Workers

OLGA RAMAZ
El Vaquero Arts and Entertainment Editor

In an effort to raise funds for the Worker Information Center, Centro de Informacion para Trabajadoras y Trabajadores Asociacion Civil (CITTAC), a nonprofit organization based in Tijuana, Mexico, that is on the brink of closure due to lack of funds, the Association of Latin American Students (ALAS) held its spring PeAÒa, an evening of live entertainment and food, at Plaza Vaquero on May 27.

CITTAC has been around for 15 years, and up until three years ago it provided service to the people of Tijuana, Tecate and Rosarito from the home of Jaime Cota, head of the organization. Through donations, this grassroots organization managed to set up a permanent location and continues to provide legal counseling and advice to maquiladora workers who have fallen victim to poor working conditions, unfair dismissal and other injustices that occur at the job site.

Maquiladoras are American-owned companies that locate assembly plants across the border to exploit cheap labor.

Every semester, ALAS gathers to discuss where fund-raising efforts might best be directed. Last semester’s event even generated funds for the victims of Hurricane Stan in Guatemala, and in one previous year they raised money to build a school in Nicaragua.

When club members brainstormed for a cause that would benefit from a PeAÒa, CITTAC came to mind. Connie Garcia, a member of the Workers Information Center, recalled how ALAS and CITTAC forged a connection.

“Someone from the [GCC] campus came to Tijuana and visited our location,” said Garcia. “We sent out letters to some of our supporters and those who had visited us in the past, letting them know about our situation. Basically, they [ALAS] contacted us.”

According to ALAS member Kathy Laura, it was the idea of adjunct social science professor Celia Simonds to help CITTAC. Simonds and some of her students had previously visited CITTAC and went on a tour of their premises and several maquiladoras in Tijuana.

“I thought the PeAÒa went really well,” said student Jo Takarabe. “It was different this semester in that ALAS reached out to small businesses like Lola’s in Glendale and SeAÒor Fish in Eagle Rock to support the event by making [food] donations.

“What was also really quite nice was that members of CITTAC drove all the way from Tijuana to join us and give us an idea of what maquiladora workers are up against, and the invaluable assistance that CITTAC provides workers like them.”

The evening got underway with an acoustic performance by Esteban and Efrain, followed by several dances from the Latin American Cultural Dance Group, and Manny “Vdah” Bracamonte who presented some of his spoken word.

Some of the vendors, like mother and daughter Diana Telles and Tania Torres who sold an assortment of arts and crafts, also took the time to make a political statement by setting up a presentation on the women of Juarez.

“We set up the presentation so that people ask us about the murders going on in Juarez,” said Torres. “I always hope that people will gain interest in this problem and take some sort of action.”

During the past decade, more than 300 young women from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, have disappeared, and some were found murdered in the desert. Most of these young women were maquiladora workers, and up until this day, their murders remain unsolved.

As a result of the PeAÒa, ALAS managed to raise $300, but will be donating a total of $800 to CITTAC. The extra $500 will be allocated from the ALAS account.

“Organizations like ALAS remind me of my years as a student,” said Garcia. “This group gives me hope that when they enter the real world, they will enter it with a strong social conscience. Their efforts are greatly appreciated.”
For more information on CITTAC, go to www.cittac.org.