1. ‘‘maría elena cuadra’’
1 The term maquiladoras (colloquially, maquilas) refers to export-processing
assembly factories. In Nicaragua the majority of these factories manufacture
2 The International Labor Organization (2004) estimates that of the 2.8 billion
people that had work in 2003, 1.2 billion were women.
3 Two studies that do look at women’s movements are the anthologies by Naples
and Desai (2002) and Teske and Tétrault (2000).
4 In this book names of organizations have been left unchanged while the names
given for individuals are pseudonyms, except in the case of those who hold public
o≈ce or who are well-known public figures. To disguise the identities of individ-
uals I have at times changed some factual information about them. All uncited
quotations are from interviews or my field notes documenting my participant
observation. Translations from Spanish are my own.
5 Not everyone would agree that mec organizers represent or are grassroots
women. In chapter 4 I discuss the idea of mujeres de base as being an important
collective identity for di√erent factions of mec organizers and what this means to
them. Mindry 2001 describes how the degree of association with the ‘‘grassroots’’
is used as a yardstick by international donor organizations in determining which
local women’s organizations are considered worthy of funding.
6 ‘‘Compañero/a’’ literally means companion or partner. It is also used much like
our ‘‘comrade’’ when addressing fellow revolutionaries or members of leftist
political movements. mec members referred to each other and to their allies and
supporters in this way.
7 Chele (or the female chela) is a Mayan word that literally means blue—referring to
the eyes of Europeans (Lancaster 1992: 217). In Nicaragua, and indeed Latin
America as a whole, racial categories are constructed in ways that di√er dramati-
cally from those in the United States. For example, race is tied closely to class, and
individuals can ‘‘whiten’’ by moving up the socioeconomic ladder (Wade 1997).
In Nicaragua children from the same nuclear family may be considered to belong
to di√erent categories of skin color. Nearly every family has a child a√ectionately
dubbed a negrito/a (literally, little black one) and a chelito/a (little white one).
Lighter skin and straight hair—European phenotypes—are more highly valued
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