making the global happen
In 1996, just before I left for a research trip to Nicaragua, my seventeen-
year-old brother-in-law William died suddenly and unexpectedly while
exercising in a PE class at school. Like many Nicaraguan migrants in the
1990s, my husband’s family was spread between his home town of Jino-
tepe and several cities in the United States. Upon hearing of his brother’s
death, we traveled to Miami to make the funeral arrangements and join
the rest of his U.S.-based family members to mourn this tragedy. After
the funeral, as we packed to return to California, my mother-in-law
began going through her recently deceased son’s belongings. ‘‘Tomá,
hija,’’ she said to me. ‘‘It would be a shame to waste these new blue jeans.
They’ve never even been worn. Take them to Nicaragua and give them to
my cousin Agenor.’’ As I placed the jeans in my suitcase, I noticed the
label: ‘‘Made in Nicaragua.’’
As I reflected on the intersecting movements of this piece of clothing
and the people who would come in contact with it, I came to see this
garment as a powerful symbol of the intersections between globalization
and the daily lives of ordinary people. Contrary to the abstract notion of
globalization as best understood through macro-level analysis, the expe-
riences of everyday people—people like William—have much to tell us
about global and transnational processes. These do not simply happen to
the economy or to political systems. People on the ground engage and
participate in these processes—in e√ect, making them happen.
U.S. cotton stitched together by Nicaraguan women in the Free Trade
Zone, William’s Levi’s must have traveled to a distributor in the States
(probably in New York or Los Angeles) and finally to a retailer in Miami.
There they were sold for approximately a week’s wages of the workers
who produced them and were purchased for a teenage boy in Miami who
himself had made this voyage on more than one occasion.
William was conceived in the late seventies, just before his mother
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