SEWN TOGETHER, from the May + June Issue of Conspiracy News
by Ray Younghans, the Gloo Factory
The Women’s Sewing Cooperative of DouglaPrieta Works (DPW) is the longest running and closest fair trade sewing project in our region. The women of DPW make quality hand-sewn products and support a community center that teaches self-sufficiency and promotes food security in the community of Agua Prieta, Sonora. The women are agents for change in this post-colonized town, and the project demonstrates how our consumer choices can make radical differences in peoples’ lives, while countering the global capitalist paradigm that takes the means of production away from individuals—for everything from the clothes we wear to the food we eat
The name DouglaPrieta describes the mission of the group to dissolve the border between Agua Prieta, México, and contiguous Douglas, Arizona, where an artificial wall creates real divides between those who have material prosperity and those who don’t. Thus, DouglaPrieta Works is a resistance group that fills in the barren holes left in communities by worker exploitation. In previous decades, many people from Agua Prieta were employed by NAFTA factories, where they made products (including sewn goods) for export. Since 2000, over two-thirds of the factories have moved to lower-wage zones in Asia. This has left more and more people un- or underemployed. Since 1990, the population of Agua Prieta has risen from 37,000 to 200,000, and dozens of migrants are deported daily from the United States into Agua Prieta.
DouglaPrieta Works embraces a system where people can apply their skills to receive fair wages to support their families, and can pass their skills on to others, thus securing a livelihood for future generations. DPW has been collectively raising capital for infrastructure, equipment, and training to expand their program. Members make decisions together with the progress of all in mind. The women’s sewing group is a function of the whole cooperative, which also trains members in growing healthy food, building trades, and computer skills. Through perseverance, they have developed a community center with productive gardens and hand-made adobe structures. All members work in the garden, which contains food crops, fruit trees, herbs, and medicinal plants. Chickens are raised for eggs and rabbits for meat. The gardening supports improved nutrition and growth in self-esteem. The gardening program teaches water-harvesting, desert irrigation, erosion control, and use of beneficial bugs for control of other pests. The resources generated from sewing and food production benefit the members and also go back to support the center for all. Committed to a self-sufficiency that lives through future generations, DPW also teaches classes. Co-op member Trini Anguamea says “We’ve had about 26 children come for sewing classes. They also come see the vegetables we grow. I know they’re going to learn something good.”
Churches, service clubs, and border aid groups order bags, aprons, hot pads, and bandanas to sell at fundraisers. DPW also partners with humanitarian group No More Deaths to provide “dignity bags”—bags which are given to migrant deportees who have had all of their possessions taken in the deportation process. Local Tucson businesses and organizations such as Tap & Bottle and Make Way For Books order custom-printed tote bags from the DPW Co-op. Food Conspiracy Coop has printed on tote bags and other items from DouglaPrieta Works, consistent with its mission to source locally and ethically, as well as to cooperate among other sister co-ops.
The DPW sewing Co-op is currently comprised of about seven women. As sewing orders increase, the Co-op trains new women. “Each member also becomes an active gardener and participates in the group’s governance” said Rosalinda Chavez. The collective meets with buyers to negotiate a wage that is fair and agreeable to the cooperative. This process elevates the concept of “Fair Trade” to an even higher standard as it gives more power to the workers themselves. DPW exports their products with the help of U.S. volunteers who courier them over the border, where they find their way to Tucson and elsewhere. Since the current export and import system is not designed for production of this human scale, the volunteers based in Douglas, Arizona are critical in helping the cooperative provide logistics, such as materials transfer, delivery and ordering.
Not only is the purchase of fair trade DPW sewn products a major benefit to the women who make them, but it supports a true local alternative to a global problem. In Tucson the products are available through the Gloo Factory, a union print shop and DPW’s main customer, where they may be embellished with custom designs. DPW products are well made and produced in a manner increas-ingly hard to find in an industry that has raced to the bottom to get the cheapest source of labor. This same industry maximizes profits from American consumers, who are often thoughtless about the source and subsequent impacts of the products they buy. Through 13 years of sewing, growing, and building economic selfreliance, DouglaPrieta Works has taught and inspired many. Despite the challenge of living in a town with a rapidly increasing population of deportees, unemployment, and health problems, the women of DouglaPrieta Works demonstrate how to rebuild solid community and self-sufficiency in a climate of challenge. Through the struggle, Trini says “One of things we have learned is we don’t give up easy.”
DPW is seeking to expand their network of customers, as well as donations of fabric, machines, and sewing supplies. To donate these materials, purchase DPW fair trade products or order them with custom sewing or printing contact the Gloo Factory at: www. thegloofactory.com.