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Boom, Bust, ExodusThe Rust Belt, the Maquilas, and a Tale of Two Cities$
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Chad Broughton

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199765614

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199765614.001.0001

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Hojas, Blackberries, and the Tortilla King

Hojas, Blackberries, and the Tortilla King

(p.233) 15 Hojas, Blackberries, and the Tortilla King
Boom, Bust, Exodus

Chad Broughton

Oxford University Press

On a Blistering morning in July 2007, four middle-aged men, already quite drunk, stood shaded under the eaves of a long, white stucco building. The building, which was derelict, sat in the middle of Agua Dulce in semitropical northern Veracruz. Our guide, Orlinda Garcia, asked the four men where we could find an hoja (husk) processing plant. Mayor Javier Gonzalez and Treasurer José Cruz stood with us as well. Gonzalez’s sky-blue municipal office was just a few hundred feet away, on the other side of the vacant town plaza. The adjacent plaza was littered with rusty rides and empty prize booths from a traveling summer carnival that had recently ended. “This is it!” a man in a Pittsburgh Pirates cap shouted. He pointed to a concealed entrance. Part of the wavy clay tile roof was missing and had been replaced with corrugated metal sheets. Plastic bags and bottles specked the ground outside. A slick, red PRI campaign banner hung on an electric pole next to the building with a candidate’s portrait. “Fiel a ti” (Loyal to you), the banner read. The plain building stretched alongside a wide, bumpy road—deserted except for a few chickens. It did not look like the site of a profitable foreign-trade operation. A young encargada (supervisor) named Marisol greeted us from behind a black metal gate. We asked her if we could see inside the facility. “The patron is not here,” she said. “I cannot let you in.” She was apologetic but firm. In a pink blouse, capri pants, and faux gem-studded flip-flops, she appeared to be dressed more for a Saturday of shopping in Monterrey than managing an export business in this half-ghost town in far-flung Veracruz. “The boss is very particular, and he doesn’t allow people from the outside to see the operation.” Another neatly dressed young woman looked at us while she embroidered some clothing in a chair behind Marisol. She sat next to a pile of plastic bags swollen with corn husks (called hojas or totomoxtle).

Keywords:   Cargill, Farmland Foods, Gruma, John Deere, Mexico City, Smithfield Foods, blackberry farmers, coyotes, frozen foods, husk exporting

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