When I went home this summer, I got to visit Santiamén, a new boutique specializing exclusively in Mexican design. Everything sold there is designed by Mexican designers, made in Mexico, and it is all beautiful.
The experience was very special to me because I grew up in a city and state full of maquilas, factories that make things for U.S. (and some other international) brands. I could point to factories where American cars, greeting cards, blue jeans, and a huge number of other things are made. But these things are not cheap to buy in Mexico. In fact, they are sold at a huge mark-up because they are ‘foreign’ even though they are made right there! Furthermore, they are designed far away, so most if not all of the Mexico-based employees of these companies only get to realize someone else’s vision rather than playing a role in the creative process. And most importantly, the profits of these companies leave the country and end up in the pockets of executives abroad. In fact, the only reason they manufacture things in Mexico is because it’s cheaper; and many companies have moved their operations to Asia because there the production costs are cheaper and the labor regulations, more lax, meaning that they can pay and protect workers even less.
I dream of a world where national economies are truly independent, manufacturing things where they are and dealing directly with the people who make what they sell. I know it would be better for our environment, and I believe it would be better for our societies because it is harder to ignore injustices that happen down the street than it is to ignore those that happen on the other side of the world.
When I am in Chihuahua, I make it a priority to support the Mexican economy. My younger cousins laugh because before buying them any junk food, I make sure that it is made by a Mexican company and that we are buying it from a Mexican store. When we go out to eat, I ask to go to local restaurants. Until now, however, there wasn’t a place to buy clothes and accessories other than the traditional things from our region. Santiamén offers an exciting new way to support the Mexican economy, and I hope it is the first of many local stores that adopt this model (think of all the other possibilities: bicycles, furniture, linens, electronics, cars!). And did I mention it was beautiful?