McALLEN, RGV – The maquiladoras in Reynosa boast some of the most sophisticated, state-of-the-art manufacturing plants in the world yet many of the colonias that surround them are Third World in nature.

Thousands of Reynosa residents have a very poor standard of living, by U.S. standards. There is no running water in their homes at night; many live in colonias without paved streets. The streets flood after a heavy rain due to inadequate drainage; the parks are overgrown with weeds, and the garbage collection system is haphazard. Residents say it is a waste of time complaining because nothing ever gets done. “We only see the elected officials at election time,” said one resident living in the Juárez colonia. She did not wish to be identified.

Alex Avila, president of INDEX Reynosa for 2015, says his group has set up a foundation to help the local community.
Alex Avila, president of INDEX Reynosa for 2015, says his group has set up a foundation to help the local community.

Alejandro ‘Alex’ Avila, the incoming president of INDEX Reynosa, the trade association for the 150 maquiladoras in Reynosa, recognizes that many parts of Reynosa resemble a Third World country and he wants to do something about.

Avila and others in the leadership of INDEX Reynosa have set up a foundation to raise funds to help the local community. In an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Avila said he and other leaders in INDEX have met with Reynosa Mayor Pepe Elías Leal to “put pressure” on the city administration.

“Yes, the foundation wants to have influence and we are having an influence. I was just talking to the mayor the other day. I said we have to start working a certain way. We know we have to start putting some pressure on because we have the money and the influence,” Avila said.

“Our foundation wants to invest in Mexico. We make our money in Mexico. How can we bring it to the next level? Our workers wake up at 4 in the morning and they get the bus and they come to work for us. This is on my mind, how do we help improve their lives? Thinking of this keeps my feet on the ground.”

Many of the 150 maquila plants in Reynosa are owned by U.S. corporations. Many more are multinational corporations. They operate in Mexico because of lower wages and better productivity. They employ around 98,000 workers in Reynosa.

Avila said it is time the U.S. and multinational corporations he represents give back. However, he did not want to say how much the INDEX Reynosa Foundation has raised. He did said the money is already in the bank.

“The foundation is going to take that philosophy, how do we raise the standards of living. It is not just the pay checks we give the workers. How do we raise the culture, the infrastructure? Our companies are world class and here we are operating in a Third World city. How do we push that, how do we get the freedom, the safety we want to see every day?” Avila said.

“Mexico is unique. Its people are friendly, happy. How do we take the best, the unlimited potential of every person, and take it to the next level? That is what the foundation is going to do. We want a conversation about values. We are already collecting. Our financials have already been done. I cannot say how much money we have raised. But yes, we can have influence.”

While there is tremendous poverty in Reynosa, compared to cities across the Rio Bravo/Rio Grande, supporters of the city administration point to major infrastructure projects already underway, such as improvements to the main highways and the tourism development underway at Laguna La Escondida and Parque Cultural.

The Rio Grande Guardian interviewed Avila at the McAllen Convention Center when he and other INDEX Reynosa leaders held a news conference to unveil a new maquila marketing video and to give their predictions for 2015. The news conference was co-hosted by the McAllen Economic Development Corporation.

The video states that INDEX Reynosa represents 150 maquila plants spread across 11 different sectors, including healthcare and the auto industry. The 150 plants employ 98,000 workers directly and 368,000 indirectly. Those workers help produce $7 billion worth of exports a year.