Maquiladora industrialization of the Baja California peninsula: the coexistence of thick and thin globalization with economic regionalism


This article assesses the shape of industrial growth at the western end of the US‐Mexican border, analysing the degree to which globalization has diminished and/or restructured this international division. Baja California’s connection to external economies is highly variable in tourism, agribusiness and export processing, with electronic maquiladoras clustering and garment production fragmenting. Most recently, dynamism has been driven by Asian investors meeting NAFTA deadlines, and impeded by recession and increased border security. The polarizing effect of globalization is demonstrated by the unprecedented emergence of a powerful group of Mexican‐state and private‐sector technocrats, at the expense of the majority of workers whose jobs remain poor. The state government has facilitated the development of capital intensive electronics industries, has neglected small and medium domestic suppliers, and been unable to provide public security. Low extensity, or the concentration of maquiladoras in an east‐west corridor adjacent to the border, and the location of most of their owners in Southern California, indicates the strongly regional character of the maquiladora economy. However, a small number of very large capital intensive plants originate in Asia, contributing to globalization via intercontinental linkages. The findings support transformationalist and sceptical models of globalization.