Around about the same time I started thinking about launching Austin Eastciders I was reading a book called Amexica, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the current situation in Mexico. The journalist who wrote the book travelled the length of the border, exploring the violence and the deep seated reasons behind it. His theory is that Mexico is the first fully formed example of where Globalisation is leading us. Big corporations flooding in, destroying traditional ways of life with the promise of good jobs, then undermining working conditions to such an extent that people become dehumanised, later shipping out to wherever costs can be driven even lower, leaving people with nothing.
One glimmer of hope in this very depressing book was an incredible workers co-operative called the Dignidad Y Justicia Maquiladora (D&J) and an organisation called Austin Tan Cerca De La Frontera (Austin So Close To The Border). The D&J co-operative make amazing t-shirts and other bespoke items in a small premises in Piedras Negras and are entirely staffed by garment workers who have been wrongfully dismissed from the sweatshops. ATCF work to raise awareness of the realities for people on the border, running delegations to visit the D&J co-operative and the houses of everyday workers, allowing them to share their stories of exploitation by some of the world’s most prestigious consumer brands.
When I returned to Austin in Oct 2011 to start Austin Eastciders, I travelled with ATCF to Mexico to see the situation for myself. All my friends told me I was insane, that things were way too crazy down there, etc. I thought long and hard before going, but I felt strongly that I wanted to use the new business to somehow support the work of the D&J and ATCF if I could and I knew it would be hypocritical if I wasn’t prepared to go and see the situation for myself.
The trip was an extremely powerful experience. Suffice to say the Mexican border is a nightmarish apocalyptic wasteland where the clothes, the cars, many of the wonderful consumer goods we take for granted, are assembled by virtual slaves, working and living in the most appauling conditions. It’s shocking to think this is the way things are just 200 miles from Austin.
After the trip, I decided that we would try to make a contribution to raising awareness by printing the ATCF web address on our bottles. Also, I decided that Austin Eastciders’ mighty fine T-shirts (which will soon be available for sale) will not only be made by the D&J co-operative, we will also aim to return 100% of the revenues from their sale back to D&J and ATCF to further support their cause.
So, get ready to buy one of our T-shirts! And if you know anyone with a clothes shop, or a t-shirt printing shop, or anyone with any requirements for t-shirts, please ask them to consider using the D&J co-operative. The T-shirts are great quality, a good price and they will bring the wearer instant karma! Please also visit Austin Tan Cerca De La Frontera, online or in person, to find out more about what’s happening on the border just a few miles away from our wonderful city.