Mexico Is Full of America’s Smuggled Used Clothes

 
 
  A woman digs through used clothing at a "market on wheels" in Tijuana, Mexico. Photo: Meghan Dhaliwal. 

A woman digs through used clothing at a "market on wheels" in Tijuana, Mexico. Photo: Meghan Dhaliwal. 

Racked - March 2018

When we think of smuggling and trade on the U.S.-Mexico border, we tend to think of migrants and drugs flowing north, but in reality, smuggling goes both ways. In my second feature on the San Diego-Tijuana border, I explore how a taste for fashion at all price points, the inequality driven by Mexico's maquiladora industry, and NAFTA helped create a thriving informal economy of smuggled, secondhand clothing in Mexico. 

"We think of borders as clean, finite lines on a map, when in fact they are messy. Borders are the meeting, and often clashing, points of not only distinct geographies but also distinct cultures, values, laws, and even basic definitions. What is clearly one thing on one side can become something else entirely once crossed — and also, temporarily, change in the act of crossing.

Such is the case with used clothes. In the United States, they are discarded goods; once they are in Mexico, they are in-demand commodities. While in transit, they are contraband."

Read the full story in English and Spanish.