Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Departmental Honors


Political Science

First Advisor

Susan Mannon


On October 30, 1998 Hurricane Mitch swept across the shores of Nicaragua leaving countless Nicaraguans homeless, hungry, and unemployed. 14,000 of these refugees were relocated to a municipality in Cuidad Sandino called Nueva Vida (New Lift). In the year 2000 a small group of women began working with Jubilee House Community's Center for Development in Central America project and Maggie's Organics to initiate the industrial sewing project of the Cooperativa Maquiladora Mujeres de Nueva Vida Internacional (Comamnuvz). The project started with 50 women and men, but due to harsh economic conditions and the necessity for workers to find paying jobs, the group quickly dwindled to 11. These 11 people are the 11 members that currently manage the factory today. In 2005 the PIA donated 10,000 dollars to the cooperative so that they could become the world's first worker-owned free trade zone, allowing them to import and export without paying taxes. They are fighting for their autonomy, their cooperative, and their future. They face financial problems, a rocky relationship with their founding NGO, and interpersonal communication problems that have been the root cause of many of their biggest mistakes. This paper will explain and analyze how a group of former internally displaced women came to run an international business revolving around an alternative trade model particularly looking at the question of how involvement in the cooperative has influenced their lives.