Roberto Verdugo and his legacy at MABAMEX
MABAMEX (Mattel Baja California Mexico) was the principal manufacturer of Mattel USA in the 80’s in Mexico. This company (which still exists), is located in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. MABAMEX manufactured many toy lines such as Barbie, See ‘N Say, Hot Wheels and of course figures and vehicles for the Masters of the Universe toy line, even though those were only destined for the United States market and were not actually sold within Mexico.
Roberto Verdugo is originally from Sinaloa and studied in Guadalajara, Jalisco where he spent some time working in the shoe industry. In 1980 he moved to Tijuana to look for work and found MABAMEX, dedicating 15 years of his life to working for that company. He began as a production engineer in charge of receiving assembly material and shipping to the distribution centers in the United States.
Mr. Verdugo was kind enough to dedicate a few hours to the foundation to discuss a bit about his work at MABAMEX in the 80’s.
With the launch of production on the Masters of the Universe line in 1982, Mattel USA decided to include MABAMEX as part of this new project. During the first few months, the company only handled painting, assembly, and packaging of the product since the injection process was being done in China and then sent to MABAMEX as MABAMEX did not have the molds for the plastic injection process.
After making some adjustments to manufacture their own molds (tooling), MABAMEX invested in over 100 plastic injection machines for mass manufacturing, thus completing the toy-making process in house from the injection to packaging and delivery. However, the printing for the packages and the comics was still being done in the United States.
Mr. Verdugo told us that when a new product arrived for production, he always took the first samples off the line to his children so they could play with them. These pieces are now a treasure for collectors as the figures can be slightly different than the common production figures due to color and paint variations or even mold defects.
Mr. Verdugo also told us that the Masters of the Universe line has been one of the most successful from Mattel as he remembers having seen literally millions of figures in his hands. He knew it was the product of successful sales. After a rewarding participation in the manufacturing process for MABAMEX, he spent his last two years in the corporate offices of Segundo California where he ended his career with Mattel in 1994.