Monday, November 27, 2017

ESRI: Envisioning the Embattled Borderlands

PLEASE CLICK MAP for a BETTER VIEW
The map (above) that ESRI geographer Krista Schlyer chose for the top of her photo-map essay response to the so-called border wall is indicative of the care she and the rest of the ESRI team have taken with this entire exhibit. As a geographer who lived in this map for seven years (1990-1994 in Tucson and 1994-1997 in Pharr), I notice a few important things that this map captures nicely.

First, the borderlands are identified by the border, but not strictly defined by it. As Oscar Martinez argues in Border People, it is a zone that extends approximately 100 miles in each direction from the line that gives the region its identity. In every sense except strict legalities, this region is neither the United States nor Mexico. It is a third entity that is both divided and united by a line that meanders through its center. In addition to Border People, I recommend Tom Miller's On the Border as an introduction to the place; I had the privilege of knowing both writers during our Tucson years.

Second, the United States of America and the United States of Mexico are both federal republics comprising a number of states (50 and 31, respectively, plus a federal district in each). For people living in the border region, connections between neighboring states are important. Residents of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas become familiar with Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas.

The cultural and environmental landscape of the border is not well understood by pundits and demagogues who make their living from caricatures of it. The misguided policies that result threaten real damage and will deliver no benefits.

ESRI's Krysta Schlyer has made an important contribution with this well-researched borderlands geography project.



The embedded version of this project condensed -- see the full Embattled Border story map here.

More about borders and The Border from this Environmental Geography blog

The threats posed to the people and environments of the border by outside demagoguery have certainly increased under the current administration, but in many ways are a continuation of a militarization of the border that was under way when I was living in Arizona. Although my own writing on the topic has become more focused in 2017, my earlier writing could also be instructive. I think that my "human sieve" metaphor is especially important, and that the wall is part of a broader effort by politicians who prefer to choose their voters, rather than to allow the opposite to transpire.

Each of these posts includes links and images to the work of many journalists, artists, and geographers.

Take Our Jobs, Please (June 2010)
The Border: A Human Sieve (June 2010)
Murder City (November 2010)
Where Are the Humans? (November 2011)
No se olviden Mexico (June 2012)
Precious Progress (November 2012)
Economic Baggage (April 2014)
Why Walls Won't Work (November 2014)
Not One Human (August 2015)
Hiring Humans (February 2016)
Borders: What's Up With That (August 2016)
Border IRL (November 2016) -- includes a map of all of my border crossings
Bridges and Habilitation (July 2017)
Through the Wall (October 2017) 

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