Richard Florida and the Creative Class Group recently examined the San Diego-Tijuana “mega-region” through the lens of regional economic development in an age when heightened national security is increasingly at odds with a globalizing economy. The resulting report, “From Border Barriers to Bi-National Promise” focuses on the established business and economic ties that connect San Diego and Tijuana, noting that a “frictionless border” would facilitate increased innovation and entrepreneurialism in industries such as high-tech on both sides of the border while allowing greater access to the thriving art, music, and culinary scenes in the mega-region. Unfortunately, the report offers that since 9/11, “The border has been seen as a national security issue rather than a commerce or economic development issue.”
Florida and his co-authors – most notably the University of California San Diego’s Mary Lindenstein Walshok – offer points to consider that are forward thinking and familiar to anyone studying the border region of the U.S. Southwest: Transportation infrastructure needs to be improved; investment needs to be made in more advanced technologies to manage border operations; and the U.S. government should separate policy from security, incorporating a wide range of departments when addressing border issues. Hopefully, this report will encourage policymakers in the fields of commerce and trade to push for reform.
What I found most illuminating about this report and salient to the study of borderlands history is how Florida conceptualizes the border defying mega-region in question. He states, “Place, not statehood, is the central axis of our time and our global economy.” Examining borderland regions in terms of “place” opposed to the geographically bounded spaces determined by borders drawn by nation-states could be useful to borderlands scholars researching other aspects of borderlands history, such as religion, culture, violence, and politics. This is true in my own work wherein documenting and understanding the sprawling expanse of South Texas and Northern Mexico over the course of a century is more a consideration of a place arbitrarily divided and not a space decided.
Click here for a full pdf of the report