Monthly Archives: April 2016

Rethinking Interconnectivity along the U.S.-Mexico Border

The U.S.-Mexico border is the most frequently traversed political boundary in the world. In his new book, Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization, Parag Khanna, a research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, sees cities, communication networks, and transportation infrastructure as the key points of reference to understand how global society organizes itself, today. Although his argument diminishing the importance of national boundaries is less convincing (given the legal and policing issues millions of people face), the visual (re)presentation of global population centers, and of how goods and people move across geographic space, is compelling. Recently, the Washington Post interviewed Khanna about his work. Here’s what he had to say about his map depicting the U.S.-Mexico border and the North American economy:

One of the titles I’ve given the map is ‘Think geology, not nationality.’ America is now suddenly the largest oil producer in the world. The American energy revolution is the most significant geopolitical event since the end of the Cold War, and it’s a major shift in the world’s tug of war. Ten years ago, we were all talking about how the United States and China were going to fight resource wars for Middle Eastern oil and minerals in Africa. Now, thanks to this incredible seismic revolution, we’re selling oil to China instead.

The reason this relates to North America is because, if you think about strategy in the geological terms, you realize that if the U.S., Canada and Mexico unite their energy, water, agriculture and labor resources, you create a continental empire that is more powerful than America is. I’ve not even mentioned the Arctic, which of course Canada controls half of, which is becoming a very strategic geography as the Arctic ice melts. Canada is going to potentially be the world’s largest food producer in 20-25 years as a result of climate change. And then there’s water. The southwestern United States is now in a perennial drought, and yet at the same time, perversely, is the site of the fastest growing population in the United States. So hydrological engineering may need to take place between Canada and the United States.

For more of the interview, as well as his map depicting the infrastructural linkages across the U.S.-Mexico border, follow the link.

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Mapping Texas: From Frontier to the Lone Star State

Dear readers, for those of you who will be in the area, we wanted to let you know about a major new exhibit opening. Starting on April 29, and running until September 4, 2016, the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas, will be displaying forty rare maps. These documents cover 300 years of Texas history, which are made available for public viewing by the collections of the Texas General Land Office, the Witte Museum, and the private collection of Frank and Carol Holcomb of Houston. From the exhibit announcement:

Many of these maps will be on display for the first time. The fragile nature of several of the items make this a once-in-a-generation exhibit for visitors. This curated collection, dating from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century, traces the changing physical and political boundaries of Texas. It also includes artifacts and original documents relating to the creation of the selected maps…

Also put on display for the first time ever, the exhibition features the manuscript drafts of the surveys of the Texas-U.S. Joint Boundary Commission. Three different sheets, more than 14-feet wide, trace the Sabine River from its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico to Logan’s Ferry in the north, near present-day Logansport, Louisiana. A second set of maps follows the Boundary Commission survey in a straight line due north from west of Logan’s Ferry on the Sabine to the Red River. The boundaries established by these surveys were recognized when Texas entered the Union in 1845.


Installation work, from the Witte Museum website.

It is an impressive undertaking by the exhibit organizers, and a great collaborative work drawing on multiple, important historical collections. For more information, visit the Witte Museum, online.

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Q&A with James F. Brooks about “Mesa of Sorrows: A History of the Awat’ovi Massacre”

On February 25, 2016, The Charles Redd Center for Western Studies annual Annaley Naegle Redd Lecture was given by James F. Brooks, a Professor of History & Anthropology at the University of California – Santa Barbara. He spoke on his recently published Mesa of Sorrows: A History of the Awat’ovi Massacre. Students and scholars of borderlands, indigenous, and southwest histories will be familiar with Brooks from his award-winning Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship and Community in the Southwest Borderlands andother important works. To accompany the video of the lecture, Professor Brooks was kind enough to also participate in a short Q&A below. Questions by Brenden W. Rensink, responses by James F. Brooks.

Read some of my own thoughts on the book at my “From the Bookshelf” series.


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From the New York Times: “The Dark Side of Immigration Discretion”

Yesterday, the editorial board at the New York Times published a strong rebuke of the government’s deportation policies against Central American immigrants who have arrived to escape violence back home. As legal arguments and appeals work their way through the federal courts, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has aggressively detained and deported non-violent immigrants, including many students. The paper notes that this problem is particularly harsh in states like Georgia and North Carolina, where local organizational support in response to raids remains thin.

These activities are a reminder of the impact that border control policies have in regulating and enforcing federal statutes on the bodies that pass through ports of entry or cross without documentation. They also have a long reach, extending a hand thousands of miles from the border into local communities and disrupting everyday life in myriad ways. As many of us know, it is a process that has been well-documented by historians and scholars of the border and U.S. immigration. From the editorial:

While legal advocates have been scrambling, ICE has been running amok, raiding homes and public spaces in search of deportable youths. In North Carolina and Georgia, where organized advocacy is sparse, the dragnet has been unusually aggressive. Agents seized students at home and on their way to school. Appalled teachers, students and community leaders have been signing petitions and marching, pleading for justice and putting a human face on the victims of coldblooded policies: Wildin Acosta, still in detention, as his appeal proceeds. Kimberly Pineda-Chavez, arrested on her way to school. Yefri Sorto-Hernandez, arrested at his school bus stop. Jose Alfaro-Lainez, deported to El Salvador on April 13. Jaime Arceno-Hernandez, scheduled to be deported on April 27.

Students are being locked up while they appeal deportation orders, though they pose no threat of violence or flight. Ms. Saldaña has rebuffed pleas for mercy, saying the administration — which has flown more than 28,000 people back to Central America since October — needs “to send a message” that the borders are closed to illegal immigration. But pleading for refuge is not illegal. More than 100 members of Congress have denounced the raids. Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have pledged not to deport children if they win the presidency.

To read the full editorial, follow the link.

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6th Annual UTEP Women’s History Month Conference

The sixth annual University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) Women’s History Month Conference, “Intersectionality on the Border,” highlighted gender and sexuality in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Held on the UTEP campus Wednesday and Thursday, April 6-7, the event included over fifty panels, roundtables, and presentations featuring undergraduate and graduate students, community activists, and scholars of all ranks. Among these, a panel “Gender, Sexuality, and Violence in the Borderlands,” featured borderlands historians Daniel Santana, Carolina Monsivais, and Jennifer Urban-Flores. Other panels discussed Trans issues on the border, the intersection of gender and religion in El Paso, and borderland health disparities. On Wednesday afternoon, the conference offered a ceremony recognizing renowned UTEP border studies scholar Dr. Kathleen Staudt. In her “legacy lecture” Staudt reflected on her more than three decades of scholarship and service in the frontera. On Thursday, a keynote address by University of California, Santa Cruz Latin American and Latino Studies professor Dr. Patricia Zavella described the Nuestro Texas Project, a Latina health initiative aimed at improving reproductive services in Rio Grande Valley.

The UTEP Women’s History Month conference is an annual event co-sponsored by the university’s Women’s and Gender Studies program and the Triota honor society. More information is available by calling (915) 747-6132.

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Notes on the 2016 OAH Annual Meeting at Providence

This past week, the Organization of American Historians (OAH) held its annual conference at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, Rhode Island from April 7-10, 2016. Its theme, “On Leadership,” was seen throughout the conference’s sessions – which ranged from panels on “Worst. President. Ever.,” to “Black Religious Leadership and Mass Media in the 20th Century,” and “Remembering Julian Bond.” Without a doubt, leadership in its many forms was present and embedded within the majority of the sessions over the four days of the conference.


City Center, Providence

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Race and Sex in Spain’s Colonial Borderlands

Dear readers, for those of you who will be in the area, the University of Texas at El Paso is hosting Dr. Allyson Poska for a public talk. She will be speaking at UTEP’s Blumberg Auditorium on April 21st, at 5PM, on the subject of personal honor in the colonial borderlands. Dr. Poska received her doctorate from the University of Minnesota, and since 1992, has taught in the Department of History and American Studies at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She is also the director of UMW’s Women’s and Gender Studies program. From her faculty bio:

Primarily a social historian, she regularly teaches upper-level courses on the histories of Spain and Latin America and frequently offers seminars dealing with gender issues. Her most recent book is Women and Authority in Early Modern Spain: The Peasants of Galicia (2006) which won the Roland H. Bainton Prize given by the Sixteenth Century Studies Association (the early modern history professional society) to the best book in early modern history or theology.

Allyson Poska Flyer-page-001

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The Economic Hierarchies of Globalization and Borders

Quartz, a news website, has a published an article on what it identifies as the major flaw in globalization: that the crossing of borders is framed in economic and logistical terms, not humanitarian ones. The issue at the heart of the story is the European Commission’s proposal to consider new visa requirements for US and Canadian visitors to the EU. The idea stems, in large part, from Washington’s refusal to grant visa free travel to many of the EU’s poorer members, including Romania. It also highlights what Quartz rightly identifies as the hypocrisy in how the West allows rich people virtually free movement across borders, whereas the poor are branded as economic migrants who face high barriers to entry. From the article:

One of the most iconic images of our open-world ideology is the fall of the Berlin Wall. But what could have been an opportunity to cement freedom of movement, association, and opportunity as global human rights instead became a symbol of the triumph of capitalism over communism. To this day, the notion of a world without walls is often framed in terms of trade and profit flows. This way of thinking has resulted, however inadvertently, in creating two different kinds of globalization: one for the rich, and another for the poor.

For more, visit Quartz.

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“Democracy in the Fields” Website Release

Last Sunday (April 3, 2016) I had the pleasure of attending the launch of a wonderful new multi-media website that tells the story of “the summer of 1975,” which details the efforts of Salinas Valley farmworkers to join the United Farmworkers Union following the passage of California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act in May of 1975 (signed into law on June 5, 1975 by Gov. Jerry Brown).

Democracy in the Fields was made possible by the collaboration of Miriam Pawel (author of The Crusades of Cesar Chavez), Mimi Plumb (photographer), Wendy Vissar (web designer), Bob Barber (journalist), and a generous grant from California Humanities. The event was held at the National Steinbeck Center.

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