Forum 2016 - Infrastructure Space - Detroit (Ruby Press)
85 84 A border: site of occupation rendered visible in infrastructural form or a piece of infrastructure in itself that serves as connective membrane? Michael Dear considers how taking a “third nation” perspective can prompt the rethinking of risk assessment and infrastructure planning in zones of geopolitical sensi- tivity, such as the US-Mexico border. In 2002, I began traveling the entire length of the US-Mexico border, on both sides, from Tijuana/San Diego on the Pacific Ocean, to Matamoros/ Brownsville on the Gulf of Mexico: a total of 4,000 miles. What began as an opportunistic journey of disco- very was rapidly overtaken by current events. I had the good and bad fortune to begin just before the United States undertook sealing and fortifying its southern boundary, and so became an unintentional witness to the border’s closure. As time passed, I became less focused on the customary trini- ty of borderland obsessions (drugs, immigration, national security), and more absorbed with the lives of bor- der communities that exist between the two nations. I realized that these in-between spaces form a “third na- tion,” not separating Mexico from the United States, but instead acting as a connective membrane . 1 Third-nation citizens on both sides readily assert that they have more in common with each other than with their host nations. The in-between zone is not a sovereign nation-state, but it contains many of the elements that warrant the appellation “nation,” such as a shared identity, common his- tory, joint traditions, and shared lives. Yet there is much more to the third nation than a cognitive awareness. Both sides are also deeply connec- ted through trade, family, leisure, shopping, culture, education, and legal obligation. Border-dwellers’ lives are interwoven through these everyday connections, and buttressed by myriad formal and informal institutional arran- Occupation and In-Between Zones: US-Mexico Border, 1848–Present Michael Dear Fig. 1: Boundary spike between Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, State of Sonora. In the late nineteenth century, boundary spikes driven into the ground were often the only visible “infrastructure of occupation” marking the separation between the US and Mexico. gements. Such a third-nation perspec- tive radically alters the way we percei- ve infrastructure, risk, and territory in the US-MX borderlands. Creating the Border: A Brief History On February 2, 1848, the Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Limits, and Settle- ment was signed at Guadalupe Hidal- go, terminating the Mexican-American War. The so-called Treaty of Guadalu- pe Hidalgo required the designation of a “boundary line with due precision, upon authoritative maps, and to estab- lish upon the ground landmarks which shall show the limits of both republics.” The subsequent surveys took six ye- ars to complete, ending in 1855. Only 52 markers were erected along the 2,000-mile boundary, mostly on the land-based section. Seven of these were made of marble, weighing about five tons apiece; other markers were piles of stones. During the late nineteenth century, disputes over the exact location of the boundary line proliferated as the population and settlements expanded. A new joint commission began work in 1892 to resurvey the land boundary, locate and rebuild the old monu- Fig. 2: A marble monument near Tijuana marks the first point established by the boundary survey following the 1848 treaty. This photograph was taken at the end of the nineteenth century after the original monument was renovated and fenced to prevent vandalism, and renumbered as monument 258. (source: Blanco, 1901). Fig. 3: Ancient boundary monument number XVI was a simple pile of stones. (source: Blanco, 1901). Fig. 4: Monument number 185; the monuments erected during the second boundary survey at the end of the nineteenth century were iron columns. (source: Blanco, 1901). Is a border a barrier or a connective membrane? Michael Dear considers the space along the US-Mexico border as a 'third nation' overtaken by a balloo ing security apparatus and calls for restoration of the land and communities affected by the infrastructure of occupation.