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'Border Land, Border Water' Is A 150-Year History Of Construction On The US-Mexico Border

A portion of existing border fence in Brownsville in 2018.
Julia Reihs/KUT
A portion of existing border fence in Brownsville in 2018.

From Texas Standard:

In 2019, the U.S.-Mexico border topped the news, in part, because of the promise that President Donald Trump had made to build a wall along it. While Trump's border wall continues to be a popular topic today, the construction of barriers along the border is nothing new.

In his book “Border Land, Border Water: A History of Construction on the U.S.-Mexico Divide,” author C.J. Alvarez explores 150 years of border-barrier history. Alvarez is an assistant professor of Mexican-American and Latino studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

In his book, he looks at the history of the U.S.-Mexico border through the development of ports of entry, boundary markers, transportation networks, fences, barriers, surveillance infrastructure, dams and other river engineering projects. Some of these construction projects were complicated by the fact that in many places, the border itself is a river – the Rio Grande.

Alvarez grew up near the border, but for the book, he had to look back even farther than his childhood to understand why the border is the way it is today.

“I’m a historian,” Alvarez says, “So, from my point of view, I had to go back to when the U.S.-Mexico border was demarcated, starting in 1848, and then continually becoming the site of more and more construction over the course of 150 years.”

Alvarez points out that when people talk about the border today, most are talking about a place they don’t know or have never visited.

“When people talk about the border, they’re not really talking about the places along the international divide,” he says. “They’re talking about immigration policy and immigration-enforcement policy.”

Written by Morgan Kuehler.

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
Kristen Cabrera