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2,400 Miles Later, NPR's Steve Inskeep Talks About Life On The Border

Kainaz Amaria
Charro Days is a binational festival celebrated with three parades, live music and a grito contest in downtown Brownsville and its neighboring Mexican city, Matamoros.

Talk about a road trip! NPR’s Steve Inskeep and a team of producers just finished a 2,400-mile journey along the U.S.-Mexico border — from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean – to explore how the two countries are linked and how they’re separated. The NPR series, Borderland, paints a picture of a region separated in places by a river, walls, and barbed wire, but united in many unexpected ways. In this week’s Friday Conversation, Inskeep speaks with KERA’s vice president of news Rick Holter.

Interview Highlights: Steve Inskeep on...

...the idea of the U.S./Mexico border area being separate but inseparable: “People on both sides have this common experience of the border itself and the common experience of two nations rubbing together and clashing sometimes and influencing each other.”

...parallels between the Mexico-U.S. border and Karachi, Pakistan: “There are informal neighborhoods in the border cities of a sort that I think a lot of Americans would associate with Brazil, or Colombia or Pakistan, where there’s not a lot of rule of law, there hasn’t been a lot of regulation, and there may not be ordinary services of any kind, but people are building houses.”   

...the most surprising part of the series: “When you meet a person, you discover that the position of their life is not black and white -- it doesn’t absolutely prove this political case or that political case – it’s often very complicated because people have lives that are on both sides of the border.” 

NPR reporters have also been pursuing stories of people, goods and culture crossing the border. Stories have been airing on NPR this week. Here are a few highlights (catch up on the full Borderland series here):

A U.S. Border Shelter That Attracts Asylum Seekers Far And Wide: Nuns run La Posada Providencia, a shelter in south Texas, just across from Mexico. But the asylum seekers are a veritable United Nations, coming from places like Ethiopia, Albania and Nepal.

At The Border, The Drugs Go North And The Cash Goes South: U.S. border officials are constantly on alert for drugs coming in from Mexico. But they are also on the lookout for huge sums of cash leaving the U.S. and trickling back into Mexican communities.

‘Saint Death’ Now Revered On Both Sides Of U.S.-Mexico Border: Santa Muerte, or Saint Death, used to be an underground folk saint in Mexico. Now she’s also popular in the U.S. So popular, in fact, that the Vatican has denounced her.

Remembering The Alamo With A Texas Historian: At The Alamo in San Antonio, historian Frank de la Teja explains how the dividing line between the United States and Mexico came to be drawn where it is.

Borderland: A Journey Along The Changing Frontier: An introduction to the series. “Many people think of the Borderland as a single region — north and south — linked by history, trade and often by blood ties. Of course the two sides of the border are different in many ways, but they were bound by a single shared experience, the border itself.”

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.
Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.