Tuesday, August 15, 2006

All posts were moved (11/2006) to http://mexfiles.wordpress.com

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One man’s shit hole is another man’s compost pile. We’re talking about La Frontera (the Borderland area) which divides two very differing nations (United States & Mexico). The border is 2000 miles long and cities and towns have been settled all along on both sides. To some extent or other, there is a sharing of languages, diets, and cultures between the Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and Anglo-Americans. Border rats are a common species on both sides of the border. They travel comfortably from the South or North on a daily basis with great ease. A border rat may sleep in Matamoros and work in Brownsville. His wife may cross over to grocery shop in Brownsville and so forth.
“While the U.S-Mexico borderlands resemble border regions in other parts of the world, nowhere else do so many millions of people from two dissimilar nations live in such close proximity and interact with each other so intensely. Borderlanders are singular in their history, outlook and behavior, and their lifestyle deviates from the norms of central Mexico and the interior U.S.; yet these Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and Anglo-Americans also differ among themselves, and within each group may be found crossborder consumers, commuters, and people who are inclined or disinclined to embrace both cultures.” ~ Border People~ Oscar J. Martinez

In travel forums that I have visited, comments about border towns are liberally sprinkled with disparaging remarks and warnings. The “in the know” crowd discourages others from even going to the border towns because “they aren’t real Mexico”. Many of these towns (both sides of the border) have earned reputations as being dirty, corrupt, dangerous, filled with scoundrels, etc. Recent news articles about smugglers, drug cartels, murders of young women, the Minutemen, and coyotes loading up trucks filled with illegals have helped to keep the image alive.

“Ciudad Juarez dropped the old name of El Paso del Norte and El Paso, Texas borrowed it. El Paso was platted in 1859, but grew very slowly due to its remoteness. With the arrival of Southern Pacific railroads in 1881, the population boomed to 10,000 by 1890 census. With a tempting green valley and nearly perfect climate year-round, the town attracted a constant stream of newcomers: gamblers, gunfighters, thieves, cattle and horse rustlers, murders, priests, Chinese railroad laborers, prostitutes and followed course, entrepreneurs.” ~ Wikipedia

The borderland has always had its element of misfits and rogues, but it has also held an attraction for people with other interests and endeavors. Enter the writers and artists.

Punto Publications proclaims, “The El Paso-Juarez area is the literary center of the U.S.-Mexico border.”

“No one in Mexico acknowledges that this exists. We’re in a literary wasteland to them, yet this is one of the most productive and intellectually active regions of the country.” ~ Ricardo Aguilar Juarez professor)

“It is just these explorations, the wide poetic points of view that give border writing its scope and texture, its bulging metaphor and its literary integrity. Whether the writing is poised precariously near the edge or safely in the center, its anchor falls squarely in the borderland. It is North America’s Middle Passage, and these writers are its witnesses” ~Writing on the Edge ~Tom Miller

Intellectuals in Mexico City do not recognize/legitimize this culture nor do their counterparts in the U.S. Mexican writers from the borderland have often had great difficulty getting their works published by their countrymen. In fact it was common practice for some Mexican (borderland) writers (in the past) to smuggle their works to writers in the U.S. in order to get them published or they had to rely on self-publishing. In the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, writers Marco Jerez and Oscar Monroy (Nogales) formed a literary community in Nogales called Café y Arte where writers set out to destroy as much as possible the negative intellectual centrism that corrodes Mexico. There is intelligent life in and along the border! It flourishes in the works of the artists and writers who are drawn to the unique culture that exists along the edges of the river and across the deserts. Those who deny it are condemned to living with their views, which hold the border as being nothing but a malignant stretch of land which is nothing but a shit hole. A couple of interesting reads about Borderland culture: Writing on the Edge (a Borderlanders Reader) by Tom Miller Border People (Life and Society in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands) by Oscar J. Martinez

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