Unnatural Border: Race and Environment across the U.S.-Mexico Divide

Friday, February 12, 2021 - 12:00 PM
This event will take place virtually, on Zoom.
Mary Mendoza, Penn State University
Discussant: Chantel Rodriguez, University of Maryland
This presentation will explain the causes, development, and legacy of fence construction along the international boundary line. Construction of the border fence began in the early twentieth century as a U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative to stop the movement of a cattle tick—a non-human natural threat—and, by mid-century, grew into a multi-pronged effort to control the dynamic flow of human migration. As the United States and Mexican governments passed laws, built fences, and hired agents to police the boundary between the two nations, the border became an expression of human imagination rather than a geographical certainty. And while state-sanctioned efforts to control movement largely failed, the symbolic power of the border increased, creating and solidifying a highly contested and racialized landscape of power, difference, and exclusion by the end of the twentieth century.