Monday, February 27, 2006

U.S.-Mexico Border War Report: Monday, 02-27-2006

U.S.-Mexico Border War Report: Monday, 02-27-2006

Comment: A true democratic humane society that believes in ‘liberty and justice for all’ should work hard on building bridges to bring diverse cultures and peoples closer together, not borders and walls to keep them further apart. No human being is illegal and no Earthling is an alien.

Repressive societies thrive on divisions to stay ‘in power and secure’, especially using racist xenophobia against foreigners. US against THEM!

Amerikan Fascism promotes distractions from solving the real domestic problems already inside the United States. Besides, no man-made borders can hold back in check millions of hard-working people struggling for survival and yearning for liberation from the misery of poverty and oppression

The life force always prevails over the death force. ~ Peta de Aztlan



=Monday, February 27, 2006

Last wilderness area south of San Diego could be damaged

By Eilene Zimmerman, Special to The Chronicle

Imperial Beach, San Diego County -- One of the last stops before you hit the Pacific Ocean on the American side of the U.S.-Mexico border is the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Here, amid watery grasslands bordered by bright yellow bush sunflowers and pale, feathery deerweed, snowy egrets dash their beaks into the shallow waters -- just one of more than 350 species of birds that use the estuary as a nesting and breeding ground. Twenty kinds of fish also live in these waters, as do a plethora of endangered species.

The reserve, a short drive from the grit of Tijuana to the south and the growing sprawl of San Diego to the north, is all that remains of wilderness in the area, a last refuge for many endangered birds, insects, reptiles and plants.

But in the name of national security, the Department of Homeland Security wants to build 3.5 miles of fencing just south of this federally protected land -- a project environmentalists say could spell disaster for the sensitive ecology of the region.

And despite laws and regulations that could usually prevent such a project from going ahead, the department has new powers to sweep such protections aside.

Last year, environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the San Diego Audubon Society, sued the federal government, charging that it had not fully disclosed the environmental impact of the project and had failed to adequately analyze alternatives that could accomplish the same goals without destroying rare habitat and endangered species.

The California Coastal Management Program, a state agency that reviews federal activities affecting the coast, said the project, which envisages construction of three 15-foot-high steel fences, new roads and stadium-style lighting, violates California's federally approved coastal management program.

But the Department of Homeland Security, under powers given to it by Congress in May, has the authority to waive any law -- including environmental protections -- in order to build barriers and roads at the border.

"Congress got tired of waiting for the environmental community (to approve the plan)," Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine (San Diego County), said in an interview.

In December, two months after Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff applied the waiver, a federal district court dismissed the environmentalists' lawsuit. The groups will either file an appeal or an entirely new lawsuit challenging the legality of the waiver, said their attorney Cory Briggs.

"The government is obligated to fully disclose all impact before it undertakes a project, and it didn't do that," said Briggs. "They covered up the (likely) impacts and when ... the public called them on the carpet for it, they went to Congress to waive the laws, rather than explain themselves to a federal judge."

Of particular concern to environmentalists is a 300-foot gulley in the reserve known as Smuggler's Gulch. An unattractive piece of land, the gulch is strewn with plastic cups, soda cans, discarded clothes and tires, and skinny dogs from the Mexican side of the border nosing around in the trash.

It is also a pathway for people and drugs being smuggled across the border.

Under the government's plan, the tops of two nearby mesas would be carved off, filling the gulch with more than 2 million cubic yards of dirt to make way for a new road. That would cut by half the amount of space available to catch eroding sediment that runs down the canyons during rainstorms into the estuary below, said Tijuana estuary manager Clay Phillips.

Such erosion, environmentalists warn, could wipe out acres of sensitive habitat. Even now, before construction has begun, sediment running down the canyon destroys acres of rare saltwater marsh every time it rains.

A new sediment basin -- a man-made depression designed to catch runoff during storms before it hits the estuary -- was quickly overwhelmed last year and the area lost 15 acres of salt marsh, adding more losses to an already disappearing feature of the American environment.

"Over 90 percent of this kind of land is gone in the U.S.," Phillips said.

The increased erosion, say opponents, will also increase the amount of sewage and toxic waste -- runoff from Tijuana -- that is transported to the ocean by a green, foul-smelling Tijuana River tributary flowing through the gulch. A diversion pipe already gets clogged up regularly, allowing the tributary's polluted water to end up in the Pacific Ocean untreated.

Ironically, one of the components of American security -- the U.S. Navy -- is already being affected by the problem.

One of the Navy's two amphibious training bases in the country is in nearby Coronado. And Naval Special Warfare Center spokesman Lt. Brian Ko, said training exercises were canceled or rescheduled on 25 days last year, because of high levels of pollution in the ocean there.

Ko said no Navy trainees had bacterial infections diagnosed that were attributed to ocean water contamination, but he conceded there is "no way to know if a SEAL is sick because of the water or because of something else."

Responding to such concerns, the Department of Homeland Security has said it will follow "best management practices" throughout construction. Customs and Border Patrol spokesman Salvador Zamora said that means as construction moves forward his agency will be "mindful of the environmental impacts" that might occur and "strongly considers them when making decisions."

A 2003 Immigration and Naturalization Service report to the California Coastal Commission concluded the fencing project would decrease eroding sediment, an assertion called into question by a State Parks & Recreation Department report, which said it found flaws in the agency's analysis. The California Coastal Commission, after looking at both reports, concluded that the fence would damage native habitat and erosion would probably increase.

The dispute over the Tijuana estuary reserve could be just the opening shot in a broader environmental war. In addition to the 14 miles of fencing near San Diego, Hunter, citing national security concerns, added an amendment in December to the House-passed Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Control Act, requiring 700 miles of double fencing to be built at five additional locations along the border -- in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The Senate is expected to take up the bill next month.

Such fencing could wreak havoc on the rich swath of parks, forests, wilderness areas and habitats for migratory wildlife, animals and plants, say environmentalists.

One of the potentially imperiled species they point to is the Sonoran desert pronghorn -- a type of antelope -- that lives on both sides of the Arizona-Mexico border. Another potentially endangered animal, the jaguar, has just begun to return to the border area after being killed off in the United States about 50 years ago.

"There's no question fencing will end efforts to allow jaguars to recolonize in their native region," said Kim Vacariu, Southwest director for the Wildlands Project, a conservation organization.

Vacariu and other conservationists also worry about how the fences would impact Sky Islands -- a region containing 40 mountains in southeastern Arizona and northern Mexico separated by a sea of grasslands and desert -- which is critical to native plants and to the cross-border movement of animals, reptiles and birds.

Stephen Mumme, a political science professor at Colorado State University who is an expert on environmental issues affecting the border, said the fences' effect on the small arroyos and mountain streams strung across the border also could be devastating.

"We're talking about a very fragile part of the North America continent where the percolation of just inches of water is vital for the maintenance of grasses and plants and different types of cacti. It's essential for their survival," said Mumme.

Zamora, the Border Patrol spokesman, said when it comes to balancing national security concerns with environmental concerns "these are very hard decisions to make," but that the department was sensitive to environmental concerns. He also pointed to one successful outcome of stepped-up border control measures: decreased illegal migrant crossings in high-traffic areas like San Diego has reduced damage to sensitive habitat from migrants trampling and littering the land.

Chertoff's office did not return phone calls requesting comment for this story, but last fall Chertoff met with Vacariu and other conservationists to discuss their concerns. Vacariu said the environmentalists received less time than they would have liked to state their case, and that Chertoff barely spoke during the meeting, but that, "We were grateful to be invited to speak at all."

For environmentalists, however, serious concerns persist, particularly about the Department of Homeland Security's power to exempt itself from environmental regulations.

"There could be a total lack of ability on the part of the public to comment and assist in the planning process," said Vacariu. "Right now it's a game of wait and see, and we really hope the work we've done to elevate recognition of ecological concerns will pay off," he said.

Phillips, the Tijuana estuary manager, pointed to a Homeland Security press release in September in which Chertoff, referring to the San Diego fence project, stated the department would not "compromise its commitment to responsible environment stewardship in the area."

"We're counting on that," Phillips said.

Fencing the border:

A proposal to fence 700 miles of the United States-Mexico border, seen by supporters as the essential first step in controlling terrorism and illegal immigration, is the focus of two days of stories in The Chronicle.

Sunday's story examined how the fence would be built and what border residents, the Mexican president, immigration and terrorism experts, and some in Congress have said about the plan. You can read it at

Today's story addresses the environmental impact of 14 miles of heavily fortified fencing already under construction in southern San Diego County.

Page A - 1



=Sunday, February 26, 2006

A plan for 700 miles of Mexican border wall heads for Senate -- its future is not assured

By Tyche Hendricks, Chronicle Staff Writer

A proposal to build a double set of steel walls with floodlights, surveillance cameras and motion detectors along one-third of the U.S.-Mexican border heads to the Senate next month after winning overwhelming support in the House.

The wall would be intended to prevent illegal immigrants and potential terrorists from hiking across the southern border into the United States. It would run along five segments of the 1,952-mile border that now experience the most illegal crossings.

The plan already has roiled diplomatic relations with Mexico. Leaders in American border communities are saying it will damage local economies and the environment. And immigration experts say that -- at a cost of at least $2.2 billion -- the 700-mile wall would be an expensive boondoggle.

The December House vote of 260-159 is the strongest endorsement yet for building a wall, which Rep. Duncan Hunter, a San Diego County Republican, has been pushing for two decades as a tactic against illegal immigration. Support for the wall was even stronger than for the bill it was attached to -- a larger plan to curb terrorism and illegal immigration sponsored by Wisconsin Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner that passed 239 to 182.

"It is a tangible demonstration of the seriousness of the United States in not permitting illegal migration into the country," said Jack Martin, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C., that favors tighter immigration controls.

Hunter estimates that building two rigid, steel-mesh barriers with a paved road between will cost $2.2 billion, though the price tag could be almost twice that, based on the actual cost of a similar but much shorter fence now under construction in San Diego.

Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper said the money would be well spent.

"The fence in itself is a force multiplier," Kasper said. "It allows Border Patrol agents to refocus their attention to other areas because it won't require as many Border Patrol agents to monitor a location as it would without a fence."

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in an e-mail interview that she opposes the Sensenbrenner bill, though she supports a similar fence now being built along 14 miles of the border in San Diego County.

"Fencing in combination with other things, is useful," she said. "One of the things I believe is you have to enforce our nation's borders."

Residents fear impacts

The fence plan is likely to change significantly in the Senate when it takes up immigration reform, border security, employment verification and guest worker proposals in March. Two versions of immigration reform have been introduced in the Senate, but a third, released Friday by Sen. Arlen Specter, was the first to mention a fence, calling for a study of building a "physical barrier system" along the U.S. borders with both Mexico and Canada.

Leaders in many border cities already have vehemently objected to a fence. The city of Calexico in Imperial County passed a resolution in early January opposing it.

"We should be in the construction of bridges of good relationships with Mexico," said Calexico Mayor Alex Perrone, whose city has mutual aid agreements with the police and fire departments in neighboring Mexicali, just over the border in Baja California. Calexico's retail economy depends on Mexican shoppers, he added. "If we don't have Mexico, we don't have Calexico."

Mike Allen, director of the McAllen (Texas) Economic Development Corp., said leaders from along the Rio Grande agreed at a recent gathering: "Every single mayor from Brownsville to El Paso is against it.

"We want people to support our immigration laws because we live here," said Allen, who lives a half-mile from the border. "But this will be a tremendous waste of money, and it will not stop (illegal) immigration. People will just go around it."

Among those hurt most by illegal immigration are members of the Tohono O'odham Indian tribe, whose desert land stretches along 70 miles of the Arizona-Mexico border. But tribal leaders don't want their land to be fenced, as proposed under the Sensenbrenner bill, because that would prevent Indian people and wildlife from crossing the border as they are accustomed to. "We need the Border Patrol, but we have to balance that with respecting the sovereignty of our nation, our land and our people," tribal Chairwoman Vivian Juan-Saunders said in an interview last year. "It's a sensitive balancing act."

Outside Douglas, Ariz., ranchers Warner and Wendy Glenn have seen the number of illegal immigrants crossing their land skyrocket over the past decade. The Glenns rely on the Border Patrol but enforcement doesn't stop the influx; it just shifts where migrants cross, Wendy Glenn said.

A "monster fence" would block migration paths for deer, javelina, coyotes and mountain lions, and damage the sensitive desert ecosystem; accompanying new patrol roads could even create easier routes for smugglers, she said.

"It will only open up more access for drugs and illegals, with more traffic and more damage," Glenn said. "Washington policymakers have no clue what is happening out here on the ground."

Barrier takes many forms

Fencing of some kind already exists along 106 miles of the border, mostly near cities, including San Diego, El Paso and Nogales, Ariz. Most of it consists of welded panels of corrugated steel recycled from portable landing strips the Army used in Vietnam.

Elsewhere, the international line varies from a few strands of barbed wire tacked to wooden fence posts to a winding river where egrets and roseate spoonbills forage.

A fence could be a valuable tool for the Border Patrol, said spokesman Sal Zamora, but building it will be easier said than done.

"Though in theory it might sound like a viable option, in practice it might not be," he said. "I don't know that environmental impact assessments or feasibility studies have been done."

Zamora also said manpower and technology -- night-vision cameras, motion detectors, helicopters and unmanned aerial drones -- are as important as fencing in cutting off illegal border crossings.

Even as fencing and patrols increased steadily over the past dozen years, the number of people arrested trying to cross illegally fluctuated. Illegal crossings may be more reflective of the international economy than border patrol efforts, according to immigration experts.

San Diego's 14-mile double fence has been in the works since 1996. But construction of the 15-foot-high, rigid, steel-mesh barrier, which is the model for the proposed fence, has been stalled by environmental concerns even though Congress gave the Department of Homeland Security authority to disregard environmental and other laws in an effort to speed fence construction.

Roughly $39 million has been spent on the project so far, according to Hunter's office, and Homeland Security plans to spend $35 million more.

If that $74 million is enough to finish the job (Border Patrol officials say the cost could keep rising) and the price is multiplied over the proposed 700 miles, the new fence could run $3.7 billion. Even that estimate doesn't take into account the expense of purchasing or condemning many miles of privately owned land abutting the border or of potential legal challenges.

Other avenues to entry

Illegal border crossings and drug smuggling have dropped in urban areas over the past dozen years, a sign that fortifying walls there and reinforcing them with cameras, buried motion detectors and a doubling of Border Patrol personnel may have worked.

Typical migration routes have shifted to more remote and treacherous regions, however, and border-crossing deaths have increased eight-fold over the past decade to 473 last year. Migrants increasingly hire smugglers, at $1,500 a pop, to help them make the three-day hike through parched and rocky terrain.

The number of unauthorized immigrants to the United States remained more or less steady from 1996 to 2005, according to demographer Jeff Passel of the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington, D.C. He said 700,000 to 750,000 people enter the country illegally each year, helping raise the total to a record 11 million in 2005.

As many as one-third of those 11 million people did not walk across the border illegally, instead entering the country on tourist, student or work visas and simply staying after the visas expired, Passel estimated.

These visa "overstays" are from China, the Philippines, India, South America, Canada, Ireland and many other countries, said Passel, whose estimates are used by the Department of Homeland Security. Passel emphasized that more than 99 percent of the 25 million to 30 million legal foreign visitors to the United States each year follow the law in general and obey the terms of their visas.

All 19 of the Sept. 11 hijackers entered the country on legitimate visas and only six had violated them by overstaying, enrolling in school when they entered as tourists, or failing to enroll when they entered as students.

Effectiveness is debatable

Building a wall won't address overstays, and it may not even slow foot traffic across the border, many analysts said.

"People will seek other ways to come into the country," said Maria Echaveste, an immigration expert at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank in Washington, D.C. "I suspect more use of water, more use of fraudulent documents, more use of criminal smuggling.

"So long as there are jobs and there is a demand for labor and we are not serious about cracking down on employers who hire undocumented workers, people will seek to come in," Echaveste said.

Deborah Meyers, an expert on Mexican immigration at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., said a crackdown at the border without new legal avenues for immigrants to come and work in this country is doomed to fail.

"We cannot nor should we barricade ourselves off from everything. It's completely unrealistic," Meyers said. "With the money we spend on a fence, we could be reducing the backlogs in processing for legitimate applicants, we could be putting in a system for verification of work authorization, we could be helping Mexico create jobs so people wouldn't have to leave."

The $2.2 billion Hunter estimates the fence would cost could fund almost 2,500 new Border Patrol agents for five years, a 22 percent increase in the force. Or it could increase 15-fold the U.S. Agency for International Development's spending on economic development in Mexico over the next five years.

After the Sensenbrenner bill passed in mid-December, Mexican President Vicente Fox condemned the fence as "shameful" and dispatched his foreign minister to Washington to raise concerns with senior State Department officials.

"It has become very emotional in Mexico," said Allen, the Texas economic development official. Fence backers "say it's not akin to the Berlin Wall," he said.

"But it is," Allen said. "Mexico is our second-largest trading partner, and we're building a wall to keep them out."

Wall is the first step

Hunter, the wall's key backer, is not worried about the impact on this country's relationship with Mexico, his aide said.

"Homeland security cannot be put on hold for diplomatic concerns," Kasper said. "We don't need permission from any other nation as to how best to protect our communities."

Al Garza, executive director for the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a self-appointed militia group that has been patrolling the border and drawing public attention to the issue of illegal immigration, said before the Senate considers guest worker programs or any other immigration reform, it must beef up border enforcement as a matter of national security.

"The first thing is to secure the border, the rest will take care of itself," Garza said.

Walls around the world

Mexican President Vicente Fox has likened the $2.2 billion double fence proposed for 700 miles of his northern border to the Berlin Wall, a comparison angrily rejected by fence supporters. Throughout history, nations have built walls to keep people in, keep people out or both.

Great Wall of China: One of the greatest construction projects in world history, the Great Wall runs, with branches, about 4,500 miles. Large parts of it date from the seventh through fourth centuries B.C. Built of dirt, stone and brick, the wall ranges from 15 feet to 25 feet wide and 15 feet to 30 feet tall with a 13-foot-wide road on top and watchtowers at regular intervals.

Berlin Wall: The barrier that separated West Berlin from East Berlin and surrounding areas in the former East Germany from 1961 to 1989 was a series of concrete walls up to 15 feet high topped with barbed wire and enhanced with watchtowers, stationary guns, mines and electrified fencing. By the 1980s, the wall ran 75 miles around West Berlin and 28 miles through Berlin.

Morocco / Western Sahara: The Moroccan Wall is a 1,600-mile system of sand berms and rock walls built in the 1980s by Morocco to control Western Sahara, where tensions continue between Morocco and Polisario Front separatists despite a U.N.-brokered cease-fire. The wall is an earthen mound about 7 feet high fronted by a 23-foot-wide ditch and studded with bunkers, barbed wire, and anti-personnel and anti-tank mines.

India / Bangladesh: India has built more than 1,300 miles of a planned 3,034-mile barrier at its border with Bangladesh. The fence will be patrolled by 50,000 officers and key stretches will be electrified. Construction of the $1 billion double fence -- which is 10 to 12 feet high, floodlit and razor-wire filled -- began in 1986 and will be done next year. It may extend near a demilitarized zone separating the two countries, to enclose Indian villages on the border.

Israel: Israel has built about 170 miles of the barrier separating it from the Palestinian-dominated West Bank. Another 140 miles are planned or under construction, and 155 more are under review. The barrier, a wire fence in some places and concrete wall in others, has additional enhancements such as barbed wire, electricity, sensors, watchtowers and sniper posts. Supporters say it has been routed to foil terrorists and critics say it unfairly incorporates Palestinian land into Israel.

Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, Global Security, CIA FactbookCompiled by Chronicle research librarian Johnny Miller and staff writer Matthew B. Stannard

Coming Monday: Environmental delays over a 14-mile-long border fence near San Diego may presage legal entanglements awaiting any fence project.


CROSSING THE LINE = February 27 2006

By David Dorado Romo, DAVID DORADO ROMO is the author of "Ringside Seat to a Revolution: An Underground Cultural History of El Paso and Juarez, 1893-1923," just published by Cinco Puntos Press.

I was born in California to Mexican immigrants but have lived most of my life in El Paso, where the anti-immigrant fervor that's sweeping the U.S. today is nothing new. In fact, the first public calls for a fence along the Rio Grande to keep out unwanted foreigners were heard in El Paso a century ago, in 1904. But back then — unlike what the Republicans want to do these days with their proposal for a 700-mile border fence — they weren't trying to keep the Latin hordes out. It was the Chinese who were the undesirable aliens.

Mexican border crossers were not considered illegal in the United States until 1917, when a new law imposed formidable barriers to entry: a literacy test, a head tax and a prohibition against contract labor. Mexican nationals for the first time needed a passport to enter the United States. That's also the year that the U.S. entered World War I.

The war stirred deep feelings of paranoia and anti-foreigner patriotism in this country. Americans were afraid that Germans would launch bombing raids from Mexico. As a protest against Germany, Americans changed the name of frankfurters to hot dogs and sauerkraut to "liberty cabbage." And to protect the country from the threat of typhus, U.S. Customs agents began the mandatory delousing of Mexican border crossers at the El Paso-Juarez international bridge; 127,000 people were subjected to this procedure in 1917 alone.

All immigrants from the interior of Mexico, and those whom U.S. Customs officials deemed "second-class" residents of Juarez, were required to strip completely, turn in their clothes to be sterilized in a steam dryer and fumigated with hydrocyanic acid, and stand naked before a Customs inspector who would check his or her "hairy parts" — scalp, armpits, chest, genital area — for lice. Those found to have lice would be required to shave their heads and body hair with clippers and bathe with kerosene and vinegar.

My great-aunt, Adela Dorado, would tell our family about the humiliation of having to go through the delousing every eight days just to clean American homes in El Paso. She recalled how on one occasion the U.S. Customs officials put her clothes and shoes through the steam dryer and her shoes melted.

If anything, this kind of treatment at the international checkpoints exacerbated illegal border crossings. Mexican border crossers who didn't want to subject themselves to the baths chose to avoid the designated entry points. As a result, in 1921, the U.S. Public Health Service created a mounted quarantine guard to bring Mexican immigrants to the disinfection sites.

Beyond the indignity of the process, there was a real danger of being burned in a fire. That happened in 1916 in the El Paso city jail, when someone struck a match near a tub during the mayor's disinfection campaign and 27 prisoners burned to death.

On Jan. 28, 1917, a 17-year-old Juarez maid named Carmelita Torres, who crossed the border daily to clean houses in El Paso, refused to take a bath and be disinfected. Press accounts estimated that, by noon, she was joined by "several thousand" demonstrators at the border bridge. The protest became known as "the Bath Riots."

The local Anglo press did everything it could to sensationalize the typhus threat from Mexico, although one U.S. Public Health Service official stated that the typhus problem in El Paso was no worse than it was in most major cities in the U.S. In 1917, there were 31 typhus cases in the U.S. and only three typhus-related fatalities in El Paso.

Yet the delousings went on for decades along the U.S.-Mexican border, long after the threat had passed of either a typhus epidemic or German bombers. Even up to the late '50s, during the guest-worker bracero program, Mexican laborers were still being sprayed with DDT before being allowed into the U.S. Why? Because the paranoia not only was about physical contamination, it also was about the cultural and genetic kind.

During the early part of the 20th century, California eugenicists — many of them members of the Human Betterment Foundation, such as Stanford Chancellor David Starr Jordan and Los Angeles Times owner Harry Chandler — played a leading role in restricting the flow of Mexicans into the United States. To prevent "mongrelization" and defilement of what Jordan called the "Saxon and Goth blood of the nation," they spoke out against miscegenation and called for forced sterilization, birth control and the exclusion of inferior genetic stock through reform of the nation's immigration laws.

In an article titled "Perils of the Mexican Invasion," Samuel Holmes — who taught eugenics at UC Berkeley in the '20s — argued that Mexicans were "the least assimilable of the foreign stocks." These Anglo intellectuals and civic leaders were highly influential in helping to draft the restrictive Immigration Act of 1924, which established the first U.S. Border Patrol to keep what racial hygienists saw as "genetically inferior aliens" out of the country.

A few years ago, several state governments, including California's, apologized for the thousands of forced sterilizations carried out in the name of eugenics and "human betterment" between 1909 and into the 1970s.

How long will it take for a government official to apologize for the hundreds of thousands of forced delousings with noxious chemicals along the U.S.-Mexico border? Will anyone ever apologize for the connection between eugenics and U.S. immigration laws?

How many decades will it take for someone to ask forgiveness for today's inhumane immigration policies, which have resulted in the deaths of so many undocumented immigrants in recent years? Is it easier to apologize for history that seems safely stored away in the past than for history that keeps repeating itself, over and over again, here and now?


Related Link:


An Underground Cultural History of El Paso and Juarez: 1893-1923

by David Dorado Romo

usually ships within 48 Qty: Price ea: $26.95

ISBN 0-938317-91-1 / Paper / 304 pages / Chicano Literature / Counterculture / Cultural Studies / Hispanic Studies / Latin American Studies / U.S./Mexico Border / All Rights Available

David Romo’s Ringside Seat to a Revolution is a fascinating glimpse into unknown scenes of the Mexican Revolution of 1911. He takes us into El Paso and Juárez—facing one another across the Rio Grande—in the years just before and just after the exciting events of the revolution itself. It is close up and personal history—through the eyes of an extraordinary cast of characters. It is “people’s history” at its best.

—Howard Zinn

Review: Ringside Seat to a Revolution

The Monitor

Most people know that to really uncover a city, one must find the places where the locals hang out and dig up the legends and tales that make each city what it is. David Dorado Romo has done just that with the West Texas city of El Paso.

Romo was inspired by a group of Frenchmen who tried to document the various aspects and ambiences of Paris during the 1950s. Their goal was “to use their emotional vibes emitted by their city to create a revolution.” Lucky for Romo, El Paso and Ciudad Juarez had already witnessed a revolution at the beginning of the 20th century, one of the most volatile times in Mexican history.

Romo’s tour guide is Pancho Villa. Everywhere Villa went in El Paso and Juarez he left his mark, from the hotels he stayed at during his American exile in 1913 to the houses in which he hid his mistresses. Romo is determined to follow all the tracks. Along the way, the author uncovered much of Villa’s tastes in music (“El Corrido de Tierra Blanca”), food (canned asparagus and peanut brittle) and drink (a teetotaler, Villa preferred strawberry soda pop to tequila).

Not surprising then, Villa is everywhere in Romo’s book. If we can take the title’s reference to a boxing match, then Villa is the ring announcer, but the camera is on the crowd. Romo is most interested in how the Mexican Revolution was seen by those residents that official histories often have considered peripheral to the main events: musicians, filmmakers, female bullfighters, anarchists, poets, spies, pool hustlers, radical feminists and arms smugglers.

Of course there are the revolutionaries themselves. John Reed, the author of 10 Days That Shook the World and the subject of the Academy Award—winning movie Reds, spent time in El Paso during this time and described it as “the Supreme Lodge of the Ancient Order of Conspirators of the World. The personnel changes from year to year; but its purpose is always the same—to destroy the existing government of Mexico.”

Romo believes the border city experienced a cultural renaissance born out of conflict. He’s determined to place his hometown in the American history books, which focus on Anglo gunslingers and Texas Rangers getting all the good lines and Mexicans relegated to cameo roles.

Romo takes a literary approach to his book, one that focuses more on “mysterious and the poetic than the schematic.” Part archaeologist and full-time prospector looking for the uncovered gold mines, Romo went far and wide across the Americas to dig up any and all the information on the revolution. Backed by a grant from the Fideicomiso-Rockefeller Foundation out of Mexico City, Romo took time off from his job as artistic director of the Bridge Center for Contemporary Art to research the book. The photographs, diaries, advertisements, and maps included go far and beyond the profile of these two cities published before. An amateur picture of Halley’s Comet streaking across the night sky on May 16, 1910 appears almost surreal on the pages as the author explains the phenomenon was celebrated in several corridos as the first portent of the Mexican Revolution.

Romo’s book reads like its own shooting star for all those interested in this fascinating time period.



1 comment:

CHUCK2222 said...

Has it occured to you why there's such support for the wall? It passed the House with both Democrat and Republican support. Before you drop into an emotional defense, you should consider why.