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Living in the borderlands

Updated: Jul 28, 2022

Prevalent political discourses in the U.S. on the border refer to it as a space of fragility, suspicion, and insecurity. The wall becomes the place to stop the enemy, the criminal, the other that is different, a lesser person, the alien invader. The wall signifies the object that will fulfill the promise of a contained and pure nation.

What is evident in anti-immigrant discourse is the construction of the border as a space of insecurity, the border is the empty signifier where everything that is wrong or failed in the nation, the U.S. in this case, finds a location, where the wrong is made meaningful.

Borders need to be understood as spaces of encounters, exchanges, connections, mutual enrichment, crossings, blending, and as a space in itself, with its own uniqueness. At the same time, it is clear that, at the border, the materiality of nations is manifested and performed both through the institutions and their ever-present bureaucratic practices of inclusion and exclusion and through the people that walk and bring life to these spaces.

In recent years we have seen how nationalistic discourses are dramatized all around the globe, whether this is situated at the U.S./Mexico border, the Mexico/Guatemala border, the Colombia/Venezuela border, the Morocco/Spain border in Melilla, and turned into spectacles using borders as their main scenario. We live in times where globalization processes and ethno-nationalisms are in an extremely tense situation, a conjuncture that is best exemplified and performed at borders around the world.

However, political border imaginings say very little about the nature of the real border, of the real people and thriving communities that inhabit these border regions, of the creativity and the multitude of exchanges that happen in these socio-spaces.

A fact that gets lost in the political anti-immigrant rhetoric is the significant economic exchange between Mexico and the U.S., most of which happens through the border. The level of the exchange of goods between these two countries is another widely ignored fact of the interconnected nature of their relationship. The U.S. is Mexico’s largest trade partner in both exports and imports while Mexico is the United States’ second largest buyer and third largest supplier of goods.

[1] Border Legislative Conference.

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