Together, Photogrammar, the “Zone of Contention” exhibit page, and Truett’s “Continental Crossroads” provide an examination of border lives through a variety of lenses.
Photogrammar gives us an objective depiction of the types of what life looked like at the border during the depression era (the jobs being done: carrot picking, cabbage harvesting, melon picking, etc; who was doing those jobs: Mexicans, Texans, Californians, and more; living conditions for different groups at the border: tent houses, ramshackle slums, some sturdier houses, camps; and even a little bit of the attitude at the border: some broken down, some resilient, some hopeful.
The “Zone of Contention” webpage from the Weatherspoon introduces me both to some aspects of current day conditions at the border, such as:
-physical representation of the environment: wild and not particularly welcoming
-who is crossing: children, communities
-what losses the journey across the border can impose: identity loss or alteration, the physical objects one must leave behind
-what the artists think about the border and those living there: it is necessary to keep up fluid movement back and forth across it; migrant workers in the region are the subject of constant, oppressive surveillance; even that the “border” is not a specified region but is expanding to encompass all of those living the western hemisphere.
“Continental Crossroads” looks at border life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries not by analyzing the aspects that are homogenous across it, but by looking at the diversity, cooperation, and conflict that existed all at once along this vast, ethnically unpredictable region. Truett and Young tell us that even in the mid 20th century, as both the US and Mexico sought to define themselves as nations through the sharp delineation of borders, the border between the two countries remained a muddied national space. People of all ethnicities lived along it: Anglos, Chicanos, African Americans, immigrants from Mexico, China, and even other European countries all made up the complex communities at the border. These people could not be neatly placed into either the “American” or “Mexican” national camps, but neither could they be grouped together as “Border Dwellers”; instead, they were a conglomeration of peoples whose goals, attitudes towards one another, level of movement across the border, and attitude towards the Mexican and US nations were greatly varied. The editors emphasize that it is this reality of border life that is most important; that it was not a clear cut space, or even a space that cut be chopped up into smaller clear cut spaces, but a transnational and multicultural space with a community that was continually shifting both ethnically and in terms of the complexities of its internal relationships.
In concert, these pieces have much in common to say. A quick look on Photogrammar, through its images of workers of many races living in an array of housing conditions and working at an assortment of jobs, will confirm Truett and Young's claim that the border was (and is) a diverse place with a variety of ethnic groups and activities existing simultaneously. However, because Photogrammar and Continental Crossroads do not overlap much temporally, it is difficult to make further comparisons. Both Continental Crossroads and the Weatherspoon exhibit emphasize the chaotic nature of border living, and the muddied nature of identity and nationhood throughout the region through essays and art pieces both opinionated and objective.
While these sites each offer me rich insights into historical and present day border lives, they each have a few weaknesses in this regard. Continental Crossroads focuses mainly on the late 1800s, whereas I am more interested in the 20th century and current day. Additionally, it focuses on a core set of essays that surround particular topics, as opposed to giving me an overview of the everyday. Photogrammar is packed with images, but its minimal captions don't give me the personal story I want. I can't search for "interactions" in the right geographical area and see how communities related both internally and externally to other communities. The Weatherspoon exhibit page promises to explain things to me, if only I could go to the actual exhibit! It informs me a bit about the border situation today, but from only the website I don't know if it offers any historical context, or if perhaps the film pieces I can't watch or listen to might talk to me about the attitude of those living on the border towards their communities, towards outsiders, and towards immigrants.
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