EDUCATION ON THE BORDER: The myths and realities of teaching on "La nueva frontera"
Alice Quiocho, Maria Luiza Dantas, Dennis Masur, Lorri J. Halcón, y Carlos von Son.
"La Nueva Frontera"/ The New Border Region
Maps of the southern United States clearly show a line of demarcation separating us from Mexico, a border drawn over 150 years ago. That dichotomy is misleading, however, because the separation that it implies no longer exists. That line doesn't accurately explain the present relationship between the two countries, along the 3300 miles of border that defines each. Today, it might be more accurate to draw two lines, 100 miles north and 100 miles south of the present demarcation, to truly understand "La Nueva Frontera".
It is always instructive when we travel across the United States to watch local news wherever we find ourselves. The local stations report weather in the Southwest as if it begins and ends at the Mexico/United States border. The fact is that the weather does not begin or end on any one side of the border. It might begin in one and end in the other. Like everything else here, weather along "La Nueva Frontera", generally affects both sides of the border. Whether by incorrect fact or historical fiction, the amorphous, changing nature of "La Nueva Frontera" remains unrecognized by most, and largely unaccepted by those on both sides of the línea internacional, who know little about the daily interactions and contacts between individuals from the two countries along the border.
Borders, as they are drawn, are necessary in that they distinguish "us from them" (Anzaldua, 1999). And they have, historically. However, the Mexican and American border is like no other; it is it's own place. This imaginary line, found only on maps, extends from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, beginning in California, running through Arizona, New Mexico, and through to the south eastern most part of Texas. And, the two Californias, Alta and Baja, united west to east along 200 miles of mountains and deserts, and south to north by 100 miles of an unbroken string of coastal freeways (between Ensenada, Baja California to the south and Los Angeles, California to the north), are connected by more than their physical characteristics. Along this border, there is no fence long enough, wide enough, or high enough, to contain the will of the people who reside there within a hundred-mile radius, on either side of the border. This 200 miles wide by 3300 miles long borderland, "La Nueva Frontera" and it's inhabitants, are more than their boundaries. They are an amalgam of two cultures that interact daily, seemingly unperturbed by a border, or its fences. They, and it, are evolving as a culture unto itself with its own sense of place, its own language, and its own vision of the future. Today, this place, along this border, is neither Mexico nor the United States. More accurately, it is the product of the intercourse between two peoples, joined by one border, who have been so willing to get involved with each other, and yet, historically, so reluctant to accept each others' share of responsibility for its progeny.
Along this border, we can see that there are many issues in common (e.g., education, economics, and language). Our cultures are blended, not fixed. We are a mixture of both as evidenced by the foods we eat, the way we live our lives, the commonality of our values, and the constantly changing nature of our environment. Business is conducted on both sides of the border through NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which provides for an easy exchange of goods and services. Mexican businesses such as Bimbo and El Tigre Foods are finding homes in Los Angeles and San Diego. Simultaneously, American businesses are enjoying success in Mexico, with Walmart, Costco, McDonalds, and others, becoming a part of, and transforming the landscape of Mexican life.
There is a free exchange of culture within this border area. Most people move freely between the two nations, albeit more difficult since 9/11, crossing the border for economic, educational, personal, and family reasons. Others move effortlessly between them, navigating language and culture with ease. This daily cross cultural dynamic, this exchange of ideas, in both languages, gives rise to a commonality of issues that we share like education, economics, and family. We are one on this border.