Archive for the ‘Rio Grande’ Category

Elite Mexicans in South Texas

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

In South Texas residents use the term “nationals” to refer to elite Mexicans while the rest of the population is known as mexicanos or Mexicans (middle or working class).  The City of McAllen is now seeking to become a regional center for granting EB-5 visas, the investor visa, granted to those who invest at least $500,000 in a business or enterprise.  Wealthy mexicans fleeing the drug violence have increasingly sought these visas.  According to the McAllen chamber of commerce applications for these visas over the last two years has increased from 3 to 5 per month to 5 to 8 per week.  In an article published in the McAllen Monitor I discuss the cultural complexities of elite Mexicans living in the valley in terms of the negative stereotypes that circulate not only about Mexican immigration but also wealthy Mexicans.  The comments to the article are telling.  I have posted three below. 

publicadvisor “Permanent residency, or a green card, is available to foreign nationals and their family members who invest at least $500,000 in the United States, Patridge said. “Money buys you anything in America! ” Thats what he said! That’s what it is! Like any currupt country in the world! Proud to be American!

paradoxvigilante  4:37 PM on January 5, 2011 whatever it’s because “mexicans” are the new scapegoats for all this country’s problems. Next thing you know some loon will say they are connected to 9/11 

machogabcho  8:41 PM on January 5, 2011 @paradoxvigilante–I don’t know of anyone in this country who’s making Mexicans “scapegoats” but I can provide links to where Mexican politicians are making Americans “scapegoats” for the problems in their country. And as for the “connected to 9/11″ theory, Mexicans have murdered a hell of a lot more Americans than the 9/11 hijackers .

  esminombre 7:50 AM on January 5, 2011 There are so many illegal aliens living (not working) in the US that probably contribute nothing to our economy. This new wave of people have the means to get into Texas legally (just go to La Plaza) why not embrace their half million contribution and consider putting 10 people to work is not a great idea? Everyone here seems to agree that these foreigners should go through legal channels to live here. Give these Mexicans a chance. We need the jobs and their money. This is a golden opportunity and I think you will see banks, real estate companies and many others lining up to form partnerships with these new millionaires. Milborne Drysdale’s will step up to bat any day.

We have too many “loosers” on this site.

Will these be the type of gates constructed for the border wall in the Rio Grande Valley?

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Residents of the Rio Grande Valley still do not have any idea what type of gates DHS will install in the numerous gaps in the wall in Hidalgo and Cameron counties.  On a recent trip to Del Rio we encountered the following gate and lock systems on their border fence.  Will this be the type of gate and lock structure that the Valley will get?

Lock 2

The lock system at a gate on the border wall in Del Rio, Texas.

A number of gates were located along the wall near the international crossing with Mexico.

A number of gates were located along the wall near the international crossing with Mexico.

Border Wall at Del Rio

The Border Wall in Del Rio.

gate at Del Rio

Borderwall Art: Scott Nicol

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

Scott Nicol, a Professor of Art at South Texas College and a founder of the No Border Wall group ( , is one of the most knowledgeable critics of the border wall.  We (Miguel and Scott)  recently went to photograph the border wall near the town of Progreso Lakes, a tiny town of roughly 250 that surrounds two small lakes.  The town is located near the Progreso Bridge.  Behind the border wall, on the southern side, are conservation areas managed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.  We passed through one of the gaps in the wall to take pictures of the area.  We were almost immediately approached by border patrol agents who asked what we were doing in the area.  Indeed, it is ambiguous whether or not we were permitted to be on the south side of the wall even though we are technically still on U.S. soil.  While the border patrol agents were professional, asking why we were taking photographs, etc., the ambiguity of access to the southern side of the wall was disconcerting. (On a side note:  Margaret and Miguel have been stopped from crossing through gaps because, border patrol agents told us, we were entering private property.  We only put up a mild argument that we were on county roads.)

Scott Nicol took the following photographs of the wall at Progreso Lakes.

Border Patrol Observes Scott Nichol and Miguel Diaz-Barriga

Border Patrol Observes Scott Nicol and Miguel Diaz-Barriga

The Border Wall at Progreso Lakes is a combination concrete and metal pylon structure.

The Border Wall at Progreso Lakes is a combination concrete and metal pylon structure.

When we drove further back into the conservation area we came across an inner-tube that was tangled in a tree.  Scott has used inner-tubes in some of his art/activist pieces.  I shot the following photograph of Scott taking down the inner-tube.

Scott has incorporated found materials into his more activist based art on the border wall and immigration.

Scott has incorporated found materials into his more activist based art on the border wall and immigration.

In one of Scott Nicol’s more activist works he used an inner-tube that he found along the Rio Grande River, apparently used by an undocumented immigrant to come into the United States, to comment on U.S. border policy.  Scott was kind enough to provide a photograph of this piece which has been displayed at a Brownsville art gallery.

Scott Nicol - Terrorists and Terrorist Weapons


Monday, November 16th, 2009
A sign for a hiking trail points straight at the border wall.

A sign for a hiking trail points straight at the border wall.

There are still many gaps in the fence that are in need of gates and in some places it is not clear if the gaps will become gates, and if so what kind of gates.  For example, the Hidalgo Pump House, a World Birding Center, has a gap in the wall where naturalists can enter the trails that lead to the Rio Grande River.  A border patrol vehicle usually patrols right at this gap.  During a number of visit to the Hidalgo Pump House we have yet to see anyone access these trails.  Indeed, for many the idea of approaching a border patrol agent to seek permission to hike on nature trails on the south side of the Wall is daunting.  It is not clear if the Birding Center will get a gate or will border patrol check the nationality of anyone bird watching on the South side of the Wall.

The border wall at Brownsville Texas.

The border wall at Brownsville Texas.

Near Brownsville the Loop family owns a home that will now be on the south side of the Wall.  DHS has yet to full inform the family on what type of gate will be put in place to allow the family to access their land.  The gaps normally measure about ten feet.  Unless the gate is not mechanized, it will be too heavy for many to open.  The story can be found at:

During a recent trip to the Wall we drove down to a number of gaps along clearly marked county roads.  The gaps are now a favorite place for border patrol agents to patrol.  We were stopped and told that we could not proceed because south of the Wall was private property.  Our protests that we were on a public road were not heard so we had to turn back.

It is amazing that so little planning has gone into the construction of gates.  Without the gates, and only the gaps, the Wall does seem like a fiasco. However, the end result might be to force landowners to give up claims on their properties south of the Wall.  Indeed, naturalists are now not able to access Sabal Palm Audobon Center.  Is it only a matter of time that the birding trails at the Hidalgo Pump House will officially become closed.

The Texas Rangers on the Border

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Americo Paredes, writing about the Texas Rangers in the early 1900s, describes them as a force whose main goal was to create terror among border residents. Now, with Governor Perry sending a special tactical unit of Texas Rangers to secure the U.S. Mexico Border this historical memory of the rangers (or rinches) is now bringing back memories of this violence.

Consider the following post in the blog South Texas Chisme (

“They seem to be speaking to the Anglo populace, because they sure are not speaking to me. Am I supposed to be thrilled that Perry is bringing Los Rinches back? They just don’t get it, do they? Now comes PERRY – an Anglo – to remind us Mexicans/Chicanos that the killer Texas Rangers are still alive and well. Known by Mexicans as Los Rinches de Tejas ? these foul-mouthed lawmen too often took the law into their own hands and lynched Mexicans simply because they were there and because they were defenseless.

By some estimates, thousands of Mexicans were lynched by Los Rinches who, in their brutality, executed them without suffering any repercussions from Texas courts. Los Rinches would falsely arrest Mexicans and would promptly lynch them, without benefit of a court trial or any other venue where the person’s guilt or innocence could be proved.

In the period from 1848 to 1870, some official records show that 473 out of every 100,000 Mexican migrant workers died at the hands of Los Rinches. In the 1850s, Tejanos faced expulsion from their Central Texas homes on the accusation that they helped slaves escape to Mexico. Others became victims of Anglo wrath around the Goliad area during the Cart War of 1857, as they did in South Texas in 1859 after Juan N. Cortinas’ capture of Brownsville.”

Our question is to what extent does this quote capture the views and sentiments of border residents. Any ideas?


Brownsville, Texas, the Border Wall and Public Meeting Tonight

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

While almost all border wall construction has been completed in Hidalgo County, DHS has not completed its work in Cameron County where Brownsville and University of Texas-Brownsville are located. Brownsville’s Mayor Ahumada sent out a press release about tonight’s meeting stating:

“This is to inform all interested parties opposing the Border Wall to make note of a proposed agreement between the City of Brownsville and DHS (Department of Home Land Security) which, has been posted on the city agenda for consideration and action on June 2, 2009. The city meeting will take place at City Hall on the second floor, at 6:00 p.m., located at 1001 East Elizabeth Street, which is at the corner of East 10thStreet and Elizabeth Street.”

The people of Cameron County continue to fight construction of the border wall. ?On our tour of various border wall construction sites, it seems that challenging DHS does bear fruit. While communities who challenge DHS have not completely stopped the wall’s construction what they have been able to do is make a place for themselves at DHS’s table and make their voices heard by DHS. ?In other words, at this point, it appears that the struggles open dialogue with DHS for negotiating a compromise. We visited UT-Brownsville’s campus this weekend and viewed the border wall. Here’s what it looks like.


That’s the border wall on UT-B’s campus. ?We took the photo from the southside of the wall looking north onto the university’s baseball stadium. ?UT-B’s beautiful and growing campus merges with a delightful park near the border called “Lincoln Park.” ?Community activists are working hard to keep DHS from building the wall on this park. ?Below are some photos from the park.


The park has picnic areas with bbq pits, walking trails, little league fields, slides and swings for small children to play and basketball courts.?


We found strolling through UT-B’s campus and playing at this park to make for a wonderful family outing. UT-B’s campus is gorgeous, with a canal and resacas cutting through the campus.


While crossing the bridge, we saw an array of tropical birds in their habitat. Margaret loved seeing a pair of parrots flying in and out of their home in a dead palm tree. We also sighted a variety of herons and ducks. Our daughter Liz thoroughly enjoyed watching the ducklings waddle and swim alongside their parents.

The university is in the process of building and upgrading pedestrian paths. The campus reminded Miguel of Stanford in places and Margaret of Indiana University. Both universities also have large green spaces to walk through where you fell like you are out in the country. In Bloomington, for instance, IU’s campus fells like a forest. We found it surprising that DHS built the wall north of the university’s golf course. It looks like in the future, one might be required to pass through a border patrol access point to golf. Here’s a photo of the golf course.img_3718


The photo below is taken near where it looks like DHS might build a gate so that students can golf. The next photo is taken on the levee one crosses to reach the golf course. We took the photo near the possible point of entry. Notice DHS’s lights in the background.



Hidalgo Pumphouse (Updated)

Friday, March 13th, 2009

New Post on Pumphouse March 2009

We wanted to add some more recent photos from the construction on the Pumphouse property as well as add more dimension to our previous post on the Pumphouse. As discussed in the earlier post on the Pumphouse, the site itself is a significant marker of the history of the region. If one visits the Pumphouse today, as we did last month or last week, one misses an element of the story. That element relates to labor and the treatment of Mexicanos in the United States. Hidalgo, the town where the Pumphouse is located, was also a port of entry for laborers.

Go to? a highly significant photograph of Bracero workers being fumigated at site not far from the Pumphouse from the Smithsonian Collection.

(Thank you Dr. Spener for bringing this photograph to my attention.)

More Photos

Below are a few photos that we took at the Pumphouse during the first week of March.

testing 1

The photo below is an update of the photo from the original post photographs. ?Recall the photograph of the Winter Texans beside the wall at approximately 18 feet in height. ?That wall segment is the short segment in the far right of the photo below.
Pumphouse March


Pedestrian Trails Closed

Hidalgo Pumphouse

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009


A View From the Pumphouse


Hidalgo Pumphouse

On Sunday 18 January 2009, Miguel, Margaret and family toured the Hidalgo Irrigation Pumphouse—or more simply put The Pumphouse—a historic site located across the Rio Grande River from Reynosa, Mexico.

Control of water is a centerpiece of borderlands history, and understanding water rights and control of those rights lends insight into the transformation and priorities of the region??s inhabits.? For example, when the lower Rio Grande Valley was primarily based on a ranching economy, the Mexican and Spanish government gave certain settlers long and narrow tracts of land with access to the River so that the cattle had a place to water.?? For Midwestern and Southern farmers who moved to the region around the turn of the 20th century, moving water from the River to their crops became crucial to the success of their farming operation.? Today, you can find approximately 500 miles of canals throughout Hidalgo County.

The Pumphouse, then, built in 1909 stands as a testament to the modernization of Hidalgo County and the shift toward a farming-based economy. The water pumps from The Pumphouse distributed over 300,000 gallons of water per minute across the County, starting in 1909.? In 1983 officials closed The Hidalgo Pumphouse and opened another pumphouse operated by electricity. For the past twenty years, citizens worked to transform The Pumphouse into a museum and birding center and not let it waste away into an eyesore. These efforts bore fruit.

In January, we arrived at a beautiful structure carefully maintained by staff that was surrounding by a lush and blooming green space meant to attract birds and butterflies. We enjoyed sitting underneath the gazebo and watching Zebra and Queen butterflies flutter around us.

Toward the end of our guided tour of The Pumphouse, we were taken outside to view a water canal that also served as habitat for migrating ducks. As the ducks quacked in the distance, we turned to look south and about 100 yards away stood the 18 foot high border wall (or combined levee structure or modified levee). Our tour group primarily consisted of Winter Texans. About eight of them walked over to various portions of the wall and took photos. I visited with a couple from the State of New York who has been living here every winter for the past eight years. They expressed disgust at the wall and said that they never thought that they (our government) would actually build the wall. When our tour guide was asked about the wall, she explained that the wall is half a mile north of the Rio Grande, all land that The Pumphouse owns. She continued explaining that they had bike trails in that area that have been bisected by the wall. They dont know how people will gain access to that portion of Pumphouse property. Since their fairly new bike trail has been bisected, they do not plan on re-opening it, but have more modest goals of opening a walking trail to the public?even though DHS has not told them where their will be openings in the wall. The tour guided expressed dismay when she pointed to what remained of the biking trail?a much less scenic pathway cut by roadways. We ran into a Canadian bicycler (flag mounted on his handlebars) while on our tour, and he was rather disappointed by this lack of access.

Below you will find photos of The Pumphouse and the border wall/modified levee structure that stands within easy view and walking from The Pumphouse. It seems as though water control, once again, is playing a crucial role in the history of the region, defining the perameters of the 18 foot high border wall/modified levee structure that vehicles will be able to drive on top.

Pumphouse Entrance

Pumphouse Entrance

Historic Marker Outside Pumphouse

Lizzie Under Gazebo in Butterfly Park

Wall Construction in the Background

Tourist Taking Photo of Construction

A Final View of the Wall from The Pumphouse


Sunday, November 2nd, 2008
Los Caminos del Rio organized kayaking trips on both sides of the river.
Los Caminos del Rio organized kayaking trips on both sides of the Rio Grande.
A student from UTPA, with her family, prepared soy chorizo as part of the healthy Mexican food contest.  She is part of a research group from UTPA working on food issues.

A student from UTPA, with her family, prepared soy chorizo as part of the healthy Mexican food contest. She is part of a research group from UTPA working on food and nutrition issues in traditional Mexican cooking.

We headed to Anzalduas park on Saturday to attend the Big River Festival organized by Los Caminos del Rio. We had, on several occasions visited Anzalduas park which is usually packed on weekends with families holding barbecues, birthday parties, and visiting. On the U.S. side, however there was very little activity on the river itself. The Festival was noteworthy because it showed that the Rio Grande can be a site of increased recreational activity. Organizers of the Festival, see, were careful to work with a variety of government agencies to organize the event, including the Border Patrol, local mayors, and state representatives.

Kayakers on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande take to the river. Anzalduas parks is one of the rare places in the U.S. where one looks North towards Mexico.
Kayakers on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande take to the river. Anzalduas parks is one of the rare places in the U.S. where one looks North towards Mexico.


Wednesday, October 29th, 2008
The Rio Grande is also used for recreation.

A festival for the Rio Grande!

While the border wall divides Mexico and the United States, bikers and kayakers are forging binational cooperation in order to make the Rio Grande a site for water sports and recreation. Los Caminos del Rio ( organized a binational celebration of the Rio Grande that includes kayaking and biking competitions and a healthy Mexican food cookoff. Margaret and I attended the planning meetings for the Big River Festival and will compete in the cookoff–with high hopes of winning first place. See below for a description of the Festival. For more information see:

It’s a bi-national celebration of the Rio Grande! Compete in an adventure race that combines kayaking, biking and other sports with mystery events! Learn to paddle with one of our American Canoe Association-certified instructors. Enjoy a nature tour of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s best ocelot habit! Or just listen to great music while snacking on something good. Cooking classes (teaching healthy twists to traditional Mexican cooking) will be free to the public.