By A. Daniel (Dan) Bodine
EL PASO–This is another no-brainer as for as being a worthwhile project, politically, for it’s coming at a sensitive time in immigration policy. Keep those boogers out! tea partiers scream on every corner of the land to U.S. Immigration policy makers.
But there’s more than a tad bit of history, too, involved in where this section of border fence due for an upgrade is located–one that even connects an original, large slice of North American ownership. Strangely, the silence on the topic is deafening.
Should supporters be surprised if they hear a few resurrected words of a stolen Mexican history before this project is crowned? Maybe a request for at least one last toast?
A short stretch of the old border road fence along the Rio Grande separating the U.S. and Mexico–located west of downtown somewhere off the old Paisano Road; near the old Fort Bliss–is due for an upgrade, folks, U.S. Border Patrol officials said last Thursday, Sept. 22, at a public meeting at a downtown Holiday Inn Express.
The meeting was called to discuss the upgrade’s environmental impact, a measure needed for funding requirements. Congresses in both President Obama’s administration and in that of former President Bush have authorized billions of dollars in border security improvements. This is one of them.
The short, 3,326-ft. stretch–which now has a simple 7-ft. chain-link fence covering it–is the only such gap in El Paso’s complete immigration security fence line that isn’t 18-ft. steel mesh. How the best became the last (to be addressed) no doubt will be the topic of discussion for years to come. Call it defense-spending bureaucratic lotto, perhaps.
Most recently, this is a formerly darkened stretch along old Paisano where los banditos from Mexico for years would sneak across the shallow river at night; and, using “boulders, boards with protruding nails and even (once) an old sofa,” stop traffic and rob passing motorists, according to a 9-23-11 El Paso Times story.
In 1995 it happened 30 times. Before the 7-ft fence was put up police even used decoy stings and masked undercover operations to combat the problems. More specifically, the stretch lies behind the old fort in the vicinity of the former La Hacienda restaurant.
But the real sore point, no doubt, to many Mexicans, is one about their heritage, and how with the quiet publicity it‘s been minimalized in this project.
We don’t even get a statue, or an historical plaque, in this project? Just covered up as a people, covered up? Jeesh!
Readers, this is where the famous Conquistador Don Juan de Onate (having been ordered by King Philip II to colonize the northern frontier of New Spain to spread Roman Catholicism and establish new missions) crossed the Rio Grande in late April, 1598, to begin his journey–and once on dry land officially claimed all the new territory beyond the river for Spain.
Onate’s expedition then followed the river northward and eventually founded the province of Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico; he became, in fact, the Santa Fe province’s first governor.
And the land was Spain’s. Which, with the Mexican Revolution later–were it not for a few “minor technicalities” [hee, hee]–would be Mexico’s now.
Whooeee! You wanna dogfight!!? Locally, indeed, it’s a touchy subject. Caught in the crosshairs of escalating drug violence in Juarez and the dire need for continual economic development in the Upper Rio Grande Borderplex as a whole (which Juarez with its slue of maquilas represents a core part), officials in both Juarez and El Paso are holding their breath, biding their time no doubt until this is up and over with.
Get it built without ruffling any feathers anywhere! is the quiet, almost insentient atmosphere on both sides of the border here.
And against this escalated background of tension, expect, too, more PR rhetoric from both chambers of commerce painting the area as an ideal business climate–just full of neighborly love.
Fence construction starts next Spring.
Buena suerte, amigos!
— 30 —