A Line in the Water

This is a work in progress, the images below are a part of the research process for this project. You can follow the progress of this project here.

In 1857 the International Boundary Commission commissioned a survey of the U.S – Mexico border. Treaties declared that the border followed the ‘deepest course of the Rio Grande, from the Gulf to the border of New Mexico’. But in the 9 years since the last treaty had been signed, the course of the river had changed, creating issues of citizenship and sovereignty all along the river banks. It was futile, the Commission concluded, to define a river border through maps, because changes in the river’s course were inevitable. Politicians, however, disagreed. Channels were dug to reroute the river, moving it back to align with the political border. This decision has had lasting effects. Officials still wage a continuous fight to fix the river in place. As the Rio Grande wends through the landscape, it often departs from the political border, creating pockets of land that are on the ‘wrong’ side of the Rio Grande.

This project is generously supported by the Mead Foundation

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© 2020 Nathaniel White