Fencing in Democracy: Border Walls, Necrocitizenship, and the Security State 9781478007470

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Global Insecurities, a series edited by Catherine Besteman


Miguel Díaz-­Barriga   ​Margaret E. Dorsey

duke university press ​| ​durham and london  ​|  ​2020

© 2020 Duke University Press All rights reserved Printed in the United States of Amer­i­ca on acid-­free paper ∞ Designed by Drew Sisk Typeset in Portrait Text by Westchester Publishing Services Library of Congress Cataloging-­in-­Publication Data Names: Díaz-­Barriga, Miguel, [date] author. | Dorsey, ­Margaret E. (Margaret Ellen), [date] author. Title: Fencing in democracy : necrocitizenship and the ­US-­Mexico border wall / Miguel Díaz-­Barriga and Margaret E. Dorsey. Other titles: Global insecurities. Description: Durham : Duke University Press, 2020. | Series: Global insecurities | Includes bibliographical ­references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2019015469 (print) LCCN 2019981298 (ebook) ISBN 9781478006930 (paperback) ISBN 9781478006053 (hardcover) ISBN 9781478007470 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Mexican-­American Border Region—­ Emigration and immigration—­Social aspects. | Mexican-­American Border Region—­Political aspects. | Mexican-­American Border Region—­Social aspects. | Mexican-­ American Border Region—­Ethnic relations—­Political aspects. | United States—­Bound­aries—­Mexico. | Mexico—­Bound­aries—­ United States. Classification: LCC F787 .D539 2020 (print) | LCC F787 (ebook) | DDC 972/.1—­dc23 LC rec­ord available at https://­lccn​.­loc​.­gov​/­2019015469 LC ebook rec­ord available at https://­lccn​.­loc​.­gov​/­2019981298 Cover art: Celeste De Luna, Necrocitizen. Linocut print.

We dedicate this book to our parents (Dolores Cynthia Guzmán Díaz-­ Barriga, Miguel Alfonso Díaz-­Barriga, Linda Anderson Dorsey, and Joseph Bonner Dorsey) and ­children (Isabel Nancy Díaz-­Barriga, Margaret Elizabeth Díaz-­Barriga, and Miguel Dean Díaz-­Barriga).

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Preface ​ ix Acknowledgments  xiii Introduction ​1 1

The Politics of Bisection: A Visual Ethnography of Rebordering and Rajando ​15


Not Walls, Bridges: Rituals of Necrocitizenship ​49


Necrocitizenship Enacted: Raping White ­Women and Consolidating the State of Exception  79


Bleeding like the State: The Open Veins of Latin Amer­i­ca ​108


Necrocitizenship Kills ​118

Conclusion ​135 Epilogue ​141

notes ​ 145 references ​ 159 index ​ 171

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The wall is not a solution. In my mind it’s a surrender. This wall is an admission of defeat by this Administration and the Congress in the face of an impor­tant public policy challenge. Likewise, to examine the myriad of laws which protect the air we breathe, the ­water we drink, and the p­ eople’s right to know and to participate in the policy pro­ cess and then to decide that the only solution is to waive t­ hose laws completely is an abdication of our responsibility. —­congressman raúl grijalva, congressional hearing, april 28, 2008


We moved to the Texas-­Mexico borderlands in July 2008 to begin a year and a half of ethnographic fieldwork on the wall that the Department of Homeland Security (dhs) was building on the US-­Mexico border. Border residents ­were against construction of the border wall and ­were mounting po­liti­cal protests and ­legal challenges to halt the wall’s construction. Undeterred, dhs moved forward, and we observed the construction of the border wall, attended protests and hearings, and interviewed border residents about border security. Our initial research looked at grassroots opposition to border wall construction and sought to understand its meaning in relation to Mexican American citizenship and belonging. As Mexican American citizens opposed the wall, we observed a dynamic more complicated than a push and pull between Anglo domination and Latinx re­sis­tance. A more profound pro­cess unfolded involving the militarization of borderland culture itself (Anglo, Latinx, Native American, and Afro-­ Mestizo) and the articulation of politics within expressions of patriotic citizenship. Our research thus shifted, as or­ga­ nized opposition to the fence in South Texas waned, from a story of re­sis­tance to a study of the ways in which border

wall construction galvanizes the material and cultural militarization of the region. While conducting fieldwork, we de­cided to move permanently from Philadelphia and start new faculty positions at the University of Texas–­Pan American (now the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley). The southernmost tip of Texas, known as the Rio Grande Valley, became our research site and our new home. Over the years we canoed the Rio Grande and hiked through state and national parks on its banks. We directed tours of the border wall for ­human rights activists, visiting dignitaries, and scholars, oftentimes with our c­ hildren in tow. We curated an art exhibition on democracy and border security at apexart in New York City. We also spoke about border militarization in numerous venues, including at museums, a state-­level hearing, and academic conferences. Dorsey, as the founding curator of the Border Studies Archive, created an online interactive map of border wall construction in South Texas. We taught courses on border culture and politics to students from the Rio Grande Valley and assigned class proj­ects on the US-­ Mexico border wall. Since 2010 we have published a series of academic articles on the US-­Mexico wall and border security, including the widening application of surveillance technologies in the borderlands. Our research strives to represent the perspectives of a population often overlooked in national-­level policy making—­those of border residents themselves. At both the local and national levels, policy makers and the media mute the voices of Mexican American politicians and professionals who have opposed the border wall and treat them as extranational and even irrational. This marginalization of border residents’ voices is an expression of transformations in rights and citizenship within the United States as security concerns guide state policy. Our approach to border wall construction is distinct in that we focus not on mi­grants but on the rights of borderland residents who are US citizens. This is not to discount the impor­tant work on walls and migration, including mi­grant deaths, but to highlight the ways in which migration studies and borderlands studies speak to each other: border security policy and implementation dramatically affect the lives of mi­grants and residents of border communities. Over the years we have witnessed increasing border militarization at the local, national, and global level. National Guard troops patrol the border wall with machine guns. Calls for bigger and more beautiful walls are a central aspect of US election campaigns and national policy making. Nation-­ states, at a global level, increasingly resort to walls as a means to curtail x


undocumented migration, smuggling, and terrorism and to control citizens and legitimate territories. Border walls not only demarcate national bound­ aries but also embody transformations in sovereign power and citizenship that ultimately imprison the populations they are meant to protect. As such, this book contributes to wider discussions of militarization and the emergence of the security state by focusing on the reconstitution of citizenship at borders. At stake is not only the militarization of border regions but, as Congressman Raúl Grijalva suggests, the ­future of democracy.



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The authors would like to start by acknowledging each other. This book is a collaborative proj­ect and the result of our conducting joint fieldwork—­and juggling childcare—as well as reading, conversing, and writing together over twelve years. We w ­ ere fortunate to live and conduct research in a region filled with generous and thoughtful ­people for ten years of this pro­cess. We cannot thank every­one individually who took time to chat with us and share their perspectives on immigration, border security, and the ways in which decisions made in Washington, DC, radically transform daily life. We also need to exclude names of individuals who asked for their names to be kept secret. We thank them for their support, friendship, and time. In par­tic­u­lar we would like to thank Pat Ahumada, Pablo Almaguer, Mr. and Mrs. Reynaldo Anzaldúa, Jessica Gómez Barrios, Pamela Brown, Nadia Casaperalta, Ann Williams Cass, Jim Chapman, Barbara Cline, Carla Cozad, Melissa Del Bosque, Jessica Delgado, Larry Delgado, Celeste De Luna, Dolly Elizondo, Linda Escobar, Ramiro Escobar, Stefanie Escobar, Celestino Gallegos, Carmen Pérez Garcia, Oscar Gómez, Rhonda Coleman Gómez, Veronica Gonzáles, David Hall, Stefanie Herweck, Federico “Fred” Hinojosa, Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, Debbie Nathan, Scott

Nicol, Aaron Nelsen, Eli Olivarez, Keith Patridge, Aaron Peña, Betty Pérez, Maxwell Pons, Steven Rand, Lawrence Romo, J. D. Salinas, Corinna Spencer-­ Scheurich, Erica Schommer, Daniel Tyx, Rosalie Weisfeld, and Linda Yañez for their willingness to share their knowledge about the history and culture of the Rio Grande Valley with us. Over the years, many of ­these ­people conversed with us innumerable times about border security and immigration. We are in debt to them for their attention to detail and passion for generating re­spect for the rgv, and Mexican American cultural more generally, over the years. Our students Lupe Flores, Shantal Brissette, and Rocio Díaz participated in our research, especially with visual media, including the creation of a digital archive on border wall construction. We have enjoyed working together and watching their ethnographic and public engagement intensify over the years. This ethnography would not have been pos­si­ble without the generous support of the National Science Foundation with two grants, one in 2008 (0841433) and another in 2010 (0852531). This manuscript was transformed ­because of collegial conversations with anthropologists, sociologists, and Latina/o/x studies scholars stemming from numerous workshops and invited lectures. We particularly want to thank the School for Advanced R ­ esearch for the time, beautiful work space, and thoughtful feedback when we ­were Ethel-­Jane Westfeldt Bunting Fellows. Thank you João Biehl and the Latino studies, Anthropology, and Mellon studies departments at Prince­ton University for extending the conversation on sovereignty and walls. Commentary by Vilma Santiago-­Irizzary as well as students and faculty from Cornell University’s Latina/o studies program and Latin American studies program helped us broaden our analy­sis of visual media. Thank you to Jonathan Inda, Gilberto Rosas, Julie Dowling, and their students for their invaluable feedback on our concept of necro-­citizenship following our Rolando Hinojosa-­ Smith lecture at the University of Illinois-Urbana. Randy McGuire and Laura McAtackney invited us to participate in a seminar at the School for Advanced Research, “A World of Walls,” that helped us frame our analy­sis of border wall construction at a global level. ­There are numerous colleagues with whom we had conversations, both formally and informally, about our work and border studies more generally. While this list is far from exhaustive, we would like to thank the following colleagues for their inspiration and support: Gretchen Bakke, Richard Bauman, Cristina Beltrán, Catherine Besteman, Amahl Bishara, Mieka Brand-­ Polanco, Michael Brown, Norma Elia Cantu, Michael Cepek, Ben Chappell, xiv


Rodrick Coover, Lupita Correa-­Cabrera, Carole Counihan, Arlene Dávila, Dana-­Ain Davis, Michael Dear, George Díaz, Zaire Dinzey-­Flores, William Dupont, Abou Farman, Diane Garbow, Iréne Garza, Farha Ghannam, Denise Gilman, Frederic Gleach, Ruth Gomberg-­Muñoz, Margaret Graham, Claudia Guerra, Carol Green­house, Hugh Gusterson, Yannis Hamilakis, Sonia Hernández, Josiah Heyman, Servando Hinjosa, Niklas Hultin, Ben Herber Johnson, ­Reece Jones, Jennie Keith, Kristin Koptiuch, Lázaro Lima, Alejandro Lugo, Alejandro Madrid, Rocio Magaña, Ana Mallen, Martha Menchaca, Guillermina Gina Núñez-­Mchiri, Dimitris Papadopoulos, Karen Rosenberg, Alfredo Quiroz, Carolina Monsivais, Steve Piker, Luis F. B. Plascencia, Adriana Petryna, Anoma Pieris, Catherine Ragland, Van Reidhead, Harriet Romo, Naomi Schiller, Eric Selbin, Mimi Sheller, Maurice Sherif, Sara Shneiderman, Maria Kathleen Staudt, Beverly Stoetlje, Jenny Suchland, Karolina Szmagalska-­Follis, James Taggart, Luz Cruz Torres, Megan Tracy, Greg Urban, Carlos G. Vélez-­Ibáñez, Aimee Villarreal, Alisse Waterston, Shannon Winnubst, and Patricia Zavella. Fi­nally, we would like to thank Gisela Fosado, Alejandra Mejia, and Duke University Press as well as the anonymous reviewers for their work in bringing this proj­ect to fruition.



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If you ­don’t want a fence between the city and Mexico, I suggest that you build this fence around the northern part of your city. —­congressman thomas tancredo, congressional hearing, april 28, 2008


Thomas Tancredo

On April 28, 2008, Thomas Tancredo, a member of the US Congress from Colorado, attended a congressional hearing called Walls and Waivers in Brownsville, Texas, a small city located on the southernmost tip of Texas on the bank of the Rio Grande.1 The hearing occurred at an opportune moment since the Department of Homeland Security (dhs), based on its authority to waive laws, had begun preparations to construct the border wall in South Texas. The hearing provided a forum for the largely Mexican American population to voice their concerns about the expedited construction of the US-­Mexico border wall and where it was g­ oing to be built on their property and in their communities. Representatives from environmental organ­izations, Native American groups,2 and concerned citizens spoke out against dhs’s authority, granted ­under the 2005 real id Act,3 to waive laws for the wall’s construction. They testified against the government’s seizure of land and the construction of a wall that would cut through private property, nature preserves, parks, neighborhoods, and towns. In their criticisms of both walls and waivers, witnesses at ­these hearings w ­ ere careful to emphasize both their broader support for border security and the importance of upholding, and not making exceptions to, laws. A ­ fter listening to their testimony, Congressman Tancredo exclaimed:

Now, every­body has said t­ oday, you know—­I think almost every­one on the panel, with rare exceptions, has agreed that borders are impor­tant. ­There are a c­ ouple of p ­ eople who suggested—or at least one—­who said that to her and many of her friends they ­were not, that it ­didn’t ­matter, borders ­didn’t ­really exist for them. I would suggest that that’s not a unique impression for a lot of p ­ eople in and around this area, that borders ­don’t ­matter. But let me just suggest to us all that this is not a prob­lem that is faced only by the p ­ eople in this par­tic­u­lar area. They are impacted dramatically by it, undeniably, but so is the rest of the United States of Amer­i­ca, and as Members of Congress we have a responsibility and we have a duty to do what we can to protect and defend the Nation as a ­whole. And so it extends to looking at the borders and seeing what we can do, even though, you know, ­there are ­people in the area that may disagree with the implementation, you have to—as I say, our responsibility is something ­else. It’s broader than that. And we have to come to the realization, the understanding, that ­there are ­people ­here who ­really d ­ on’t believe borders are impor­tant, especially the border between Mexico and the United States. They wish it ­didn’t exist, and in their minds it ­really ­doesn’t. But for the rest of us and for the security of the Nation as a ­whole, we have to take into consideration the fact that ­there are much bigger issues at play h ­ ere than someone’s multicultural attitude t­ oward borders. And that’s all that I suggest that we all do when we look at this. This is a very serious issue, and if you d ­ on’t like a fence between Mexico—if you ­don’t want a fence between the city and Mexico, I suggest that you build this fence around the northern part of your city. (US Government Printing Office 2008: 105–106) Building the wall north of Brownsville would place the border fence approximately twelve miles north of the Rio Grande, the official US-­Mexico border, and cut a US city of over 180,000 residents off from the rest of the nation. Congressman Tancredo’s statement reflected the spirit of many in the United States, that the United States needed to take a proactive approach to national security and that change, oftentimes radical, was ­under way. On the national stage, Tancredo and Duncan Hunter (R-­San Diego) shared wide popularity for their support of increased border security, especially following 9/11. Tancredo gestured ­toward knowledge concerning the nuances of the region and the unique perspectives of border residents in his statements



before he invited the audience to comprehend that they must, likewise, under­stand the mind-­set of the nation as a ­whole, the depth of the issue, and the United States’ security needs. Policy makers, conservative activists, and politicians from the Demo­cratic and Republican Parties have over the years maintained this security mind-­set in a never-­ending call for more—­bigger and better walls, more boots on the ground, increased surveillance capabilities on the US-­Mexico border.4 ­These evocations, as Tancredo’s statements highlight, treat border residents as suspect citizens with questionable allegiances and a lack of concern for security. Tancredo’s statements (“I suggest that you build this fence around the northern part of your city”) construct a discursive wall, and such a discourse of ­people, security, and the nation is where physical walls themselves are consolidated. Bound­aries and their constitution are equally malleable and rigid, as Tancredo’s quick rhetorical twists underscore: the wall can be at the international boundary or north of a US city with a population that is over 90 ­percent Hispanic. The materiality of walls thus emerges in many formats, including steel and discourse. We arrived in the field two months a­ fter Tancredo voiced t­ hese inflammatory statements, and his ultimatum lingered on the minds of borderland residents who viewed the construction of the border wall as an insult and another gesture of national separation. Congressman Tancredo became, for border residents, Exhibit A of national policy makers’ arrogance, paternalism, and racism: coming to their hometown, calling them ignorant and irresponsible, suggesting they are unpatriotic, and concluding with a threat. As anthropologists, we immediately recognized that the border was being treated as an exceptional space. For the anthropology of borders and border walls, scholars increasingly recognize how states manage borders in a similar fashion to what we observed with Tancredo (J. De León 2015; Jusionyte 2015; Lugo 2008; Rosas 2012). Tancredo perceived border residents (the “­people ­here”) as a class apart: neither fully part of the United States nor partners in devising policies for the region. National policy makers and the media conceptualize the southwestern border region as a war zone even though border cities on the US side are among the safest in the nation, according to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (fbi 2015).5 Mexican American border politicians, business leaders, and activists work to correct such significations of border insecurity while articulating alternatives for border social, environmental, and economic development. The efforts of border leaders and activists have, Introduction


however, had ­limited success translating into policy. South Texans run into the same wall again, with national legislators regarding border leaders and activists as pro–­open border, unpatriotic, or simply ignorant about security.6 Even though Tancredo sought to acknowledge that the witnesses of the April 28 hearings recognized borders, he still reduced the views of the “­people ­here” (i.e., border residents) to a “multicultural attitude,” one that is inconsiderate with regard to the “Nation as a ­whole.” ­There is a deeper irony to Tancredo’s statement. As anyone familiar with South Texas knows, patriotism—as seen in high levels of military ser­vice and cele­bration of veterans—is a central feature of border life. As we suggest in chapter 4, this military ser­vice and patriotism neither registers on any ­simple metric of assimilation nor automatically translates to support for border militarization. In fact, many of the strongest opponents of the border wall in South Texas are Mexican American cultural activists who are also veterans. So while we w ­ ere not amazed that a national policy maker would assume a pedantic tone and dismiss the views of border residents, we must admit that we ­were taken aback by Tancredo’s call for placing Brownsville south of the border wall, which seemed outrageous even for a conservative proponent of border security. In 2008 we ­were bewildered by the willingness of the US Congress to grant dhs the power to break the law through waivers in order to uphold the law. We marveled, naively, at the inability of environmental organ­izations, US congressional representatives from border areas, and Native American leaders to make this rare use of waiver authority, one of the broadest waivers of law in US history, a kernel of our national dialogue. The powerlessness of the dissenters had all-­too-­real and vast consequences. The border wall heralded a new era of remilitarization.7 Since 2008 we have witnessed the relentlessness of the drive to militarize the border through the creation of an ever-­expanding security net not only in South Texas but throughout the southwestern border region. On a daily basis, we read plans for the increased presence of drones, sensors, video surveillance, automated license plate readers, facial recognition software, and military hardware throughout the borderlands. State and private security agencies constantly call for strengthening command-­and-­control capabilities and increased coordination and intelligence sharing between local and state police, as well as federally coordinated fusion centers. We have seen new technologies emerge at interior checkpoints (see Dorsey and Díaz-­Barriga 2015) and have watched the rapid construction of the border wall. And we have noted how the popu­lar media through their vari­ous iterations of border wars have 4


amplified the crisis and the supposedly urgent need to seal the United States from Mexico, as if stepping to the drumbeat of this march of technology and militarization. Chapter 5 provides an in-­depth discussion of ­these pro­cesses of media repre­sen­ta­tion. Reynaldo Anzaldúa

In November 2008 we drove north from the US-­Mexico border for over six hours to arrive at Austin and connect with a group of anti–­border wall activists from the Rio Grande Valley who planned to testify at the Texas House of Representatives’ hearing on the border wall.8 By now, ­after four months of being in the field, we had met and interviewed many of the key players in the No Border Wall co­ali­tion.9 An activist whom we had formally interviewed and casually encountered at conjunto ­music festivals and farmer’s markets across the valley is Reynaldo Anzaldúa. He is a lifelong resident whose ancestors ­were some of the first Eu­ro­pe­ans to reside in the borderlands.10 Anzaldúa’s views have been represented in documentaries on the border wall and at border rallies as well as in newspapers and on tele­vi­sion news shows. In his public appearances, including interviews with the Los Angeles Times and cnn, he intentionally dons red-­white-­and-­blue baseball caps that mark his former membership in the US army.11 He wore one of ­those caps during his testimony to the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, which is instructive ­because it shows the strategies that he uses to not only express opposition to the border wall but also claim US citizenship:12 I am Reynaldo Anzaldúa originally from El Granjeno [raises patriotic hat]. As you can see, I brought my patriotic hat [chuckles, as does Texas State Congressman Eddie Lucio Jr.]. The reason that I carry this hat with me is ­because when I was one of ­these persons fighting the border wall from the very beginning with the community of El Granjeno . . . ​and the national media. . . . ​You know the stories went out, and a lot of the comments we got ­were like “You are un-­American, you are not patriotic . . .” [smiles]. So, I make it a point to bring this hat with me everywhere I go [Congressman Lucio chuckles]. I am a descendant of the original Spanish settlers of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. . . . ​My ­family has been in South Texas since the 1750s. . . . ​On my ­father’s side of the ­family . . . ​they had three dif­fer­ent land grants . . . ​which ­were right on the border, and El Granjeno is part



of ­those land grants . . . ​and they ­were more or less 16,000-­plus acres of land. So my ­family has very deep roots in South Texas, and at one time they owned about a third of the valley, so where I am coming from h ­ ere is that my concerns for ­things happening in the valley are genuine. I feel for the valley, that is what I am getting at ­here. In addition, I understand illegal immigration, drug smuggling, ­because I was a US customs officer for thirty-­one years. Twenty-­eight of ­those years I spent on the southern border ­either as a customs inspector, a se­nior customs inspector, a supervisory customs inspector, or a customs special agent criminal investigator. I know about border law enforcement issues in addition to being a resident of the valley, so I understand illegal immigration and drug smuggling. This is one of the reasons that I am so opposed to this wall ­because I understand ­these issues. I am opposed to the wall b­ ecause I believe that the real issue ­here, the real prob­lem, is demand, demand for illegal alien ­labor, demand for illegal drugs. The demand is in the United States. So this is the key to this: ­until we address the issue of demand, we are never g­ oing to get rid of ­either prob­lem.13 Anzaldúa uses multiple strategies to claim citizenship (patriotic, patrimonial, and cultural) and express his opposition to the border wall, providing a vivid contrast to Tancredo’s statements that construed the South Texas public as uncaring and unable to deliberate. Anzaldúa, while active in anti–­ border wall organ­izations and environmental groups like No Border Wall and the Sierra Club, chose to speak as a private citizen and ex-­resident of the small town of El Granjeno, Texas. For Anzaldúa, the construction of the border wall serves as a case in point for how Washington treats the border: the security prob­lem is linked to immigration and drug trafficking. Anzaldúa c­ ounters this projection by describing the border area as a place where families and communities thrive. Anzaldúa expands the scope of the “border prob­lem” by making drug smuggling and illegal immigration a nationally based dynamic. Anzaldúa’s voice, in soft tones, emphasizes his understanding of the issues and his deep concern about the border and the ­people who inhabit the region for the longue durée. ­After all, he is one of them: “My ­family has been in South Texas since the 1750s.” Anzaldúa contextualizes caring and patrio-



tism in a highly specific cultural and historical understanding of the region, that of a Mexican and Mexican American. He traces his pre–­Revolutionary War historical connection to the region through the Spanish land grants, the cohesiveness of Mexican American communities, and the ties of families to the land. Even though his ancestors arrived before the United States of Amer­i­ca existed, he raises his patriotic baseball cap to highlight that he belongs to and is a full citizen of the United States. We believe that this dual emphasis, while a public per­for­mance of citizenship for the nation, was more than a gimmick; in our interviews and many unplanned conversations, Anzaldúa expressed pride in his Mexican American background as well as his military ser­vice to the United States. This per­for­mance of citizenship must be understood as a stand against the dominant culture’s perceptions, as presented by Tancredo and t­ hose whom Anzaldúa encountered in vari­ous arenas in his role as an anti–­border wall spokesperson: “You are un-­American. You are not patriotic.”14 When he raises his hat, he is not making a claim to be assimilated. This stands in contrast to Tancredo’s draconian approach: he wants to see all expressions of cultural difference as being multiculturalist and thus not about belonging to—or being full members of—­the United States. At a rhetorical level, Tancredo’s multiculturalist twist attempts to sever residents’ belonging to the United States, to delegitimize their claim to US citizenship. Anzaldúa—­experienced with the national-­level framing of border residents—­anticipates just this sort of rhetorical shift and begins his talk with patriotism, emphasizing that he does care about the nation as a ­whole. Sovereignty and Militarization

On November 9, 1989, at half past ten in the eve­ning, thousands of East Germans rushed to the crossing at Bornholmer Strasse and demanded that officials open the border, and the Berlin Wall fell. For spectators across the world, this happening marked the beginning of a world without walls, a cele­bration of globalization, mobility, and freedom. In contrast, walls now permeate our world. Since 1989 nation-­states have constructed, or begun the pro­cess of constructing, over seventy border walls, including walls on the following borders:15 Botswana/Zimbabwe (2003), Brazil/Paraguay (2007), Brunei/ Malaysia (2005), Bulgaria/Turkey (2014), China/North ­Korea (2006), Costa Rica/Nicaragua (2010), Egypt/Gaza (2009), Greece/Turkey (2012), Hungary/ Croatia (2015), Hungary/Serbia (2015), India/Bangladesh (2005), India/Kashmir (2004), India/Pakistan (2004), Iran/Af­ghan­i­stan (2000), Iran/Pakistan (2011), Iran/Iraq (2015), Iran/Pakistan (2007), Iran/Turkey (2014), Iraq/Syria Introduction


(2018), Israel/Gaza (1994), Israel/West Bank (2002), Kazakhstan/Uzbekistan (2006), Kuwait/Iraq (1991), Pakistan/Af­ghan­i­stan (2007), Rus­sia/Georgia/ South Ossetia (2011), Saudi Arabia/Iraq 2014, Saudi Arabia/Yemen (2004), Spain/Morocco (around the exclaves of Ceuta [2001] and Melilla [1998]), Thailand/Malaysia (2013), Turkey/Syria (2015), Turkmenistan/Uzbekistan (2001), United Arab Emirates/Oman (2005), United Arab Emirates/Saudi Arabia (2005), United States/Mexico (2006), Uzbekistan/Af­ghan­is­ tan (2001), and Uzbekistan/Kyrgyzstan (1999).16 The new walls come equipped with special policies and infrastructure. In Asia t­here are heavi­ly patrolled border fences on the Indo-­Bangladeshi border where agents have a “shoot-­on-­sight” policy; ­there are fortifications in Africa at Botswana’s electrified fence on its border with Zimbabwe, and ­those between the Spanish exclave of Melilla and Morocco. In the ­Middle East, the Saudi Arabian state built a barrier dividing itself from Yemen, and the Israeli border wall with the West Bank is heavi­ly militarized. In North Amer­i­ca the United States constructed a border fence along sections of its border with Mexico that is a combination of walls and barriers, sometimes including concertina wire and Customs and Border Protection (cbp) agents armed with m16 assault ­rifles. Scholars explain this proliferation of border walls in terms of the contradictions and stresses that define con­temporary borders, contrasting the forces of globalization, including economic and cultural flows, with state sovereignty in protecting both national economies and national identity. In that model, theorists such as Wendy Brown (2014) and Peter Andreas (2009) view border wall construction as a desperate and theatrical attempt by “weakened” nation-­states to exert their sovereignty in the face of strong transnational economic institutions and high levels of cross-­border migration, trade, and cultural exchange. Anthropologists Hastings Donnan and Thomas M. Wilson (2010) build from Brown’s “waning sovereignty” model but emphasize that states are reasserting sovereign power through a more general pro­cess of rebordering international bound­aries. Such rebordering pro­cesses are asymmetrical, sealing some aspects of “national identity and national territory and sovereignty” while also allowing increased mobility, as seen in accords that allow for freer flows of some goods and ­people (6). We agree with Donnan’s and Wilson’s invitation to elucidate the contours of rebordering and debordering processes—in terms of both physically fortifying and eco­nom­ically opening borders—as they occur on the ground, and we want to suggest that their rebordering concept would benefit from a 8


more fully theorized understanding of sovereignty, which includes identifying specific transformations in sovereign practices. Anthropology of borders limits itself to Westphalian and post-­Westphalian visions of sovereignty, as reflected in the application of concepts that focus on borders as closed or open, such as borders and bridges, blockades and flows, or enclosures and mobilities. Yet it seems as though sovereign practices do not revolve solely around control of territory and maintenance of the cultural integrity of the nation. We theorize rebordering in relation to a global reconfiguration of sovereignty, examining its physical manifestations as it alters border landscapes and cultures, through an analy­sis of militarization, starting with the construction of border walls. We argue that the logic of rebordering and debordering, in the US-­Mexico border region and beyond, responds to a reconstitution of sovereignty based on practices associated with necropower and generating states of exception.17 ­These manifestations of sovereign power are evident in the increasing fortifications and vio­lence at borders.18 In India reports of Border Security Forces killing, wounding, or abducting Bangladeshis crossing the border fence, many u ­ nder questionable circumstances, are a routine part of border life (Jones 2009: 890). The Zimbabwe-­Botswana fence built in 2003 carries 220 volts of electricity. The Botswanan government claims that the electrification of the fence is to keep livestock out. Zimbabweans claim that the electrification is to keep them out. At Melilla, both Spanish and Moroccan security forces act as petty sovereigns wielding power over life. A report by Doctors without Borders describes increased vio­lence against mi­grants by Spanish and Moroccan security forces, including severe beatings and rape, emphasizing that “mi­grants are caught in a sinister game of ping-­pong between two sets of security forces” (Médecins Sans Frontières [Doctors without Borders] 2013, 13). The report also highlights increasing numbers of deaths, not only in skirmishes at the border wall, but also due to drowning as mi­grants attempt to circumvent the wall by sea. The International Organ­ization for Migration (2016) notes that deaths of mi­grants in the Mediterranean have soared, with over three thousand in the first eight months of 2016—­over a thousand more deaths than in 2015. In the United States, dhs built the border wall to funnel unauthorized mi­grants into remote and desolate areas where state agents can more easily apprehend them. Since 1995 dhs’s strategy of deterrence has led to over five thousand mi­grant deaths, mainly due to dehydration and exposure.19 In the killing of unauthorized mi­grants, cbp agents themselves increasingly play a proactive role. A 2013 report by the Police Executive Research Forum notes Introduction


an escalation in the use of deadly force by cbp that includes agents creating scenarios that justify the use of such force, such as standing in front of and firing at vehicles. From January 2010 to October 2012, cbp reported sixty-­seven shooting incidents, which resulted in nineteen deaths (Bennett 2014). The account notes that cbp demonstrates a “lack of diligence” in investigating ­these incidents.20 Closing the circular logic of their deterrence strategy, cbp officials used the landscape to justify their actions: they noted that ­because their agents work in remote and harsh terrain, they need more flexibility than other law enforcement agents.21 The exceptional border thus allows for an intensification of necropower based on a rendering of ecol­ogy that makes death and vio­lence a natu­ral part of the hegemonic landscape—­ border walls funnel mi­grants into deserts, and law enforcement has greater leeway in applying deadly force ­because of the border’s remoteness and desolation (Dorsey and Díaz-­Barriga 2015, 2017b). This use of force often stands si­mul­ta­neously outside and within the law. In their rush to reborder, nation-­states (e.g., India, Spain, Botswana, Saudi Arabia, and the United States) have ­either waived or ignored laws to expedite construction and/or unleash border enforcement policies that contradict the laws of t­hose very nation-­states. For example, in India the Border Security Forces (bsf) are the law—­any order given by a bsf officer to maintain India’s security constitutes a lawful command (Jones 2009). The Ministry of Law’s “Acts and Codes” for border security provides the l­egal basis for the bsf to act outside the law in order to maintain the law.22 Spanish border agents at Melilla do not officially register mi­grants apprehended at its border fence, as is required by Spanish law. Instead, they often turn mi­grants over to Moroccan authorities, who then leave them in the desert to perish. The United States is no exception as a state of exception. It made exceptions to its own laws in the pro­cess of rebordering. Through the 2005 real id Act, which had as its aim the security and authentication of driver’s licenses and personal identification cards, the US Congress granted the secretary of dhs the power to waive any and all laws to enable the construction of barriers and roads between the United States and Mexico. The real id Act also ­limited court review of waiver decisions to cases that allege a violation of the Constitution of the United States. Congress followed the real id Act with the 2006 Secure Fence Act, which mandated the construction of 670 miles of border fence. The 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act gave the dhs secretary sole discretion in deciding on locations for wall construction. In erecting the wall, dhs secretary Michael Chertoff waived over thirty 10


laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (Bear 2009).23 Through the power to act outside the law, Secretary Chertoff stripped environmental groups, Native Americans, and other groups of the power to challenge border wall manufacture in court. To understand, then, the impotence of anti–­border wall activists and social movements against rebordering, the context of exception is central ­because it si­mul­ta­neously strips Native American activists, Mexican American activists, environmentalists, and ­human rights activists of their rights as US citizens while empowering the economic and po­liti­cal forces of militarization. Our wider theoretical consideration of sovereign practices, with the toxic trilogy of rebordering, vio­lence, and exception, can serve as a starting point for critically engaging the normalization and proliferation of border militarization. Border walls represent neither a theatrical attempt at border control (Andreas) nor the waning of sovereignty (Brown) but rather manifest sovereign practices based on the state’s power to perpetrate vio­lence and except itself from its own laws. Citizenship in the United States

The US-­Mexico border wall is the largest domestic building proj­ect of the twenty-­first ­century—­eight hundred miles of fortifications that cost up to $16 million per mile. The wall has incurred $4.4 million in repairs, and the construction and maintenance costs are expected to exceed over $49 billion over the next twenty-­five years (Rael 2012: 76). It was constructed with minimal public input about its design and function.24 From dhs’s perspective, the wall is simply a fortification; more specifically, Secretary Chertoff (2009) described the wall as a “tool” whose function is to slow the crossing of unauthorized persons, smugglers, and terrorists and provide cbp with an advantage. In our field site, the border wall notifies the mainly Mexican-­ descent population that they, not only mi­grants and smugglers, are potential subjects of exclusion. As in many other areas of the Southwest, eighteen-­foot rusty metal pylons wind through low-­income urban neighborhoods in plain sight of and in close proximity to ­people’s homes. To understand what a state’s practice of rebordering, vio­lence, and exception does to its citizenry, we introduce the concept of necrocitizenship. Necrocitizenship focuses both on militarization imposed by the state and on the ways it is regenerated within local cultural practices and subjectivities (Díaz-­Barriga and Dorsey 2011). In other words, necrocitizenship is a Introduction


heuristic to explicate three interrelated po­liti­cal and cultural practices we observed in the field:

1 The practice of necropower by the state. Rather than being primarily concerned with life and the overall health of its citizenry, the state is more concerned with controlling exclusion and death. Think vio­ lence at borders.

2 The deterritorialization of mexicano/a and Mexican American identity as essential to their status as extranationals in the public sphere, thus making them targets of exclusion. Think Tancredo. 3 Patriotic citizenship. Mexican Americans in South Texas use a militaristic register and continually reenact their sacrifices to the state in poetic, embodied, and highly ritualized ways. Think of Reynaldo Anzaldúa and his baseball cap.

Our book follows that schema in its outline. Chapter 1 is a visual overview of the border wall as it bisects communities, parks, and ranches, addressing necropower and the deterritorialization of Mexican American identity. In South Texas dhs built the border wall north of the international boundary, the Rio Grande (Río Bravo in Spanish), placing approximately forty thousand acres of US land in an ambiguous state south of the wall (Rael 2012: 78). We created an ethnographic photo essay to introduce the landscape and history of the region from the perspective of the politics of bisection as dhs’s actions strip and slash land, culture, and daily life (Gloria Anzaldúa’s [1987] “raja,” which can be translated as splits, or slices). Chapter 2 delves into the poetics and politics of citizenship at small-­ town festivals in South Texas; we show the normalization of militarism and military engagement within Mexican American culture. We call this patriotic citizenship and use this concept in a dialogic fashion with necrocitizenship to explore citizenship’s significations for an excluded population. Patriotic citizenship, in our field site, is not jingoist but plays into the politics of bordering and rebordering in complex ways. Enclosure and connection manifest in participants’ discussions of building the border wall and international bridges. Chapter 3 theorizes how understandings of sovereignty, race, and sexuality intertwine with policy debates over the meaning of spillover vio­lence. At border security hearings, state-­level administrators appeal to emotion



(pathos), raising the specter of violent Mexican men attacking innocent white ­women, as they build a case for the exigency of the state’s funding priorities, for example, more money for river patrol boats, he­li­cop­ters armed with sharpshooters, aerostats (blimps), and related security technology. Local Mexican American leaders in law enforcement contest the state’s (Texas’s) characterizations of the border region and insert reason (log­os) into sovereign practices. Chapter 4 utilizes necrocitizenship to interpret the ways in which Latinx leaders have tried to fight border militarization while working within its very frame. Mexican American leaders straddled a paradoxical situation: opposing border militarization while contributing to discussions on increasing Texas’s command-­and-­control (surveillance and security) capabilities. Chapter 5 comes full circle with necrocitizenship. We focus on Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren’s coverage of a widely circulated border security report, written by two army generals, that insists on militarization in South Texas. Van Susteren and the army generals characterize the Mexican American congressmen who dared to question the report as irrational and ignorant. In ­doing so, they cast the congressmen as unpatriotic and extranational despite the latter’s insistence that they are pro-­security and that their families have served widely in law enforcement and the US military. The concept of necrocitizenship allows us to interpret militarization as a policy imperative and as a conduit of sovereign practices based on death and exception. Anthropology, as a discipline, is now coming to terms with movements ­toward militarization and the consolidation of the security state at borders. Anthropology is poised to understand security not only in terms of nation-­state action but also in terms of the ways in which local actors are enmeshed in and challenge the state’s machinations, and, in turn, the ways in which militarization impacts cultures and subjectivities, just what the concept of necrocitizenship does. Ethnographers, with our extended periods of time working closely and intensely with populations, claim a certain level of expertise and orientation ­toward issues of agency and the production of subjectivity as it occurs on the ground in the face of quotidian and monumental obstacles. Border residents register statements like ­those of Van Susteren, the generals, and Tancredo as denying their citizenship and treating them as extranational. For many border residents, border wall construction inscribes itself onto a larger history of racism and imperialism in the transborder region. Tancredo’s marginalization of claims of citizenship, as Reynaldo Anzaldúa himself would note, Introduction


is part of a larger politics of racism in the United States. And, as in the case of Anzaldúa, such politics are opposed through a constant, repeated claim of patriotism and allegiance to the United States. Anzaldúa’s insistence on citizenship serves to ­counter calls to characterize his home and community as a war zone and transform it into one. It is both a stance against necrocitizenship and its embodiment. Necrocitizenship illuminates how Mexican Americans on the border are enmeshed in policy that creates cycles of security and criminality and how their culture itself is becoming militarized. ­These two aspects of border fences—­arising from states of exception and generating death—­are part of a larger exercise of global sovereignty and creation of necrocitizens. In our ethnography, we hope to change the terms of the debate about border walls from the waning of sovereignty of individual states and threats from nonstate actors to a focus on the implications of border walls for the f­ uture of democracy. What does it mean to live in a society that is in a relentless state of emergency?




THE POLITICS OF BISECTION A Visual Ethnography of Rebordering and Rajando


Rendering the US-­Mexico border as a site of necrocitizenship is based on not only policies such as the construction of the border wall in the name of national security but also a wider cultural circulation of images and discourses that depict the region as violent, desolate, otherworldly, marginal, and/or alien. Magazines, tele­vi­sion shows, and the internet often portray the border region as a dangerous place, devoid of ­people except for Border Patrol agents, members of the National Guard, drug dealers, illegal aliens, and potential terrorists. In the national imaginary, exclusion and death are seen as natu­ral features of the border landscape, not as the deliberate result of nation-­state policies.1 The US media often portray Mexicans and Central Americans crossing through this area as nameless, without biographies and without a voice. We therefore see two ele­ments of our definition of necrocitizenship at play h ­ ere: state policies of exclusion circulating as natu­ral features of the landscape, and the deterritorialization of Mexican-­origin populations and their reterritorialization as intruders into that landscape. This chapter focuses on the border as a visual ethnographic space, showing how media imagery, including that of magazines such as National Geographic and Time, naturalizes the US-­Mexico border and the construction of the border wall

FIGURE 1.1  ​Sasabe,

Arizona, looking from the Mexican side ­toward the United States, February 13, 2009. Photo­graph by Margaret E. Dorsey and Miguel Díaz-­Barriga.

as part of a sparsely populated “moonscape.” This reporting, which portrays the border as a war zone, takes on the perspective of state agents and relies primarily on information from them, becoming part of a larger argument for increased border militarization. We contrast this popu­lar imaginary of the border with our own photographic and textual repre­sen­ta­tion of the border region in South Texas as eco­nom­ically dynamic, dual-­cultural, and verdant with parks and preserves. You w ­ ill see that the border wall in South Texas, which is at some points up to two miles north of the Rio Grande, bisects communities and cuts off nature preserves. The politics of bisection captures the intrusion of border security mea­sures into the everyday lives of border residents. Our concept of bisection comes out of a dialogue with Gloria Anzaldúa’s work. Anzaldúa (1987) is a noted writer and phi­los­o­pher who was raised in Hargill, Texas, a town that is fifteen miles from the border wall. Anzaldúa interprets the United States’ militarization of the border as dividing and splitting families and communities as well as producing a zone of death and vio­lence. Through the politics of bisection, we therefore map the meaning of 16

chapter one

the border wall onto the landscape not as forming an otherworldly intrusion but rather as cutting, splitting, tearing, and scarring (rajando) the landscape and an entire region within the United States. Visual Ethnography

When we started this proj­ect, we paused to answer a seemingly s­ imple question: what constitutes a visual ethnographic analy­sis? Given the central and power­ful role of photo essays in informing public imaginaries, we advocate that anthropologists continue experimenting with the genre’s possibilities for the expansion of disciplinary knowledge and for the production of an alternative public dialogue from that of corporate media monopolies.2 This dialogue must include a discussion of the role of fieldwork in producing visual knowledge. As in the case of ethnographic film, photo essays based on fieldwork can arguably provide a richer perspective on social pro­cesses than a journalistic or documentary approach. The border between journalistic and ethnographic repre­sen­ta­tion thus looms large for us as we seek to challenge ­those images and create new imaginaries of this region. Visual testimony also adds dimension to our research as a piece of public anthropology, particularly given the central role that visual culture plays in the imaginary of the border—­and implicit justification of the wall. We also engaged in this proj­ect as public anthropologists by making our research accessible and almost instantaneously available through a blog (Díaz-­Barriga and Dorsey 2008–2010) and our work in establishing the Border Studies Archive in 2010 at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, whose website features an interactive slide show of the valley’s environment as it transforms alongside the construction of the border wall.3 We also curated an exhibit in Manhattan at apexart that focused on the impacts of the US-­Mexico wall on border communities (Díaz-­Barriga and Dorsey 2016). When we began an ethnographic research proj­ect on the construction of the border wall along the US-­Mexico border in South Texas,4 polls indicated that a majority of US residents favored the construction of a border fence (Pew Research Center for the ­People and the Press 2007). South Texans, however, showed strong opposition to the construction of what they labeled the border wall. Our initial research questions focused on why a majority of border residents opposed the fence and how they strategized and or­ga­nized to halt its construction. When outlining this proj­ect in Philadelphia, we thought that a visual component would help in conveying their opposition. We also felt that this would be an easy ele­ment to include in our research. The Politics of Bisection


Upon our arrival in South Texas, we immediately learned that visual documentation of the wall would be a difficult proposition for a basic methodological reason: both the Border Patrol agents and construction crews discouraged us. On one trip to a prospective construction site, the following occurred: as soon as we drove our white m ­ inivan over the crest of the levee and looked to the southern horizon, we encountered a Border Patrol suv racing ­toward us. On that occasion, we ­were approximately one mile north of the US-­Mexico border. On another trip, a Border Patrol vehicle filled with four agents s­topped us and told us that we ­were on private property, implying that we w ­ ere driving in a place where we did not belong. We ­later confirmed that we ­were, in fact, driving on a public road. Another time, the Border Patrol parked and sat b­ ehind our ­minivan in such a fashion that blocked us from moving. Such challenges in visually documenting border wall construction are not unique to our experience.5 The politics of repre­ sen­ta­tion in the case of the border wall reaches beyond the frame of a photo. Arrest and detention can happen as a result of photographing the wall.6 Signifying the Wall

In contrast to anthropologists, reporters and photog­raphers from Time and National Geographic seem to have unfettered access to the border wall in which their authors create their own imaginary of the borderlands. Their photo essays focus on the border wall as it resides in a desert and a deserted area (California and Arizona). Time and National Geographic have a robust national circulation, seek to maintain an objective stance on issues, and use the photo essay format, which allows photog­raphers to use multiple photos and fairly lengthy captions to convey their message. Many consider National Geographic to have some of the best photography.7 The photo essays that we discuss ­were published in 2007 and 2008 and do not include photo­graphs of Texas even though at this time South Texans ­were vigorously protesting border wall construction and, in some areas, dhs had started surveying and clearing land for construction. The rich histories of South Texas towns and their residents along the Rio Grande might have made a strong addition to the National Geographic and Time photo essays: coverage of the protests and clearing of land for the border wall could have shown a more verdant landscape that was in transition and voiced the views of border residents. ­These photo essays and their authors craft their own imaginary of the borderlands. This visual language draws from the play of form, light, color, 18

chapter one

FIGURE 1.2  ​Construction

of the border wall near Peñitas, Texas, January 14, 2009. Photo­graph by Margaret E. Dorsey and Miguel Díaz-­Barriga

contrast, and motifs to invite the viewer to imagine the border in specific ways. The National Geographic and Time photo­graphs fall into one of two motifs:

1 Border as moonscape 2 Border as impoverished and militarized

­ hese photo essays, a series of images and captions, provide ample room to T both represent the wall standing alone and portray it in its broader social context, but they do not. Charles N. Bowden’s (2007) National Geographic essay, “Our Wall,” naturalizes vio­lence on borders: “Borders everywhere attract vio­lence, vio­lence prompts fences, and eventually fences can mutate into walls.” The accompanying photo essay, entitled “Our Walls, Ourselves” (Cook and Jenshel 2007), consists of sixteen photo­graphs: eight in Arizona, five in California, and three in Mexico. The last photo­graph, taken in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, shows the fence ending just as it arrives at the Rio Grande. The majority of ­these photos focus on rust and dust in Arizona. The Politics of Bisection


FIGURE 1.3  ​View

from the international crossing at Nogales, Arizona, February 13, 2009. Photo­graph by Margaret E. Dorsey and Miguel Díaz-­Barriga.

FIGURE 1.4  ​Iconic

image of door in border wall with padlock at the Nogales border, February 13, 2009. Photo­graph by Margaret E. Dorsey and Miguel Díaz-­Barriga.

The Time photo essay by Anthony Suau (2008) accompanies David Von Drehle’s article, “The G ­ reat Wall of Amer­i­ca” (2008) and continues the rust, dust, and death theme.8 Time’s piece, unlike National Geographic’s, then takes a militaristic turn with nine photo­graphs ­either of immigrants being apprehended by the Border Patrol or of heavi­ly armed Border Patrol agents, including members of the Border Patrol’s Special Operations Group. Overall, Anthony Suau’s (2008) photo essay in Time contains eigh­teen photo­graphs: seven in California, six in an unnamed desertscape, and five in Arizona. None of Time’s photo­graphs ­were set in Texas, which includes approximately 66 ­percent of the US-­Mexico border. ­Because we found it difficult to obtain permission from Time and National Geographic to reproduce their images, we ­will quote the captions and allow them to stand in as a partial repre­sen­ta­tion. We clearly do not intend for the captions to replace the photo­graphs, following Roland Barthes’s dictum: “It is impossible . . . ​that the words ‘duplicate’ the image” (1983, 205). We suggest that the captions found in t­ hese national magazines do, in fact, direct the readers’ interpretation of the images, providing points of stress and amplification “already given in the photography” (206). Border as Moonscape

We start with a photo that indeed looks like the moon: vast, empty, and ashen. The photog­raphers capture and naturalize this otherworldliness in their caption: The border wall winds through moonscape, following the demands of terrain rather than the po­liti­cal boundary that lies several hundred yards south. (Cook and Jenshel 2007) The only difference from our popu­lar imaginary of the moon is that in this one a rusted wall cuts across the desolate terrain. A photo­graph of the concrete and metal fences in San Diego takes advantage of the crosscutting shadows cast by floodlights pointing in vari­ous directions to create a sense of otherworldliness. The lights, fencing, and emptiness make the area seem remote and forbidden. The caption reads: A metal wall and a concrete fence impassively bar illegal entry in a floodlit no-­man’s-­land where Border Patrol agents keep close watch. (Cook and Jenshel 2007) The photo­graphs represent the fence as stolid and colorless. The Politics of Bisection


At the same time, talented photog­raphers carefully craft captivating images of the wall. The essay continues with a beautiful photo­graph of the sky and hills. The caption of the photo titled “Otay Mesa, California” reads: The hills of California appear dreamlike beyond a section of steel mesh wall with a door that opens only for Border Patrol agents. (Cook and Jenshel 2007) The photog­raphers cannot help but contrast the “dreamlike” quality of the landscape around a weathered border fence with a padlocked door built into it. We find this photo­graph absolutely otherworldly. It looks as though it would accompany a Salvador Dalí exhibit or could be placed as a photo in a textbook explanation of Freud or Jung. We say this ­because the heavy metal door seems to almost float in a limitless expanse, dwelling in a place beyond where we live. Poverty and Militarization of the Border

­ here are many ironies in titling this section “poverty” since the photo­ T graphs depict neither border residents themselves nor the voices of border residents. In fact, the photo­graphs show only traces that p ­ eople live in ­these areas. Such indicators of residency all point to poverty, disorder, and drunkenness. ­Those repre­sen­ta­tions of the border wall that focus on border residents draw the eye to encroaching Mexican poverty and lawlessness. The caption of one such photo from National Geographic reads: An improvised wall of military surplus steel cuts a rusty slash t­ oward the horizon. In Tijuana, where poverty is rising and half of all new residents live in squatter communities without clean w ­ ater, the wall is hard to ignore: Houses push up close to the border. On the U.S. side, development is far removed from the barrier. ­ here are no ­people in the image; the only living creature is a dirt-­colored T dog. The photo­graph makes it clear that the rusted-­out fence contains the encroachment of poverty onto barren US land, though viewers might won­ der if this flimsy fence is up to the task. This image and images like it do not depict Mexican American communities in the United States. Consider the Mexican (American) communities that existed before the United States invaded Mexico and the two countries ratified the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Another National Geographic photo titled “Backyard Fence” is captioned: 22

chapter one

A homemade fence decorates a backyard in the Sonoran border town of Naco, across the road from the barrier that separates it from the Arizona border town of the same name. The Naco area has been one of the major entry points for undocumented mi­grants heading north. The photog­raphers take the picture of a pick-up truck full of empty beer cans next to a “homemade” fence in Mexico. Such imagery potentially reinforces the enduring racist US ste­reo­type of the drunk Mexican. While the photo­graph touches on the lives of border residents, the caption reinforces the border as a site of deviance. The writer could have used the caption to discuss a moment of agency, for instance, exploring why a border resident constructed this homemade fence. Instead, the writer makes a generalized statement about the area as an entry point for undocumented mi­grants. ­There are no p ­ eople in the image, and in the caption the only reference to ­human life is “undocumented mi­grants.” Once again, Mexicans and Mexican Americans who live along the border are invisible and mute. Another caption, from a photo titled “Tracks in the Sand,” reads: Vehicles abandoned by smugglers dot the landscape in the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation in Arizona. Usually stolen from the U.S., the cars are left to the ele­ments when they break down or run out of gas. (Suau 2008) ­ here are no ­people in the image, no members of the Tohono O’odham NaT tion. This photo­graph’s perspective places the viewer literally in the position of “seeing like a state” (Scott 1998): the photo is taken from a he­li­cop­ter, providing a bird’s-­eye view of desert sand and two discolored vehicles. A fourth representative image focuses on the US security presence along the border. The captions and photo­graphs provide an overall portrait that gives Border Patrol agents voice, individuality, agency, and a sense of import. James Siegel describes, in the context of conquest and colonization, the ways in which photography is a “technological device” devoted to the defeat of culture and “the recording of the remnants of that defeat” (2011, 79). The colonizers ultimately produce photo­graphs of themselves that demonstrate who “belong[s] in the landscape (Siegel 2011, 79).” In the National Geographic photo­graphs of the borderlands, the mi­grants do not receive the same treatment, simply being labeled “illegals.” In the end, Time and National Geographic provide the reader with a binary perspective of border occupancy:

The Politics of Bisection


only lawbreakers and law enforcers move in the borderlands, and t­ hose who uphold the law are the only ones who rightly belong. Another photo, “Deployed,” speaks in a military tongue; it iterates a masculine poetics of warfare, lionizing the militarized presence: Two agents from the Special Operations Group are dropped into the mountains near San Diego. Once they take up positions, they w ­ ill spend the night watching for smugglers and other illegals. (Suau 2008) The photo itself could just as easily be from an ­actual war zone such as Af­ghan­ i­stan in 2008. It features two male soldier-­like figures, actually members of the Border Patrol’s Special Operations Group, kneeling on a craggy mountain with a gray he­li­cop­ter hovering in the background. This caption and photo of the male agents includes quotes and biographical information, giving the agents a voice and identity.9 Time’s and National Geographic’s otherworldly repre­sen­ta­ tion of the border alongside its militarized component reinforces a perceived need for the border wall while si­mul­ta­neously de-­emphasizing the wall’s effects on border communities, including the ways that it bisects lives and landscapes. Raja and States of Exception

1,950 mile-­long open wound dividing a pueblo, a culture ­running down the length of my body, staking fence rods in my flesh, splits me  splits me me raja  me raja —­gloria anzaldúa, la frontera/borderlands We use the term raja to describe bisections of landscapes and lives for two reasons: first, we borrow the term from Gloria Anzaldúa, who uses raja to describe how borders not only divide but also scar and wound both the landscape and the ­people (mexicanos residing in the borderlands); and, second, we use the term to describe how the border wall affects borderland culture on the US side. Alejandro Lugo in his ethnography of the El Paso–­Juarez borderlands, Fragmented Lives, Assembled Parts (2008), differentiates between the border as crossroads and the crossing of borders. Since we are describing how the border wall literally raja (splits) the US side of the border, we draw attention to the meaning of borderlands culture as a crossroads. Both 24

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FIGURE 1.5  ​First-­time

kayakers enjoy the Rio Grande at the Big River Festival, November 1, 2008. The event or­ga­nizer, Eric Ellman, instructs onlookers on kayaking. On the other side of the Rio Grande, Mexican participants in the festival launch their kayaks. This binational event includes a healthy-­cooking competition, mountain-­bike rides, and information booths about the Rio Grande as a site for outdoor activity. The Big River Festival occurred at Anzalduas State Park, one of a number of parks and refuges that form the Rio Grande Wildlife Corridor. Photo­graph by Miguel Díaz-­Barriga and Margaret E. Dorsey.

Anzaldúa and Lugo interpret late twentieth-­century borderlands culture through cycles of conquest, and as such raja also indexes this larger history. This designation of the border wall as rajando (splitting, slashing, tearing) in the context of a history of repeated conquests provides a larger context for understanding the border as a state of exception. Giorgio Agamben (2005) emphasizes that states of exception are often constructed around warfare, although such wars may not be wars in the literal sense of the term, for example, wars on poverty or drugs, or other states of emergency. We need not return now to the ways in which states have applied vio­lence—­and have operated outside the laws of the Crown and the republic in order to uphold the law.10 Many long-­term residents of the South Texas borderlands describe federal intervention, such as the construction of the border wall, as yet another tactic designed to split and dispossess families of their land. The Politics of Bisection



Pedestrian fence Vehicle barrier


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The secretary of dhs, Michael Chertoff, a nonelected public official, legally rajó (stripped and slashed) both private property and public lands quickly ­because of the powers granted to him by Congress through the real id Act (2005), which allowed him to waive laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, that provide mechanisms for public input into construction proj­ects and ­legal challenges to them. The contradictions of the state of exception created by the real id Act, allowing dhs to act outside environmental and conservation laws in order to uphold immigration and smuggling laws, are most evident in areas that the border wall raja (splits). ­Because the real id Act granted waiver power to the dhs, and Secretary Chertoff exercised that power, groups and individuals whose property the border wall rajó (cut) could not exercise their full range of l­ egal and po­liti­cal rights to slow, prevent, or alter border wall construction. Agamben’s notion of the state of exception literally refers to exceptional ­legal maneuvers. We are drawing attention to that but also to how the state of exception becomes a cultural state, a state of existence. We are asking you to take this term in an ethnographic sense, interpreting the state of exception as ordinary and considering what it means for the exceptional to be the daily. In other words, we propose interpreting the state of exception as an eth26

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FIGURE 1.6  ​The images in the Time photo essay would lead the reader to believe that Border Patrol agents are the only government field officers found along our international boundary. In fact, federal parkland accounts for approximately 70 ­percent of the property along the border. Twenty years ago, we would more likely have run across a park ranger along the border than a Special Operations Unit. This photo, from November 1, 2008, captures a ­couple of Texas Parks and Wildlife rangers taking a break from the Big River Festival to prepare a ­couple of hot dogs—­what most of us expect to see at a park on the weekend. Photograph by Miguel Díaz-­Barriga and Margaret E. Dorsey.

nographic enterprise where exception is ordinary but not accepted, pre­sent but not normalized. Step farther to see that while this state is a l­ egal real­ity, lived and ordinary, residents demonstrate that they themselves have agency as they push, shove, and talk back to the nation-­state’s overwhelming drive to make the state of exception normal. The border residents with whom we worked believe in law and order and the power of democracy to function for all members of the nation-­state. While split, they are still intact. Our Counterstatement: Raja, an Ethnographic Photo Essay

We compiled a photo essay to provide a corrective at this historical moment when corporate media, including tele­vi­sion shows such as Homeland Security USA and Border Wars, envision the border as a lawless zone in need The Politics of Bisection


of increased militarization (Caramanica 2010; Frey 2010). The US-­Mexico borderlands thrive not only as deserts but also as binational communities, wildlife refuges, and nodes of hemispheric trade. While the border region pre­sents a set of law enforcement challenges, it is also a community and a place where many p ­ eople choose to live and love. In their activism to preserve the region’s forests and green spaces and in their po­liti­cal organ­izing against the wall, many border residents create their own significations of the border, sending a counterstatement to the common tropes that pundits feed the nation. H ­ ere we capture many of the bisections that the border wall created and the numerous protests against it. We challenge the dominant iconography of the border and provide an entry point into our analy­sis of border remilitarization. Our pre­sen­ta­tion differs from that of the photo essays of National Geographic and Time by emphasizing how the bisections that have resulted from a state of exception divide verdant areas and threaten thriving communities. I. Rajando (Cutting) Verdant Areas A. Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Time’s and National Geographic’s images would lead the reader to believe that Border Patrol agents are the only government field officers found along our international boundary. In fact, park rangers from the US Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice as well as Texas Parks and Wildlife are also a common sight along the border. Starting in 1979, with partners such as Audubon and the Nature Conservancy, US Fish and Wildlife purchased over ninety thousand acres of land (140 square miles) to create a wildlife corridor along the Rio Grande, from Falcon Dam to the Gulf of Mexico, where the wildlife corridor would connect to the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and then head northward. The US Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice buys land from willing sellers and—­through vari­ous nonprofit groups—­works with landowners to create tracts that allow wildlife to traverse the vari­ous nature preserves that constitute the corridor. According to US Fish and Wildlife officials, the border wall has affected 75 ­percent of the corridor (McEver 2007). The Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge shares its headquarters and visitor center with the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, also located on the bank of the Rio Grande. At the visitor center, US Fish and Wildlife rangers provide maps of refuge trails, ­children’s programs, and information about wildlife in the region.


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FIGURE 1.7  ​Margaret

and her ­daughter Lizzie at an overlook near the Rio Grande at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, part of the Rio Grande Valley Wildlife Corridor, March 25, 2009. Parks with similar scenic overlooks and goals of preserving rare animal habitat in South Texas, such as the Sabal Palm Sanctuary, closed ­because of the border wall. The border wall was placed north of the Sabal Palm Sanctuary and Southmost Preserve, which isolates ­these sanctuaries from the rest of the United States. Photo­graph with the authors’ camera by an anonymous tourist from Minnesota.

B. Palm Tree Forests

Spanish explorers originally named the Rio Grande “Las Palmas” b­ ecause groves of sabal palm trees surrounded the river. Both the Nature Conservancy’s 1,034-­acre Lennox Foundation Southmost Preserve and Audubon’s 527-­acre Sabal Palm Sanctuary protect sabal palm trees as well as other native plants and wildlife species, part of the larger wildlife corridor initiative. In 2007 the Nature Conservancy refused to grant right of entry to the Border Patrol to survey land for border wall construction. In response, dhs filed suit (Nature Conservancy 2008). In an interview in 2008, before dhs built the wall, staff at the Southmost Preserve explained how the wall would negatively impact the ability of endangered species, such as the ocelot, to access w ­ ater from the Rio Grande. They also expressed concern that the The Politics of Bisection


Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge N


Rio Grande City



Rio Grande 0 0

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FIGURE 1.8  ​A

group of Swedish birders at Turk’s Cap Trail Boardwalk, Southmost Preserve, November 11, 2011. Southmost Preserve is one of a number of parks and refuges that form the Rio Grande Wildlife Corridor. Photo­graph by Max Pons.

FIGURE 1.9  ​Still

no passport needed to pass south of the border wall and enter the Sabal Palm Sanctuary. June 18, 2018. Photo­graph by Scott Nicol.

border wall would isolate the preserve from both visitors and law enforcement, potentially making it an access point for drug smugglers. ­These predictions have come true, according to Max Pons, who works at the Southmost Preserve. Pons told us on August 3, 2012, that the border wall had significantly decreased the number of both national and international visitors. He pointed out that visitors sometimes ask if they have to show their passports to enter the preserve since it is south of the border wall. In 2012 Pons was uncertain how he, his staff, and visitors would gain access to the preserve once dhs constructed a gate for the border wall located at their entrance. The issue of access is impor­tant for many reasons. For one, a group of farmers are testing sustainable organic agriculture techniques by cultivating citrus and grape groves on the property. For another, it is unclear how visitors would pass through the gate. Would dhs allow Southmost Preserve staff to leave the gates open during normal operating hours, or would they have to open the gates for each group of visitors? In August 2012 dhs agreed to compensate the Nature Conservancy for the over eight hundred acres of land that w ­ ere now south of the border wall. The agency paid $978,650 in a ­legal settlement following four years The Politics of Bisection


FIGURE 1.10  ​Max

Pons (right), man­ag­er at the Nature Conservancy’s Southmost Preserve, directing a tour of the sabal palm forest, September 23, 2011. Photo­graph by Margaret E. Dorsey and Miguel Díaz-­Barriga.

of litigation.11 This settlement did not take into account that the land had lost a significant amount of its value as a conservation area (Laura Huffman, Texas Nature Conservancy Director, in Sherman 2012). Originally, dhs had offered $114,000 to purchase the eight-­acre strip of land where they constructed the border wall. Their offer reflects how they saw the land as a raja (strip). The border wall both slices (raja) and creates slices (rajas). Approximately two miles west of the Nature Conservancy’s preserve stands the Sabal Palm Sanctuary, which is completely south of the border wall. In April 2009 Audubon closed the sanctuary to the public owing to bud­get constraints. Construction of the wall north of its property caused a decline in visitors as well as concern about liability and other administrative issues (Sieff 2009). The sanctuary reopened in January 2011 with support from the Gorgas Science Foundation (Clark 2010). ­Because of the lack of funds to wage a lengthy l­egal campaign and doubts about the ability to win a case against dhs, Audubon—­unlike the Nature Conservancy—­did not challenge dhs in court (personal communication with Scott Nicol, August 8, 2012). 32

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FIGURE 1.11  ​Crews

construct the border wall at Southmost Preserve, September 1, 2011. Notice the sabal palm trees ­behind the wall. The viewpoint is north to south. Photo­graph by Max Pons.

C. Old Hidalgo Pump House Museum and World Birding Center

The Old Hidalgo Pump House Museum and World Birding Center is of historic significance ­because the ­water pumped from ­here irrigated farmland across the Rio Grande Valley, making pos­si­ble the shift from a ranching to a farming economy. Workers built the pump h ­ ouse in 1910, and as the pump started moving ­water across the valley, Anglo settlers came from the Deep South and the Midwest to start citrus and cotton farms, displacing Tejano ranchers. The border wall bisects the grounds of the Old Hidalgo Pump House Museum and six-­hundred-­acre World Birding Center. We took photo­graphs during construction of the border wall as participants in a guided walking tour of the museum and park. The sign reads, “pedestrian walking trail.” Notice that the sign points to the rusty pylons of the border wall. Near that sign, early in our fieldwork in 2008, another sign stood stating, “walkway to canoe launch and picnic area/ pedestrians.” That sign can no longer be found ­there. The Politics of Bisection


FIGURE 1.12  ​On

the Hidalgo Pump House grounds, 2009, this sign stands north of the border wall and the trail extends south of it, no longer directly accessible from the Pump House. Border Patrol agents on all-­terrain vehicles ­stopped us more than once and warned us against walking on the trails south of the border wall, October 25, 2010. Photo­graph by Miguel Díaz-­Barriga and Margaret E. Dorsey.

Instead, as Hidalgo’s website warned in 2012, you might find on the pedestrian trail “muddy ruts on e­ ither side from the Border Patrol driving down. You’ll prob­ably see one [Border Patrol agent] in their suv if you decide to hike.” In a sardonic voice of irony typical of South Texans, the website continued: “All this police presence sure does make one feel safe” (City of Hidalgo 2012). In fact, the wall prevents many tourists from accessing the majority of the trails. In 2011 we led a group of international representatives attending a United Nations conference on h ­ uman trafficking on a tour of the border wall. We took them to this spot and reminded them that this portion of the wall is almost two miles north of the Rio Grande, the international boundary between Texas and Mexico. Nonetheless, they did not believe that they could 34

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FIGURE 1.13  ​A

Border Patrol agent holds his assault ­rifle and stands guard at the gap in the border wall for the pedestrian walking trail at the Hidalgo Pump House grounds, October 25, 2010. We ­were ner­vous about taking the photo and used our iPhone 3GS, hence the poor lighting. Photo­graph by Margaret E. Dorsey and Miguel Díaz-­Barriga.

cross the threshold without entering Mexico and stayed on the northern side of the fence. The presence of a national guardsman reinforced their belief. As we walked up to the gap in the fence, he exited the car and stood silently with weapon in hand while we discussed the construction of the border wall. Colonos militares (soldier-­settlers) founded Hidalgo, where the Old Pump House is located, in 1749 along the bank of the Rio Grande. Hidalgo served as the seat of Hidalgo County u ­ ntil 1908. An international bridge connects Hidalgo and cities farther north, such as McAllen, with Reynosa, Mexico. The population of Hidalgo is 11,198, of whom 98.4 ­percent identify as Hispanic, with a median h ­ ouse­hold income of $30,066 and a 24.8 ­percent poverty rate (US Census Bureau 2010c). In an interview on June 2, 2009, Hidalgo’s mayor, John David Franz, chatted with us about negotiations with dhs to The Politics of Bisection


reconvert areas near the border wall in the vicinity of the Old Pump House into a greenspace. On the northern side of the wall, dhs did create earthen slopes and planted grass and flowers. Mayor Franz also negotiated an agreement with dhs to allow visitors access to the nature preserves at the Old Pump House Museum and World Birding Center that are south of the border wall. As of 2012, Old Hidalgo Pump House staff did not know how dhs planned to secure the opening of the border wall near the entrance to the preserve. Staff also did not know how, and w ­ hether, the Border Patrol planned to control entry into the preserve. II. Rajando Families and Communities A. A Legacy of Re­sis­tance

The border wall bisects the private property of numerous families in and around Brownsville, Texas, including some of the last remnants of land from the vast Cortina land grant. Trinidad Cortina, considered an “aristocratic ­woman,” once held the Spanish land grant that surrounded Brownsville, spanning approximately 150 miles south to north. Her son, Juan Nepomuceno Cortina, watched outsiders—­Anglos—­carve up the land, and he “came to hate a clique of judges and Brownsville attorneys whom he accused of expropriating land from Mexican Texans unfamiliar with the American judicial system” (Thompson 2012). A complicated figure, Cortina led borderlanders in armed protest of this expropriation and fought for the Union during the US Civil War. He became a legendary folk leader sung about in border ballads. In one famous incident at Santa Rita on September 30, 1859, he “issued a proclamation asserting the rights of Mexican Texans and demanding the punishment of anyone violating t­ hese rights.” In 2008 we looked at the site of that incident while standing on the Cortina land chatting with a proud, yet humbled, Cortina descendant as he showed us where dhs planned to bisect his property. Cortina’s descendants own the land where we stood to take the picture in Figure 1.14. T ­ oday, members of the own­er’s ­family avoid visiting this property due to pos­si­ble harassment from the Border Patrol. The ­family member who gave us the tour of his property told us that the Border Patrol feels more entitled to his land than he does. When we took the picture in November 2008, the o­ wners of the ranch w ­ ere negotiating with dhs over the sale price of the land where dhs would construct the border wall. The landowner told us that once contractors built the border wall h ­ ere, he did not know how he would access his property.


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FIGURE 1.14  ​We

took this photo­graph standing on private property on the bank of the Rio Grande—­the official international boundary between the United States and Mexico—on November 15, 2008, looking from the Texas side ­toward the Mexico side. Descendants of the legendary patriot Juan Nepomuceno Cortina own this land, which is now south of the wall. Photo­graph by Miguel Díaz-­Barriga and Margaret E. Dorsey.

B. R  e­sis­tance by Another Spanish Land Grant F ­ amily in Granjeno

The original plan for the border wall called for demolishing homes in the small town of Granjeno, Texas, located over a mile north of the Rio Grande. Spanish settlers founded Granjeno in 1747, and t­ oday the population is 293. Almost all of Granjeno’s residents are part of the Anzaldúa f­amily. Almost 100 ­percent of its residents identify as Latinx or Hispanic, and the median ­house­hold income is $28,750 with a 30 ­percent poverty rate (US Census Bureau 2010b). The town consists of two rows of modest homes located on the northern edge of a flood-­control levee. In 2007 Border Patrol agents began walking through Granjeno and personally distributing consent forms and collecting signatures. ­Those forms authorized surveyors to enter private property to plan the construction of the border wall (personal communication with Granjeno residents, The Politics of Bisection


FIGURE 1.15  ​One

of the many handmade signs posted in Granjeno, Texas, August 30, 2008. Photo­graph by Miguel Díaz-­Barriga and Margaret E. Dorsey.

FIGURE 1.16  ​Pylons

for the construction of the border wall rise behind a backyard in Granjeno, Texas, August 30, 2008. The wall stands eigh­teen feet in height, and the top of the wall is approximately eight feet wide, so that Border Patrol vehicles can drive on top of it. Photo­graph by Isabel Díaz-­Barriga.

FIGURE 1.17  ​The

border wall ­under construction ­behind homes in Granjeno, Texas, April 4, 2008. Photo­graph by Miguel Díaz-­Barriga and Margaret E. Dorsey.

February 7, 2009). A small group of residents refused to sign t­ hese consent forms. In Figure 1.15 a h ­ ouse­hold in Granjeno expresses opposition to the border wall by placing a sign on their fence. In the following image (Figure 1.16) pylons from the top of the border wall stand ­behind a home. The image above (Figure 1.17) features the border wall ­behind Granjeno as it was being constructed in 2008. This photo­graph also draws attention to the no-­man’s-­land south of the border wall and north of the Rio Grande. C. Rhythms of Everyday Life Interrupted in Hidalgo

In the border town of Hidalgo, dhs built the wall along the levee that protects residents from river flooding. Hidalgo is not a rich town, but its residents have enhanced their community in numerous ways, including upgrading their schools to college placement–­oriented institutions and enhancing scenic public places for residents to exercise by adding designer lighting. For this community, the wall disrupted routine patterns. The levee, now a border wall-­levee, stands within view of Hidalgo’s schools. Students can play on their football field, look to the horizon, and see a series of rusty metal poles—the border wall: dhs erected it approximately four hundred The Politics of Bisection


yards from the football field, about half a mile north of the ­actual border. ­After dhs and its contractors began building the wall, they also commenced heavy patrols of the border wall area itself. Residents—­US citizens—­became afraid to approach the levee area ­after interacting with the Border Patrol at wall construction sites and, once constructed, at the border wall-­levee. On February 13, 2010, we interviewed a teacher in Hidalgo who described a series of encounters with the Border Patrol during border wall construction that transformed her daily routines and led her to warn students to stay away, even though the students’ proj­ects focused on the border wall. As she spoke with us, her voice quivered softly, and her hands shook slightly as she remembered her encounters and stated, “Yes, I was scared. I was intimidated.” She explained to us that the federal government agents patrolling the border wall area make her feel as though she does not belong in her own community. In other words, they make her feel extranational in her own territory. Her experience of feeling as though she does not belong in places where she once belonged is not unique to this w ­ oman and her f­ amily. Entire groups have also shifted their practices. Before border wall construction, the Hidalgo High School track team would run along the levee trail. Teachers would work out along the trails; ­women would stroll along them a­ fter dinner. Since the construction of the border wall, the track team no longer runs along the levees, teachers no longer jog along the trails, and citizens have ceased their eve­ning strolls. For many residents of Hidalgo, in essence, the border has moved north by approximately half a mile. Residents lost a chunk of their small hometown. Essentially, the border wall and its patrols rajó (severed)—or functioned to exclude—­residents from their community. With the construction of the border wall, the Border Patrol presence has increased, and local residents find interactions with them intimidating. Thus, while t­ here is general support for the Border Patrol,12 as our survey indicates, patrols along the border wall create confusion and fear. D. Brownsville, a Node of Trade

Residents of Brownsville, located where the Gulf of Mexico, Texas, and Mexico intersect, also challenged dhs’s plans to build a border wall (Borjón 2007; Tillman 2007). Approximately 178,000 p ­ eople live in Brownsville. According to the US Census Bureau (2010a), 93.2 ­percent of residents identify as Hispanic, with a median income of just over $30,000. Brownsville is located directly on the banks of the Rio Grande and is home to three interna40

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FIGURE 1.18  ​Brownsville

resident listens to city council hearings about Cameron County’s pos­si­ble compromise with DHS over construction of the border wall, December 28, 2008. Photo­graph by Margaret E. Dorsey and Miguel Díaz-­Barriga.

tional bridges that connect it to Matamoros, Mexico. Additional trade nodes of significance in Brownsville are the international port and airport. A major point of contention between the city and dhs was how construction of the border wall would affect the city’s plans to build an expressway linking the port, airport, and international bridges (Pérez-­Treviño 2009). As part of its negotiations, the city gave ten acres of land, valued at over $98,000, to dhs. In exchange, dhs agreed to relocate parts of the border wall once the city constructed a reinforced levee system that met dhs’s tactical criteria.13 Some leaders in Brownsville and many residents did not ­favor this deal and made their voices heard. City council members, however, seemed e­ ager to approve this agreement so that once dhs relocated parts of the border wall, Brownsville could continue with construction of the expressway. At a well-­attended meeting on June 1, 2009, we observed the Brownsville City Council approve this agreement, despite the opposition of the mayor, Pat Ahumada. An out­spoken critic of the border wall, Mayor Ahumada, wearing his signature black cowboy hat, scolded city council members The Politics of Bisection


b­ ecause they had negotiated with dhs without consulting him. Council members prevented a group of No Border Wall activists from testifying at the meeting, effectively blocking them from contributing to the public discussion. The prevailing mood among the city council members was (a) dhs can do what­ever it wants, and (b) this agreement is the best that the city can negotiate with dhs. The city council overwhelmingly approved the fence-­ relocation agreement.14 In a semi­structured open-­ended interview with us on December 30, 2008, Mayor Ahumada portrayed his opposition to the border wall in personal, po­ liti­cal, and economic terms. He told stories highlighting his personal experiences with the Border Patrol and underscoring their lack of re­spect for border residents. He considered greater cooperation with Mexico to be an impor­ tant component of ­future plans to create a binational river walk on the banks of the Rio Grande between Brownsville and Matamoros. Like San Antonio’s marquee river walk, the mayor envisioned this walkway as the start to transforming Brownsville and making the city a serious tourist destination. E. C  ommunity and Compromise at the University of Texas Brownsville-­Texas Southmost College

In October 2007 the Border Patrol sought entry onto the campus of the University of Texas at Brownsville-Texas Southmost College (utb-­tsc) to survey land for the construction of the border wall. According to the university’s website, “the request sought access to survey university land for 18 months for the pos­si­ble construction of the fence, to store equipment and supplies, take samples and to do any other work they found necessary for the proposed construction of the fence” (UTB-TSC 2009). Julieta Garcia, the president of utb-­tsc, refused to grant permission. ­After a series of protests, negotiations, and lawsuits, dhs and utb-­tsc agreed to a modified ten-­foot-­ high fence—as opposed to dhs’s original plan for a rusty eighteen-­foot-­ high pylon fence—­that would complement the campus’s landscape. The campus is scenic, located along a series of canals with meandering walkways and pedestrian bridges. Many of its buildings are new, built in a Spanish Mediterranean architectural style with arched walkways, tiled roofs, azulejos, porticos, and intimate courtyards. In early 2009, dhs completed the border fence. It is a green chain-­link fence located on the southern part of the campus. In March of that year, a team of volunteers, with funding from a local businessperson, planted three hundred budding jasmine vines along the border fence (utb-­tsc 2009).


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FIGURE 1.19  ​Jasmine vines grow along the UTB-­TSC border fence in Brownsville, Texas, August 3, 2012. This version of the border fence resulted from a multiyear negotiation pro­cess between UTB-­TSC president Julieta Garcia and DHS. Photo­graph by Miguel Díaz-­Barriga and Margaret E. Dorsey.

In Figure 1.19 note that the border wall melds into the campus to such an extent that it appears to be one of the outfield fences for the baseball ­stadium. While it did not stop border wall construction, the university through a hard-­fought campaign managed to force dhs to change its design to a green ten-­foot-­high chain-­link fence. This fence is an aesthetic improvement over the brown pylon wall that meanders through other parts of Brownsville’s mainly low-­income neighborhoods. F. Every­body Protests—­Some Compromise (Hidalgo County)

In 2007 dhs sought to survey property in Hidalgo County to plan construction of the border wall. As dhs continued inspecting the area, environmental organ­izations, business leaders, and politicians throughout the Texas border region formed the Texas Border Co­ali­tion and joined forces to oppose the construction of the border wall. On December 11, 2007, in Hidalgo County, local No Border Wall protests culminated in a rally held at the same time and place as a dhs-­sponsored forum on the border fence at the McAllen Convention Center. McAllen’s Chamber of Commerce or­ga­nized the rally The Politics of Bisection


FIGURE 1.20  ​Compromise:

border wall-­levee, April 14, 2012. Photo­graph by Margaret E. Dorsey and Miguel Díaz-­Barriga.

(Osborne 2007), and more than two thousand protestors arrived at the dhs event—­including mayors, college students, Sierra Club representatives, citrus growers, farmworker activists, Native American leaders, and residents of Granjeno and other towns affected by the proposed border wall. As protests continued, Hidalgo County officials began negotiations with dhs, and this move seems to mark a shift in the conversation. Instead of negotiating a border wall, they came to an agreement to build a combined levee-­wall structure. In February 2008, claiming to make “lemonade out of lemons,” Hidalgo County Judge J. D. Salinas and other officials signed an agreement with dhs that allowed border wall construction on existing levees in Hidalgo County. The county would gain by having its levee system reinforced, and dhs would have the land it needed to build “tactical infrastructure.” In towns such as Granjeno, dhs would avoid demolishing homes. According to the agreement, the Hidalgo County Drainage District ($48.2 million) and dhs ($65.7 million) would share the costs of levee-­wall construction, and local contractors and construction companies would be hired to build part of it (Leatherman and Roebuck 2008). While protests against the wall continued, the agreement effectively divided Hidalgo County’s opposition to the border wall. 44

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Surreal Real­ity: National Imaginary Projected onto South Texas Becomes Real­ity

The photos published by Time and National Geographic seem to have prophesied the ­future for South Texans. Their photographic essays label the border as a no-­man’s-­land. Recall the caption from one National Geographic photo­ graph: “A metal wall and a concrete fence impassively bar illegal entry in a floodlit no-­man’s-­land where Border Patrol agents keep close watch” (Cook and Jenshel 2007, emphasis added). For South Texans who live along the Rio Grande, the border wall—­located north of the international boundary line—­ raja (severs) their homes and property from the rest of the United States. Michelle Moncivaiz, a South Texas resident living south of the border wall, recalls life prior to the wall’s construction during a public meeting that we attended in Brownsville:15 We used to live where we could leave our win­dows and doors open at night. We ­can’t do that anymore. I d ­ on’t have neighbors. I have three fields around me. . . . How is Amer­i­ca helping us just ­here on the border? And I live less than 300 feet from the river. And the fence is way in front of my home [which is south of the border wall]. ­There are two gaps ­there, and it’s not helping us at all. The gaps that Moncivaiz references ­were left so that landowners living south of the border wall could come and go from their property. With the construction of the border wall, residents’ home spaces and lives changed significantly. With that shift, they in fact began to reside in a no-­man’s-­land. The no-­man’s-­land around the border wall, as described by Moncivaiz, contrasts with Time’s and National Geographic’s repre­sen­ta­tion of tight control and surveillance. For Moncivaiz and o­ thers, dhs made a no-­man’s-­land, a space of chaos, danger, and fear. Moncivaiz feels less safe ­after border wall construction, and her sentiments echo t­ hose of other landowners living south of the border wall. Moncivaiz described her home ­after the construction of the border wall: I live in no-­man’s-­land. . . . ​I’m a former rancher. My parents built their home back in 1946, and ­every day is a strug­g le. . . . ​We now have he­li­cop­ ters flying over our homes in the eve­nings, midday. W ­ e’re always concerned whose he­li­cop­ter it is. Our property is basically in a funnel, and all the traffic, the good and the bad, comes through our property now.

The Politics of Bisection


For Moncivaiz, the border wall is part of the prob­lem: “Washington ­doesn’t understand what this fence has created. They ­don’t understand. We ­can’t get in touch with anybody.” Conclusion

Our visual ethnography represents this state of exception both as exceptional and as an ordinary part of everyday life. We do not use the term normalized ­because border residents still view the border wall as an intrusion that does not make them feel safer and are unsure about how to comport themselves around the wall. Rather, we use the term ordinary to highlight that the state of exception does not define border residents’ everyday experience; rather, it is a gnawing example of sovereign power. For many who live along the Rio Grande, dhs’s construction of the border wall produced a chaotic situation where rules for gaining access to land are vague, homes have become isolated, and mi­grants and smugglers from Mexico have been funneled t­ oward more remote and rural areas. The state of exception that has produced the border wall has created new sets of ­legal and social complexities. As we experienced when on public property, border residents and visitors alike do not know w ­ hether or not they are allowed to cross through the openings in the wall without gates, even though many openings are on public property, and it is unclear how entry and exit w ­ ill be monitored. Employees of dhs often make citizens from the borderlands feel like criminals (recall the Hidalgo schoolteacher). The administrators of many parks and recreation areas ­were unsure how the public could or would be able to access parks and trails south of the border wall. Fi­nally, border residents living south of the border wall report that this security mea­sure has not made them feel safer. If anything, dhs’s no-­man’s-­land has created a sense of isolation, uncertainty, and fear. ­Because Congress created the possibility for a state of exception in the real id Act, concerned residents w ­ ere unable to exercise the full rights guaranteed them as US citizens, which might have resulted in the cessation of border wall construction. Groups such as the Sierra Club could not, for example, use provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act to call for hearings, environmental impact studies, and stays in border wall construction. Nonetheless, numerous ­legal challenges and social protests pushed dhs to change the design of the border wall in a number of locations. Among the changes ­were the following:


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• Creating a border wall on the utb-­tsc campus that would complement its architecture and landscaping • Agreeing with the city of Brownsville to move the border wall to a new location once security considerations ­were met • Landscaping areas around the border wall at the Old Hidalgo Pump House Museum and World Birding Center • Constructing a combined levee-­wall, instead of simply a wall, in Hidalgo County • Moving the border wall site to save homes in Granjeno from de­mo­li­tion ­ hese negotiations should be called neither victories nor defeats. In many T cases, communities literally paid a high price to reach ­these agreements. Brownsville and Hidalgo County gave dhs land, and Hidalgo County shared in the a­ ctual construction costs of the wall. No one is sure, b­ ecause of costs and ­legal issues, w ­ hether Brownsville w ­ ill be able to relocate the border wall and build its expressway or create a binational river walk. ­There is uncertainty about the ability of the Hidalgo County levee-­wall to control flooding, and fear that it ­will simply push floodwater into Mexico, as is the case with the Arizona border wall. While dhs did not raze Granjeno, residents now have an eighteen-­foot-­high wall directly b­ ehind their backyards. Washington still does not seem to understand, to use Moncivaiz’s words. With Donald Trump’s “beautiful” border wall, the same dynamics of rajando ­will continue, with private property, parks, and nature preserves cut. New rounds of land condemnations are now occurring in small towns such as Los Ebanos and Roma in South Texas, and dhs’s plans call for building the wall in floodplains. Border residents won­der if the border wall w ­ ill be built through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. It is now pos­si­ble that the Sabal Palm Sanctuary, the Hidalgo Pump House trails, and the Nature Conservancy’s Southmost Preserve ­will be completely walled in. The city of McAllen’s and Hidalgo County’s continuing support of the so-­called border wall-­levee has divided residents in ­those communities. Residents of Reynosa, Mexico (McAllen’s twin city), are now boycotting McAllen retail outlets. And, fi­nally, ­because the ­legal infrastructure of the real id Act and other legislation is still in place, dhs can construct the border wall without regard to the law. Border residents do not have the right to challenge border militarization in court. ­Future border wall construction trumps citizens’ rights. ­Future border wall construction ­will reinforce the pro­cesses through which

The Politics of Bisection


border residents have become citizens without rights who are subject to a broader politics of exclusion and militarization, further transforming them into what we have termed necrocitizens. Our ethnographic analy­sis of South Texas demonstrates how sovereign power expresses itself through politics based on states of exception, exclusion, and death in its bid to militarize borders. As we suggested in the introduction, this is a pro­cess that is occurring globally as nation-­states reinforce borders. Now, more than ever, we need ethnographic analy­sis to theorize how border walls and fortifications are not simply about keeping ­people out but imprisoning the populations they are built to protect. In this vein, anthropology and Latinx studies are part of a larger proj­ect of rescuing citizenship from the po­liti­cal forces that seek to narrow and curtail citizens’ rights and express sovereign power in terms of deciding who should live and who should die.


chapter one


NOT WALLS, BRIDGES Rituals of Necrocitizenship


The previous chapter concluded with the mixed victory of the small border town of Granjeno: dhs did not bulldoze their homes but built the wall directly b­ ehind their dwellings. You literally see the eighteen-­foot, sheer concrete drop directly where homeowners’ yards end. You see the residents’ four-­ foot-­tall chain-­link fence, typical in South Texas, and then a vertical drop. We have heard reports of c­ hildren being injured on this obvious h ­ azard created by dhs for its brand of homeland security. The ­people of Granjeno have been busy protecting their homeland. Recall from our introduction the Vietnam veteran Reynaldo Anzaldúa and his testimony at the Texas State Capitol in Austin. Anzaldúa’s hometown is Granjeno, and at that time he spoke against construction of the border wall ­there. His pre­sen­ta­tion that day drew attention to his ser­vice in the US military. It is impor­tant to note that Anzaldúa’s gesture with his “patriotic hat” in Austin was neither a mere rhetorical flourish nor a coincidence. He recognized that national actors label re­sis­tance to security mea­sures unpatriotic, and he used his cap, a marker of military ser­vice, to ­counter such characterizations. We observed Anzaldúa making patriotic gestures in Austin that day, in everyday interaction, and in other highly formalized contexts, for example, in his appearance in Granjeno’s parade, part of their annual Friendship Festival.

We find that border residents frequently express citizenship in a patriotic idiom that references military ser­vice and corporeal sacrifice for the United States of Amer­i­ca.1 To us, then, Anzaldúa’s expressions of citizenship through a militarized patriotism bear witness to his cultural roots in South Texas. In this chapter, we describe two annual rituals where South Texans show belonging to the United States through patriotism—at the Granjeno Friendship Festival and the “El Veterano” m ­ usic festival. We argue that both of ­these events feature Mexican American patriotism as essential to belonging and citizenship. Patriotic citizenship is a response to practices of exclusion, ranging from racial segregation laws and Thomas Tancredo’s threats to wall off Brownsville to President Donald Trump’s multi-billion dollar bud­get to build a bigger, more beautiful wall in Texas. ­Here, we theorize citizenship not simply as a ­legal status but rather as a discursive construct that circulates through culture. The application of the notion of culture as circulation derives from theoretical work that explores the movement of culture refracted through social practice, including how social actors rearticulate cultural forms (Aparicio and Jáquez 2003b; Corona and Madrid 2007; Dorsey 2005, 2006; Urban 2001; Ginsburg, Abu-­Lughod, and Larkin 2002). As such, this conceptualization hooks into proj­ects of musical migration and appropriation by spotlighting per­for­mance events—­ including event organizers and attendees—as they transform systems of signification (Aparicio and Jáquez 2003a; Feld 1996; Madrid 2008). This overall theoretical framework enables us to view perspectives on citizenship as an intersection of cultural practices as they derive from many sources, including festivals. In looking at both the Granjeno Friendship Festival and “El Veterano” Conjunto Festival, we observed two distinct modes of cultural circulation— a militarized actualization of border bridges at Granjeno and cultural expressions of national belonging at “El Veterano.” At Granjeno, Border Patrol and military recruiters moved freely through the crowd, talking to young p ­ eople and passing out brochures. In contrast, ­there ­were no military recruiters at “El Veterano,” and young ­people ­were encouraged to learn about and participate in the production of conjunto ­music. Tracing ­these circulations helps us interpret per­for­mances of patriotic citizenship and the ways in which Latinx citizens place the Latinx body at the center of national belonging. As described by Lázaro Lima (2007), “the survival of the body as a historical and material entity is directly related to its gender, ethnicity, and class, and although it follows that almost ­every ‘body’ has a 50

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story to tell, not all bodies m ­ atter equally to every­one” (140). Necrocitizenship places the Latinx body in the symbolic center of this battleground of meaning, and it does so through expressions of Mexican American cultural identity that si­mul­ta­neously manifest cultural difference and loyalty to the nation. Cultural Citizenship and Necrocitizenship

In South Texas, Mexican Americans continually reenact their sacrifice to the United States in poetic, embodied, and highly ritualized ways in order to validate themselves, create a sense of inclusion, and remind the nation of their status as citizens. We argue that patriotic expressions of Mexican American identity mediate cultural citizenship and necrocitizenship practices.2 The cultural citizenship concept emerged in Latinx studies in the 1990s to theorize how social actors articulate cultural difference within the framework of the nation. William V. Flores and Rina Benmayor (1997) argue that Latinx cultural practices are not about separatism but the creation of a sense of belonging: Cultural citizenship can be thought of as a broad range of activities of everyday life through which Latinos and other groups claim space in society and eventually claim rights. Although it involves difference, it is not as if Latinos seek out such difference. Rather, the motivation is simply to create space where the ­people feel “safe” and “at home,” where they feel a sense of belonging and membership. Typically, Latinos do not perceive claimed space as “dif­fer­ent.” The difference is perceived by the dominant society, which finds such space “foreign” and even threatening. (15) With their cele­bration of US military ser­vice, conjunto ­music, and Spanish language, the Granjeno Friendship Festival and “El Veterano” Conjunto Festival epitomize this integration of difference and belonging as they blend military ser­vice with Mexican American cultural practices to reconstitute and reclaim safe home spaces. Mexican Americans produce t­ hese zones of belonging, however, in relation to a wider context of militarization, exclusion, and willingness to die for the nation. What is needed, then, is an analy­ sis of patriotism that accounts for articulations of both cultural citizenship and necrocitizenship.

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El Granjeno’s Friendship Festival and Parade

FIGURE 2.1  ​Reynaldo Anzaldúa drives his jeep in the Granjeno Friendship Festival parade, February 7, 2009. Photo­graph by Miguel Díaz-­Barriga and Margaret E. Dorsey.

We observed enactments of patriotic citizenship across South Texas with frequency, even at a festival where we would least expect to see a focus on militarism, an event with a heart logo, titled “Friendship.”3 As our story of Granjeno’s festival unfolds, you ­will learn about the centrality of patriotism in moments of heightened expression and then the highly localized ways in which actors use military dress and language to express both patriotism and the politics of bridge building. In fact, when we learned of the festival in a rather offhand manner, we ­were unaware of the larger drama unfolding before the event, in the festival’s production, and at the festival itself. At that time, we ­were particularly keen on attending the event b­ ecause dhs was building the border wall ­behind Granjeno homes. We wondered if leaders at the festival would voice opposition to the border wall in their speeches and if binational cooperation or friendship with Mexico would be themes. 52

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We learned about Granjeno’s festival by chance at a planning session for Los Caminos del Rio, an organ­ization devoted to creating awareness about the borderlands history, culture, and daily life shared by the United States and Mexico, which emphasizes that the Rio Grande “plays an impor­tant role of unifying the region’s inhabitants” (Li n.d.) A ­ fter hearing about Granjeno’s upcoming festival, we kept close watch in the local media for advertisements. We checked the internet and local papers for announcements as well as asked friends active in the No Border Wall movement about it. No one seemed to know about the event. Ultimately, we asked Reynaldo Anzaldúa, who welcomed us to come. He told us that the parade would begin at nine in the morning on Saturday, February 7. Word of mouth seemed to be how invitations to the event circulated, and more specifically it appeared that t­ hese word-­of-­mouth invitations ­were shared privately and depended on personal connections. In other words, a micropolitics of exclusion unfolded in this informal network of event invitations and (lack of ) public announcement. Below is a revised excerpt from our field notes providing an informal description of the day.

Saturday, February 7, 2009: Granjeno Friendship Festival (9:00–1:30) On a windy—­wind advisory in effect—­and clear Saturday morning (felt like Bolivia’s altiplano with dust swirling), we left home in North McAllen for Granjeno with an entourage including our baby son and two-­year-­old ­daughter (Dean, Liz), Margaret’s parents (Bonner, Linda), Margaret’s ­brother and his wife (Chris, Jenny), and their three young boys (Joe, Jack, and James). We ­were prob­ably the first spectators to arrive and saw organizers assembling the parade. We drove around the town for a while and fi­nally de­cided to land at the city hall, where we parked and saw an el­derly man dressed strikingly in a red tie and black suit coat decorated with 82nd Airborne and Ranger pins. We chatted briefly with him, Moisés Anzaldúa; he reflected concern about being able to make it through the parade ­because he had painful shingles.

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FIGURE 2.2  ​Granjeno

city hall sign, February 7, 2009. Settlers founded Granjeno in the 1700s as part of a series of Spanish land grants. Initially, DHS proposed building the border wall through Granjeno, which included demolishing homes. ­After meeting re­sis­tance, DHS met with county leaders and agreed to construct the wall as part of a modified wall-­levee system. Residents of Granjeno express mixed opinions about this plan ­because they are against the wall but want their homes to be safe from floods. Photo­graph by Margaret E. Dorsey and Miguel Díaz-­Barriga.

Having arrived early and seeing only Moisés Anzaldúa out and about, we de­cided to check out the border wall construction from our favorite location in Granjeno. Bonner, in his Suburban, went straight over the hill (twice). We found this funny ­because we had been kicked off [the levee area] driving in that area several times. ­After Bonner returned, we drove to the city hall and then to the recently built community center, which was indeed an amazing fa­cil­i­ty. (Margaret overheard two ­women in the bathroom commenting on how more small towns should have a nice public fa­cil­i­ty like Granjeno’s.) The hall was basic—­open with two rows of fifty ­tables with chairs, a stage, and men’s and ­women’s bathrooms—­but extremely clean, and it provided shelter from the sun and wind—­ twenty-­five miles per hour the day of the festival.


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We sat outside on the curb of the street for an hour while the ­children played. Horses and a float passed by to form the parade. Sponsors of booths began to set up, but the wind whipped up beneath the canopy and blew one away. It scared our two-­year-­old ­daughter, Lizzie, and it looked like something out of the Wizard of Oz. The high wind also hindered organizers from setting up the moon bounce—­a much-­anticipated ele­ment of the event for the five ­children in our group. As ­people filtered in, the parade started. We heard the police sirens around the corner. Fi­nally, with ­children getting impatient, the parade looped around Granjeno. The parade started with three men dressed in military fatigues and bright yellow berets carry­ing a green banner that read, “Friendship Festival City of Granjeno.” Next, we saw police cars from the city of Hidalgo, the Hidalgo County sheriff’s office, and McAllen’s police. Then came flashy cars with elected officials; for example, state representative “Kino” Flores rode in a canary yellow classic car.4 Following Flores’s car ­were the justice of the peace as well as the mayor and the mayor pro tem of Granjeno. School groups appeared next, with two traditional high school marching bands and three high school folkloric groups. The three student folklore groups included a mariachi ensemble, a boys and girls folkloric group with the boys wearing trajes de charro and the girls wearing traditional Mexican folkloric dance dresses (de china poblana), and the last group included young girl dancers in denim skirts and western tops. Next, we watched veterans and veteran’s groups drive past in an array of vintage vehicles. Our friend Reynaldo Anzaldúa appeared in his pristine, army green Vietnam-­era Jeep. Beside him drove a ­couple more camouflage-­colored Vietnam-­era trucks. Following the veterans’ vehicles, two Border Patrol agents motored by on their


(all-­terrain vehicles), wearing army green

uniforms, face masks, and helmets. (The ­drivers looked as though they took a page from the Mexican military.) More Border Patrol pageantry followed, with a Border Patrol vehicle pulling a patrol boat used in dam areas. The


(Ju­nior Reserve Officers’ Training

Corps), both young ­women and men, dressed in khaki T-­shirts with

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camouflage and combat pants and brightly colored yellow-­orange hats. (Students formed the JROTC out of a high school that was about two years old.) Of course, groups of ­horse­back riders, including ­children riding ponies, trotted at the end of the parade. The parade ­stopped at the community center, where every­one started to line up for ­free food—­hot dogs, charro beans, Frito pies, spicy Cheetos, generic sodas, ­water, and ­later popcorn. We went inside the community center to escape the wind and eat. Inside we watched a group of men set up the stage for a concert that eve­ ning (8:00–12:00) featuring four bands. We also watched the


­children as they came inside to eat. While ­these ­children sat down and munched on their ­free spicy Cheetos, Border Patrol officials circulated, passing out promotional lit­er­at­ure and chatting with them. On the outdoor stage, Rubén Vela’s conjunto ­music blared. As we talked, the emcee made a brief introduction and then called Martín Villarreal to the stage. Mr. Villarreal stood out in that he was not dressed in a veteran outfit or wearing military paraphernalia; he merely wore dark slacks and a gray dress shirt. Mr. Villarreal invited all of the veterans to come up to the stage. He actually had to prod them for about five minutes before the men de­cided to clamber up the stairs and stand center stage. Meanwhile, the adult leader of the JROTC hurriedly rounded up and arranged his recruits so that they stood in front of the stage in honor of the se­nior veterans. We taped this pre­sen­ta­tion, which included statements about how veterans have won and maintained our freedom. Mr. Villarreal’s speech also thanked God for their ability to serve, and he mentioned that residents of Granjeno continue to serve, if called.

­ ere is a transcription and translation of a portion of Villarreal’s stateH ment, created ­after we wrote our field notes: Mi nombre es Martín Villarreal y es un privilegio que cada año que me den la oportunidad de estar aquí en frente de ustedes presentando los oficiales y presentando los veteranos de Granjeno. . . . ​[T]odo que tenemos en este país, que otros paises los encielan mucho, es a costo de


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aquellos personas que están dispuestos de entrar al militar y dar su vida, si es necesario, por la paz, la libertad, y todos los derechos que tenemos en este país. My name is Martín Villarreal, and it is a privilege that each year I am given the opportunity to be h ­ ere in front of you introducing local leaders and the veterans of Granjeno. Every­thing that we have in this country—­that many other countries are jealous of—­comes at the cost of ­those persons who join the military and are willing to die, if necessary, for peace, freedom, and all of the rights that we have in this country. In Spanish, Mr. Villarreal asked each veteran to introduce himself and mention in which branch of the military he had served and where he had been stationed. The first veteran, as did several ­others, began by greeting the small crowd in Spanish and then switched to En­glish. The veterans spoke of how many times they had circled the world, what military unit they had been part of, and in what war(s) they had fought. The audience received each veteran with warm and generous applause. Mr. Villarreal then stated, in Spanish, that residents in Granjeno have fought in all of the major wars, from World War I to Af­ghan­i­stan and Iraq. He concluded by highlighting that while he hoped ­there would be no more wars, residents of Granjeno would always be “ready.” Mr. Villarreal turned the microphone over to the young mayor pro tem, who, in En­glish, welcomed every­one to the festival and listed the event’s participants and sponsors: Solar Technologies and the International Bank of Commerce. The mayor pro tem also thanked the vari­ous city and county police departments that participated in the event as well as Hidalgo High School’s marching band, mariachi ensemble, and the JROTC. Fi­nally, he thanked the cities of McAllen, Mission, and Hidalgo and exclaimed, “United, we are ­going to be one strong community!” With ­these words, the formal introduction of the event ended. Rubén Vela’s conjunto ­music blared through the loudspeakers again, and the


members and

the folkloric dancers flocked to a climbing wall set up by the Border Patrol. We mingled for another thirty minutes, visiting with vari­ous attendees and sponsors.

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FIGURE 2.3  ​A

group of dancers participating in the Granjeno Friendship Festival stand in front of the climbing wall, February 7, 2009. The Border Patrol erected the climbing wall as part of a campaign to attract recruits. The Border Patrol agents we spoke with did not appreciate the irony of the activity’s location: a sport climbing wall in close proximity to the ­actual border wall (approximately 250 yards). When asked to compare the two walls, they simply said that the border wall lacked grips. The wall climbers in the background are members of a high school JROTC program. Border Patrol agents distributed informational brochures and other publicity material to the climbers. Photo­graph by Miguel Díaz-­Barriga and Margaret E. Dorsey.

Despite the close proximity to the ­actual border wall and the popu­lar climbing wall set up by cbp, it turned out that this event was not about walls but bridges. Indeed, ­there was neither mention nor critique of the newly built border wall at the festival even though Granjeno residents ­were among the most vocal in speaking against the wall. A ­ fter taking photo­graphs of the climbing wall, we ran into Reynaldo Anzaldúa and Martín Villarreal and asked them how residents of Granjeno ­were adjusting to the wall. They talked about local c­ hildren playing near the wall and falling off; one child broke her arm. They told us about a pregnant undocumented “Guatemalan” mi­grant scaling the wall. In response to our question “How do you know that she is Guatemalan?,” they explained that had she been local she would have walked another hundred yards to where the wall ends and simply walked around it. As both men smiled slightly, they also told us about mi­grants posing as construction workers, wearing the signature fluo­rescent vests of crews working on the border wall. For the handful of residents of Granjeno whom we spoke with at the festival, the border wall was a nuisance and a h ­ azard and also the subject of knowing nods and understatement. In our informal conversations, we found the consensus to be that the border wall has done ­little to curb immigration. We should note that Granjeno residents have shared this opinion not only with us but also with the local and national media (see Associated Press 2009; Curtis 2009; Taylor and Gomez 2009). For example, a resident of Granjeno, Ms. Garza, told a reporter: About a month ago, she said, a young w ­ oman ­stopped at her home to ask for help. She told Garza she had sprained her ankle coming over the wall. Garza told her she could have just walked around it. “So I guess it’s not helping any,” she said. (Associated Press 2009) The story of a ­woman climbing a wall when a hundred yards away she could have simply walked around it is told in a deadpan style. Similar stories reported in the press have this same ironic ele­ment, including a story told to a national correspondent for Newsweek and the Daily Beast about a group of mi­ grants surreptitiously borrowing a forklift from a construction crew so that they could raise themselves to the top of the wall (Curtis 2009). That a group of immigrants dressed as construction workers would commandeer a forklift and raise the forks eigh­teen feet high so that they could walk onto the top of the border wall does, at least to us, seem funny and possibly true. This distinctive Mexican American sense of irony, as Renato Rosaldo notes in Culture Rituals of Necrocitizenship


and Truth, does not elicit “belly laughs” but rather “knowing chuckles” (1993, 149). This narrative style forms a social critique through which members of subaltern groups register their opposition to social and economic marginalization. Such irony encapsulates grievances and acts as a “form of re­sis­tance and a source of positive identity” (150). Indeed, the working-­class residents of Granjeno recognize their marginalization. For Granjeno’s residents, dhs’s and the Border Patrol’s top-­down plans for constructing the border wall through their town w ­ ere yet another example of the US government’s—­and its emissaries’—­historical lack of re­spect for them, their ancestors, and their town. Their barbed humor about the border wall not stopping immigration thus highlights their re­sis­tance to this monumental intervention into their everyday lives. Recall that as we talked with Martín Villarreal and Reynaldo Anzaldúa about mi­grants posing as construction workers and pregnant ­woman scaling the border wall, they shared knowing chuckles. Not Walls, Bridges

We congratulated Martín Villarreal on his rousing article titled “Recognizing Granjeno” (2007), published in the local newspaper, the Monitor. We hoped to speak with him about some of the issues mentioned in the article, including Granjeno’s fight for autonomy and against incorporation into the larger and wealthier neighboring municipalities of McAllen and Mission. Villarreal explained to us that he did not pen the essay to draw attention to himself but that circumstances forced him to write. As it turns out, Villarreal’s article is instructive in understanding the politics of the Granjeno Friendship Festival, including its focus on the military and veterans. “Recognizing Granjeno” describes Mission’s continued attempts to annex Granjeno and property adjacent to Granjeno in the context of other massive public works proj­ects with multimillion-­dollar revenue streams at stake, such as building the Anzalduas International Bridge. Funding to construct international bridges in South Texas flows from federal, state, municipal, and private sources. For international bridges that the public owns, tolls and other revenues go directly to the municipalities that sponsor t­ hese proj­ects. For example, in the case of the nearby Hidalgo International Bridge—­connecting Hidalgo, Texas, and Reynosa, Mexico—­the cities of Hidalgo and McAllen in 2011 shared a $9.5 million profit (Holeywell 2011). Building an international bridge requires a g­ reat deal of coordination of funding and permits from Mexico, the United States, and private landholders. According to the Hidalgo County Metropolitan Planning Organ­ization, 60

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funding for the Anzalduas International Bridge came from the US government, the Texas Department of Transportation, and the International Bridge Board, which consists of representatives from the cities of Hidalgo, McAllen, and Mission, which w ­ ill share the profits (Hidalgo County Metropolitan Planning Organ­ization n.d.).5 The municipalities originally agreed that McAllen would receive 44 ­percent of the profits, Hidalgo 33 ­percent, and Mission 23 ­percent (Pinkerton 1999). Note that the Hidalgo County Metropolitan Planning Organ­ization excluded Granjeno. ­After applying ­legal and po­liti­cal pressure, Granjeno became a partner in sharing profits from tolls and other revenues generated by the Anzalduas International Bridge. The revised agreement shifted Mission’s profit from 23 to 17 ­percent, with McAllen at 44 ­percent, Hidalgo at 33 ­percent, Mission at 17 ­percent, and Granjeno at 6 ­percent of the revenue.6 At stake was not only a cut of the profits from the tolls collected at Anzalduas International Bridge but also a potential say in a slated mixed-­use cross-­border master-­planned proj­ect (industrial, residential, and commercial) involving over eigh­teen thousand acres of property, aimed at users who regularly cross the border and slated to continue development once contractors completed the bridge (Lee 1998; Pipkin 2012). Villarreal (2007) mentions a few key players from Mission, McAllen, and Dallas: “Mayor Ricardo Perez [Mission] and City Man­ag­er Mike Talbot [Mission] w ­ ere made aware that McAllen was working with the Hunt Corporation [Dallas] in a pos­si­ble business venture that included a bridge in Granjeno, [sic] they immediately revived the proj­ect and made plans to annex the area into their etj [extra-­territorial jurisdiction].” We know the cities of McAllen and Mission. Who is the Hunt Corporation? Ray Hunt is the chairman, president, and ceo of Hunt Consolidated, Inc. Melissa del Bosque (2008), an investigative journalist from the Texas Observer, describes Hunt and his networks: “Dallas billionaire Ray L. Hunt and his relatives are one of the wealthiest oil and gas dynasties in the world. Hunt, a close friend of President George W. Bush, recently donated $35 million to Southern Methodist University to help build Bush’s presidential library. In 2001, Bush made him a member of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, where Hunt received a security clearance and access to classified intelligence.” The Hunt Corporation donated two hundred acres for the construction of the bridge (Pinkerton 1999), and, apparently, Mike Allen at the McAllen Economic Development Corporation coordinated the proj­ect with the Hunt Corporation, which has developed areas northwest of Granjeno Rituals of Necrocitizenship


into luxury housing developments, including Sharyland Plantation (Pipkin 2012, 19). Hunt’s plantation caters primarily to wealthy Mexicans and sells this piece of South Texas as “paradise” on Earth. Their website states: “Gentle gulf breezes. Swaying palm fronds. The delicate scent of hibiscus and bougainvillea flowers. The bright colors of wild tropical birds. E ­ very f­ amily dreams of living in paradise” (Sharyland Plantation n.d.). Sharyland Plantation is one of a number of housing developments that the Hunt Corporation’s team planned for the region. Del Bosque (2008) continues: Over the years, Hunt has transformed his 6,000-­acre property, called the Sharyland Plantation, from acres of onions and vegetables into swathes of exclusive, gated communities where h ­ ouses sell from $650,000 to $1 million and residents enjoy golf courses, elementary schools, and a sports park. The plantation contains an 1,800-­acre business park and Sharyland Utilities, run by Hunt’s son Hunter, which delivers electricity to plantation residents and Mexican factories. The development’s website touts its proximity to the international border and the new Anzalduas International Bridge now u ­ nder construction, built on land Hunt donated. Hunt has also formed Hunt Mexico with a wealthy Mexican business partner to develop both sides of the border into a lucrative trade corridor the size of Manhattan.7 The Anzalduas International Bridge provides the fastest route to the g­ iant Mexican industrial city Monterrey ­because it allows travelers to bypass Reynosa. Plans are u ­ nder way to link Anzalduas International Bridge to “the nafta highway,” i-­69. Villarreal’s (2007) article therefore connects associations and makes public a series of high-­stakes undertakings. He also explains the ways in which Granjeno “won” this “victory” of profit sharing and underscores the ways in which Granjeno makes a promising partner for Mission and McAllen: Since the incorporation of their city they [residents of Granjeno] have demonstrated remarkable ability and skill in operating city government. They have established a good working relationship with Hidalgo County. Through a combined effort with the county they have successfully implemented several community proj­ects. This includes a public community building, streetlights, paved streets, and renovation of ­houses for low-­income families and the el­derly. Thru [sic] their own efforts they have constructed a city hall building. F ­ uture proj­ects include


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a recreational fa­cil­i­ty for its youth. Presently in the planning stages is a wall that ­will display the names of approximately one hundred persons from the area that have served in the military. Villarreal’s desire to frame Granjeno as a “good” partner is significant. Granjeno’s ability to partner with McAllen and McAllen’s Economic Development Corporation and work effectively with ­these entities is impor­tant to the ­future economic vibrancy of the area (see Pipkin 2012).8 In the excerpt above, the final community-­based proj­ect Villarreal mentions is a veteran’s memorial. In fact, Villarreal highlights veterans and the military in his article to prove that Granjeno’s residents deserve to be included in the politics of bridge building and other large-­scale development proj­ects. He states: Granjeno is a patriotic community that has paid a price in the defense of our country. Its cemetery has been recognized by the state as a historical marker. It proudly displays the markers of veterans who have served and died for our country from the civil war to Vietnam. Presently ­there are several of its sons and d ­ aughters in the military serving in Iraq and Af­ ghan­i­stan. One won­ders how much more this community has to prove its worth, before they obtain the recognition and re­spect from the mayors of Mission, McAllen, and Hidalgo. At first, this statement connecting military ser­vice to municipal politics seems like a non sequitur, just as the Friendship Festival appeared to be more a cele­bration of the Border Patrol and the military than of love and solidarity. We should note ­here that the Friendship Festival did not dwell on themes of friendship and love even though the timing of the event, close to Valentine’s Day, might have led one to believe that it would. In addition, residents wore event T-­shirts that featured two large, red, interlinked hearts. The top of the T-­shirt read “Friendship Festival ’09” and suspended in the red hearts was, in black script, “City of Granjeno” and at the bottom of the T-­shirt “Growing Together.” What friendship is being expressed at this festival? Not binational cooperation. Not Valentine’s Day. Not outreach to groups working against border wall construction. Not the relationship of Granjeno to the wider public. The festival itself did not explic­itly mention friendship, except for a few T-­shirts. Within the structure of the event, however, we could argue that Granjeno expressed friendship to the Border Patrol, the US military,

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and local law enforcement. They also demonstrated friendship to Mexican American cultural expression. We find it telling that all of the invited local law enforcement and high school groups came from Hidalgo, Mission, and McAllen. In this sense, we can interpret the friendship expressed at the event as being about connection to adjacent municipalities. Granjeno’s leaders and event organizers did not explic­itly reference the politics of building international bridges and dividing up the revenue generated for municipalities by ­these bridges at the festival itself. Instead, residents make the connections explicit outside of the event. At the event itself, they express their concerns in a US patriotic idiom, just as Villarreal did in the last extended quote above. The lack of explicit mention of the international bridge and the border wall conflicts at the festival is also of interest at an interpretive level, particularly when you take into account some scholars’ analy­sis of how genre functions in Greater Mexican oral per­ for­mance. It works like a corrido: if you are in the community, you understand the historical events, the heroic figures, and the community’s role in this strug­g le against the more power­ful. What is at stake ­here is this micropolitics of exclusion and community building as well as the way it manifests (or d ­ oesn’t manifest) in the larger public sphere. Recall that the last words spoken onstage ­were the mayor pro tem’s; after thanking Mission, McAllen, and Hidalgo, he stated, “United, we are g­ oing to be one strong community!” ­After his exclamation, the celebratory period of the event began, with conjunto ­music blaring. In fact, a conjunto dance that eve­ning at the new community center was the highlight of the festival. Conjunto m ­ usic plays a significant role in understanding Mexican American culture in South Texas and also forms a key part of our story. At the outset we should be clear that the associations among US patriotism, the military, and South Texas culture are not isolated manifestations but deeply embedded in Mexican American culture. While Spanish is spoken and conjunto ­music is played, the allegiance of participants clearly is with the United States of Amer­ic­ a. Some Mexican Americans, in fact, use conjunto ­music as a way to distance themselves from Mexican cultural practices and Mexico itself.9 We w ­ ill see in our next example that the circulation of patriotism and conjunto ­music corresponds to its contextualization within a speech community’s po­liti­cal and economic frameworks.


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“El Veterano” Conjunto Festival

We traveled to Granjeno’s festival anticipating learning more about the construction of the border wall and residents’ re­sis­tance to it, and we found the politics of bridges told through a military idiom. When we traveled to the “El Veterano” Conjunto Festival in Robstown, about two hours north of Granjeno, we expected to learn that veterans would support the construction of the border wall and border remilitarization more generally. Instead, veterans at “El Veterano” opposed the wall and endorsed greater understanding across borders. In our conversations with veterans and in our direct observation of the event, we started to grasp the deeper historical and cultural dynamics b­ ehind South Texans’ reenactment of sacrifice to the United States. To understand this larger context, we need to turn to the history of a specifically borderlands musical format, conjunto, as well as an in-depth description of the event itself. In “El Veterano,” Mexican Americans assert their presence in the United States as full citizens by demonstrating their willingness to die for their country. As in the case of the Friendship Festival, the patriotic citizenship expressed ­here mediates articulations of necrocitizenship and, by expressing cultural difference in order to express belonging to the nation, cultural citizenship. On Veterans Day since 1998, Linda Escobar has or­ga­nized, hosted, and directed the “El Veterano” Conjunto Festival.10 Her event honors military veterans and features conjunto ­music in memory of her deceased f­ ather, Eligio Escobar, a World War II veteran and respected conjunto musician. It also raises funds for ­music education: money collected at “El Veterano” supports scholarships for c­ hildren with talent in conjunto m ­ usic.11 For the first few years, the festival shifted locales in South Texas, from Alice to Falfurrias to Corpus Christi. For five years, the committee set the location for “El Veterano” as the High Chaparral venue in Robstown, a rural South Texas town.12 The inaugural festival lasted three days, while more recent events have taken place on a Sunday and lasted twelve hours, from noon to midnight. The event opens with a military ceremony in which participants honor each branch of the military. Typically, a c­ ouple of youth per­for­mances start ­after the Patriots Band in the military ceremony. Conjunto bands play during the remainder of the festival. Linda Escobar invites an array of conjunto artists—­children, new bands, and highly respected se­nior artists—­ranging from Mingo Saldívar y sus Cuatro Espadas, Roberto Pulido y Los Clásicos, Gilberto Pérez y Sus Compadres,

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FIGURE 2.4  ​Veterans

Band at “El Veterano” Conjunto Festival, 2008. Photo­graph by Isabel Díaz-­Barriga.

Rubén Vela y Su Conjunto, and Los Dos Gilbertos to the Veterans Band. The festival usually features between eight and sixteen bands—­primarily conjunto—­some of local prominence and ­others international stars, with musicians coming from as far as Japan to perform. The musicians donate their talent to the festival, and Escobar emphasizes that ­these celebrities are highly supportive of this festival, generously donating their energy to perform. Between two hundred and five hundred ­people attend “El Veterano.” Generally speaking, “El Veterano” attracts Mexican American families, although the time of day and the featured band also influence the composition of the audience. You might find young c­ hildren and el­derly ­couples, nuclear and extended families, and a few clusters of single men and w ­ omen. The single men tend to be veterans or are presently active in the military. Participants include a fairly even mix of men and w ­ omen with slightly more men than ­women pre­sent. Participants and musicians speak and code-­switch between En­glish, Spanish, and a hybrid regional vernacular. Musicians sing the vast major66

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ity of the tunes in Spanish. Between songs, performers ­will address the audience in Spanish and En­glish. During ­these interludes, performers typically mention something concerning honoring veterans and the men and ­women presently serving our country in Iraq and Af­ghan­i­stan. Most attendees wear typical attire for a South Texas pachanga (see below): many of the men dress in boots and jeans with a collared, button-­down cotton shirt; other apparel includes loose-­fitting 1950s bowling-­style collared shirts that button down the front and can be worn untucked. We noticed only a few of the hallmark red-­blue-­and-­gold American gi Forum hats on the heads of older male veterans, from the Korean War and World War II. We also saw a ­couple of the younger participants dressed in active-­duty US ­military uniforms. One of the more accomplished dancers stood out from the crowd in a dashing canary yellow zoot/pachuco suit that fit over a black T-­shirt, paired with a matching black hat. The w ­ omen’s clothes ranged from comfortable dresses to snappy yet casual shirts and pants. In general, with a few exceptions, participants’ attire typified what one would find at a Sunday dance hall. For an outsider, the “El Veterano” Conjunto Festival might look like any other live ­music event. That “El Veterano” indexes South Texas’s pachanga tradition highlights that this event is more than just a party, more than a site for Budweiser to market its beer, and more than a glitzy simulacrum of fun.13 Dorsey’s previous work draws attention to the history of the pachanga in relation to Mexican Americans’ participation in the po­liti­cal sphere and its role in building po­liti­cal publics (Dorsey 2005, 2006). Far from simply being a barbecue with m ­ usic and dancing, the pachanga underscores a way Mexican Americans gain entrance to the public sphere and retain it, from the post–­World War II Mexican American civil rights movement to grassroots-­ based district court campaigns in the twenty-­first ­century. If you w ­ ere to walk into the “El Veterano” Conjunto Festival, it would look and feel much like the one we attended at a dance hall in Robstown in 2005. Robstown is a working-­class, predominantly Mexican American rural town twenty miles west of the city of Corpus Christi.14 We found the High Chaparral Dance Hall close to the highway, easy to access from out of town. We pulled into the parking lot and parked alongside a shiny black Ford pickup truck. As soon as we opened my car door, the welcoming oompah of the conjunto ­music penetrated her surround. We entered the dance hall through the open door on the side and, immediately upon entrance, saw a ­table to her left monitored by “Aunt Celia,” who warmly greeted us. A ­woman seated Rituals of Necrocitizenship


beside Aunt Celia politely collected the eight-­dollar admission fee while casually visiting with a c­ ouple of guys. As Aunt Celia tucked the eight dollars into the cash box, we noticed the bar and food along the opposite wall of the dance hall. Aunt Celia gestured t­ oward a long, narrow folding t­ able where twelve members of the Escobar clan sat. The ­table included a ­couple of elder Escobar men who had fought in World War II. Ramiro Escobar, from the World War II generation, introduced us to his primo (cousin) who had survived Iwo Jima. While we chatted with ­these veterans, Linda Escobar walked onstage and introduced her young female protégé, Cristina, who plays with her. In front of the Escobar ­table, I noticed a column of twelve similar ­tables that opened up to the dance floor. Two more columns of ­tables flanked theirs to the right and the left. T ­ hese ­tables also opened to the dance floor, which was peppered with approximately sixteen dancers. Organizers had erected a stage at the front of the dance hall with a large US flag as the only backdrop. Onstage, the vocalist wore a US flag shirt. To the right of the stage hung a banner announcing the “El Veterano” Conjunto Festival, also adorned with a US flag icon. We returned to the Escobar ­table and visited with the ­family, who characterized the food as delicious and mostly prepared by “Aunty Polly”—in essence, food not to be missed. Without too much prodding, we walked over to the bar and barbecue t­ able and bought a plate. (The event’s flyer explained that the food proceeds would benefit the “El Veterano” Scholarship Fund.) The barbecue plate included Spanish rice, charro beans, and beef brisket barbecue complemented by slices of ultra-­soft white bread, onions, jalapeños, and pickles. For an additional dollar, I could have purchased a piece of white cake. The warm, festive atmosphere welcomed participants to enjoy the event in a variety of ways. ­Couples of vari­ous ages danced.15 ­After a l­ ittle dancing, o­ thers ate some barbecue. Some sipped beer at the ­tables and chatted. ­Others took a break and visited the “veterans’ memorial” near the dance hall’s entrance. Raúl Escobar, who at age seventeen became a flamethrower in the US military, guided us over to the memorial. He showed us photos and news­ paper articles about his ser­vice and poems he wrote during World War II. He explained his wife’s thoughtfulness during this tragic time: she wrote him a “Dear John” letter to enable him to fight f­ ree of the fear of leaving his ­family ­behind in the event of death. The veterans’ memorial struck us as a ­hybrid of a home altar and church reliquary. Organizers transformed a ­simple brown folding ­table into a memorial zone, featuring veterans’ memorabilia 68

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FIGURE 2.5  ​Veterans’

memorial ­table, 2008. Photo­graph by Isabel Díaz-­Barriga.

from vari­ous US-­led wars and military excursions, similar to the material Raúl Escobar showed us: large, posed photos of young men dressed in military clothes, photos of the men at military sites, correspondence to loved ones. When ready, participants can visit the memorial t­ able and solemnly remember the ways in which US military engagements affected their lives: relatives killed in distant lands, a ­brother’s smile lost in Vietnam, a ­sister’s soul left in Iraq. For many, the memorial t­able also invited discourse. It provided an opening to talk about times of war and the way war affected the survivors— veterans of foreign wars as well as their ­family and friends. Our pre­sent wars, the loss of loved ones in Iraq and Af­ghan­is­ tan, loomed large as participants stood by this memorial ­table or looked over to it as they discussed the ways in which past wars had disrupted and permanently transformed their lives and families. Both the veterans’ memorial ­table and the ­music listened to at the conjunto festival offered ave­nues to contemplate war, more generally, and Mexican Americans’ blood sacrifice to the United States and its par­tic­u­ lar contours, more specifically. Rituals of Necrocitizenship


At this musical event, Mexican Americans appropriate symbols of the US nation (e.g., US flag icons, the American ea­gle featured on the cover of the event booklet) in a distinct vernacular. We want to argue, though, that ­here we witness more than a Mexican American appropriation of US patriotic discourse. It also makes vis­i­ble and defines what patriotism is in the United States in relation to their experience. As the veterans’ memorial ­table highlights, a base of patriotic citizenship is blood sacrifice to the United States. Another includes remembering that sacrifice and re-­remembering it annually—if not more often—­and in a highly ritualized form (the conjunto festival and pachanga). Patriotism to the United States is a strug­g le and a lived experience reanimated and celebrated by the community—­not just el­ derly men, but families. Young and old, men, w ­ omen, and ­children, gather to celebrate their patriotism and belonging to the United States in Spanish and in En­glish. This event does not erase that the participants are of Mexican descent, and their verbal artistry in Spanish; it uses such vehicles to celebrate, encode, and circulate their contribution to the United States. In his ethnographic work on the Minutemen “guarding” the US-­Mexico border, Lawrence Taylor highlights that patriotic-­military language, as the name Minutemen suggests, is a key framing device. Many members align their ser­vice in the Minutemen with their military experience fighting for the United States. They view their pre­sent work guarding the border as reminiscent of the halcyon days of their youth spent protecting the nation. ­Today, ­these US military veterans in their sixties and seventies tote guns, use military-­speak, and protect the US-­Mexico border from what they call “Spanish ­people” (Taylor 2007, 98). When one recalls how commentators such as Pat Buchanan (2007) and activists such as the Minutemen elect to outline citizenship and patriotism in the United States (an essentialized cultural substance manifest in Mexican—­not Canadian—­border guarding), one witnesses seemingly contrary discourses of citizenship coming into play at “El Veterano.” Envision the Patriots Band playing at the “El Veterano” Conjunto Festival (not “The Veteran” in En­glish but “El Veterano” in Spanish, not marching down Main Street but playing at a conjunto event, a distinctly hybrid Mexican American cultural form), and witness this alignment. From a Pistol to a Mauser in His Hand

Cultural material concerning the “El Veterano” festival travels across vari­ ous media before, during, and ­after the event, affecting meanings in the pro­ cess. Linda Escobar and the “El Veterano” committee use email to or­ga­nize 70

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volunteer networks and to send publicity fliers. During and ­after the event, participants circulate photos taken at “El Veterano” on digital cameras, cell phones, and Blackberries through their phones or ­later through email. Conjunto artists and their fans transmit their per­for­mances from “El Veterano” on YouTube.16 Readers who prefer more traditional and less interactive media can learn about the “El Veterano” Conjunto Festival in the regional newspaper, the Corpus Christi Caller-­Times, where respected Tejano ­music columnist Juan Tejeda frequently mentions the festival around Veterans Day. The colorful and sizable festival program provides residents and participants an additional way to learn about and remember the “El Veterano” festival, Mexican American veterans, their war dead, and war veterans who are and ­were Mexican American po­liti­cal activists, as well as Mexican Americans presently serving in the military. The f­ ree program runs about the size of a sheet of notebook paper (eight by eleven inches) and is approximately thirty pages long. From the “El Veterano” Conjunto Festival program left on the coffee ­table to email lists and cell phone photos from the event itself, cultural material remembering the event circulates locally and globally using conjunto ­music and appropriating patriotic discourse in acts that bring and bind together senders and receivers around a cele­bration of Mexican American veterans and war dead. It is worth considering how t­ hese cultural circulations, and their role in the construction of a South Texas Mexican American public, have become intertwined with patriotic discourses. While it is beyond the scope of this proj­ect to describe fully this historical pro­cess, we can productively engage this topic through a consideration of Américo Paredes’s (1958) groundbreaking work on border ­music. Paredes, like Eligio Escobar, served in World War II as part of the occupation force in Japan.17 Upon returning to the United States, Paredes completed his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate as well as published his well-­known account of the folklore and ­music that surrounded the conflicts between border residents and their own version of an occupying force, the Texas Rangers. The University of Texas Press in Austin published Paredes’s With His Pistol in His Hand in 1958. During World War II, Eligio Escobar continued playing conjunto ­music for friends and f­ amily. He returned from Japan to the United States to work as a truck driver for an oil com­pany. ­After becoming partially para­lyzed in a truck-­driving accident, Escobar focused his attention on m ­ usic and recorded “El veterano” in the early 1960s. Out of 250 recordings, many consider “El veterano” to be Escobar’s most famous (Kreneck 1996). Throughout his Rituals of Necrocitizenship


professional ­music ­career, Escobar played this song to benefit organ­izations such as the American gi Forum, a veteran’s association of which he and his ­brothers ­were members (Kreneck 1996). The American gi Forum was more than your typical veteran’s organ­ization. Its leadership and membership led social movements in South Texas that culminated in challenging and changing segregation laws and practices. They w ­ ere also a significant force in John F. Kennedy’s election as president. While scholars have written extensively about how With His Pistol in His Hand serves as a masculine poetics and a stinging and necessary critique of Anglo racism, few focus on Paredes’s criticisms of the vio­lence wrought by World War II (Dorsey 2005). In writing about the changes that have taken place in South Texas since World War II, Paredes states: On the Texas bank physical changes also ­were taking place. New ­people had settled in most of the country; grapefruit orchards and truck farms replaced the chaparral. Still, on the Texas side cultural isolation remained. But with the advent of World War II greater numbers of north-­bank Borderers began to think of themselves seriously as Americans. Like the unreconstructed Southerner—­whom he resembled in some re­spects—­ the Border Mexican was surprised to find that the ­Peoples of Eu­rope and the Pacific thought of him as just another American. (1958, 106) Most readers interpret Paredes’s characterization of post–­World War II border residents as a call for them to maintain their border culture. Paredes aims his critique not only at the cultural changes but also at the ways in which border residents lionize World War II veterans. He does so with a sharp sense of irony. Consider the following depiction of a World War II hero from the border: Brownsville’s World War II hero was a Border Mexican. Armed with the modern equivalent of the Ranger’s Colt, a machine gun, he displayed such Spanish-­Indian cruelty ­toward the German army that he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. And all good Texans in Brownsville received him on his homecoming with festivities and parades. His deeds ­were not celebrated in corridos; legends ­were not made about him. For he was not the hero of the Border folk but of the American ­people. (107) For Paredes, the border culture that created corridos exemplified a patriarchal democracy where social relations ­were based on re­spect and the social 72

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hierarchy was fluid. Paredes celebrates the corrido hero Gregorio Cortéz not for his use of vio­lence but for his cunning as a ­horse­man and his tenacity in the face of the vio­lence wrought by the Texas Rangers, or rinches. Paredes’s unwillingness to celebrate the vio­lence of World War II follows from the critiques of racism and Ranger vio­lence and terror that form the body of With His Pistol in His Hand. For some, it ­will seem unfortunate that border residents did not heed his call since they esteem veterans, particularly ­those from World War II. However, Paredes’s writing in the 1950s could not anticipate that a twenty-­first-­century conjunto festival named a­ fter a corrido titled “El veterano” would indeed celebrate military ser­vice.18 Eligio Escobar, contrary to Paredes’s expectations, went on to write and perform ­music (including corridos) about the experiences of Mexican American veterans. Like Paredes, though, Escobar glorifies neither vio­lence nor the heroics of conquering an e­ nemy. Consider his lyr­ics for “El veterano” (“The veteran”):

El veterano “Veterano,” soy señores De la guerra más terrible, fui guerrero Soy mexicano de raza Por la mano del destino, nacido en el extranjero Me llamaron al servicio Como macho es mi deber, dije: “Presente” Por buena, por mala suerte Me toco la infantería de esos que van en el frente Después del entrenamiento Me mandaron en un barco ¡Ay! ir a jugarme la vida Al otro lado del charco Yo en mi vida, había rezado Pero allá aprendí a rezar mil oraciones Bajo la lluvia de acero Balas de ametralladoras, y bombas de mil aviones Rituals of Necrocitizenship


No he podido comprender Como pude yo volver, quizás por suerte O es que mi Dios es muy grande Mi Virgen Guadalupana me protegió de la muerte ¡Ay! Que vida tan amarga La que un soldado se pasa. ¡Ay! Sin ninguna esperanza De regresar a su casa En los campos de batalla Se mostró su valentía, ser mexicano Para que el mundo lo sepa Que no se afrenta de nada el que tiene sangre azteca Ya me despido señores Con mi “mauser” en mis manos Ya (aaa) aquí se acaban cantando Los versos del veterano “The veteran” is who I am, gentlemen Of the most terrible war, I was a fighter I am of Mexican descent (raza) By destiny’s hand, I was born abroad I was called to military ser­vice Like a “man,” I should be brave (macho). I said: “Pre­sent.” For good or bad luck, I was placed in the front-­line infantry ­ fter training [boot camp], A They sent me off in a boat To ­gamble my life On the other side of the ocean.19 In my life I have prayed, But over ­there I learned to pray a thousand prayers.


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Beneath the rain of steel Bullets of machine guns and bombs from a thousand airplanes. I have never understood How I was able to return, prob­ably by luck Or that my God is so ­grand My Virgin of Guadalupe protected me from death Oh! What a ­bitter life That happens to a soldier. Oh! Without any hope Of return [to his] home. On the battlefield, [Proud] To be Mexican [American], I demonstrated my valiantness So that the world would know That we, of Aztec blood, are not afraid to face anything I say goodbye now, gentlemen With my “Mauser” in my hands And ­here I finish singing The verses of the veteran.

In “El veterano,” Escobar, like Paredes, does not lionize war. Notice that in line 2, for example, Escobar does not label the war itself as “­great” but as “the most terrible war” (“la guerra más terrible”). Escobar focuses on the randomness of death (see lines 11, 18) and reflects on the ­bitter life of a soldier (the sixth stanza). We interpret “El veterano” as a corrido. Even if some readers and scholars disagree, however, we can all agree that “El veterano” clearly encompasses many of a corrido’s signifiers. The song itself contains a structured pattern of end rhyme, starting with the opening stanza’s abcb pattern. We transcribed the song into a four-­line quatrain structure with eight stanzas that include a classic corrido introduction (“ ‘Veterano,’ soy señores”) and farewell (“Ya me despido señores”). The song utilizes everyday language and claims only a handful of literary or cultural references, in this case La Virgen

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de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe) and Aztec culture. T ­ hese are hallmarks of a classic corrido structure. Escobar perhaps consciously makes this reference by stating at the end of his corrido that he is fighting “con mi ‘mauser’ en mis manos” (“with my ‘Mauser’ in my hands”). The Mauser reference might seem surprising since it is a German r­ ifle used by German soldiers in World War II. In corridos, however, the Mauser has ­earlier antecedents. First introduced into Mexico by the dictator Porfirio Díaz, the Mauser was used by many fighters during the 1910–1920 Mexican Revolution. A number of revolutionary war corridos, in fact, mention the Mauser. Escobar’s reference to the Mauser thus serves as an allusion to ­earlier corridos about the hardships and vio­lence of war. Escobar, a man of Paredes’s generation, used his m ­ usic to shift the meanings of participation in World War II in South Texas. As Paredes highlights, this generation saw itself as American. At the same time, the meanings of both Americanness and border culture ­were in flux. Through community-­based po­liti­cal activism, including the formation of the American gi Forum in South Texas, Mexican American World War II veterans or­ga­nized to claim their rights as US citizens. The m ­ usic of many of t­ hese gis, as represented by Escobar’s song “El veterano,” did not represent the Americanized version of the border. Musicians and residents account for their dead and experiences of sacrifice to the United States through conjunto m ­ usic, in En­glish and Spanish. The song “El veterano”—­whose per­ for­mance is a focal point of the festival—­speaks to almost ­every military person’s experience of war. At the same time, performers voice this “­every ser­viceperson” experience through symbolic language highly meaningful to Mexican Americans. Some fifty years a­ fter its composition, this song serves as the centerpiece of the “El Veterano” Conjunto Festival. Escobar’s ­daughter, Linda, performs this song in honor of her ­father and all veterans.20 It celebrates Mexican American veterans and circulates through rec­ords and per­for­mances at dance halls and now on the internet. As Linda Escobar (2001) explains: My ­father’s sentiments are expressed in his recorded composition of “El veterano.” The song is about a Mexican American who is drafted and trained as an infantryman and he is shipped to the warfront. “I never prayed before, but t­ here I said a thousand prayers,” he sings. He returns home, and thanks La Virgen de Guadalupe for his safe return. It is a song full of valor and pride in being a veteran.21


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For Linda, references to Mexican American culture and the valor of veterans flow together naturally as a central aspect of South Texas culture. Iterations of the song “El veterano” and of the “El Veterano” Conjunto Festival instantiate a way in which Mexican Americans in South Texas express their patriotism. Escobar, fellow conjunto musicians, and attendees of this event demonstrate their loyalty to the United States by making the event “American.” Participants express this through traditional practices such as reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, showing reverence to the US flag, and risking one’s life for the United States. But participants express it in a par­tic­u­lar idiom, for instance, through prayers to La Virgen de Guadalupe and through conjunto ­music.22 The syncretism between traditional symbols of the US nation and Mexican American culture can, moreover, also be labeled an expression of cultural citizenship and necrocitizenship (Díaz-­Barriga 2012). Conclusion

As described by Lázaro Lima, belonging to the nation calls for Latinxs to remember history, particularly elided narratives, “through the aesthetic play of the corporeal” (2007, 132). Like Reynaldo Anzaldúa’s jeep in Granjeno’s parade and Eligio Escobar’s hit song “El veterano,” patriotic citizenship refuses to let Mexican American war veterans’ experience be forgotten: according to Lima, oral narrative provides “a testimonial-­like accounting of a place in time in need of what we have called, following Toni Morrison, narrative re-­memory: a c­ ounter historical re-­presentation of past events in need of national reevaluations” (166). Recall Martín Villarreal’s editorial or Raúl Escobar g­ oing to the veterans’ memorial t­ able and then describing his experience of loss and death. Corporeal renderings of necrocitizenship align themselves with expressions of cultural citizenship as they manifest in cultural cele­brations. More broadly construed, such gestures can be interpreted as part of a larger pro­cess we repeatedly observed, w ­ hether in Villarreal’s speech in Granjeno or Anzaldúa’s testimony in Austin. Mexican American patriotism is made meaningful and circulated through symbolic forms that are not jingoistic like ­those promulgated by the right wing. It is not Buchanan’s (2007) or Tancredo’s essentialized notion of patriotic citizenship that thrives on closing and militarizing borders. ­These events, however, do circulate differently, and recognizing this difference is key to understanding ­these per­for­mances of patriotic citizenship. Organizers of the Granjeno festival create a public through word of mouth that relies on direct links to the community, including the neighboring Rituals of Necrocitizenship


municipalities, local law enforcement, the US military, and the Border Patrol. The organizers open the event to Border Patrol and military recruiters, who move freely among teen­agers who are members of marching bands, mariachi groups, and Mexican folkloric groups. Necrocitizenship practices envelop expressions of cultural citizenship. Though not mentioned at the event, ­these community ties and emphases on military ser­vice are linked to a wider effort to have Granjeno recognized as a partner in constructing an international bridge with Mexico. In a move that seems counterintuitive to an outsider, event organizers align bridges with militarization and criticize border wall construction. In contrast, Linda Escobar’s production of the “El Veterano” Conjunto Festival builds a wider, and perhaps more diverse, public as it seeks to honor all veterans (not just Mexican Americans), generate ­music scholarship, and celebrate conjunto m ­ usic. ­There are neither military recruiters nor uniformed Border Patrol agents with climbing walls at the event. Speakers highlight and celebrate cultural citizenship and necrocitizenship in a seamless manner honoring both musicians and veterans. The event focuses on Mexican American patriotism and, like the corrido “El veterano,” contextualizes the hardships of war into a wider recognition of the importance of military ser­vice to the construction of the nation and a remembrance of t­ hose who have given their lives. This remembrance propels Mexican American cultural expressions through a cele­bration of conjunto ­music and support for the next generation of conjunto singers and musicians. The veterans we spoke with at the event criticized border militarization and wall construction. For ­these veterans, patriotism does not thrive on militarized borders but rather expresses itself through diverse cultural expressions. At the core of this expression of necrocitizenship, however, the Latinx body still figures prominently—­manifest through corporeal sacrifice and willingness to die for the nation.


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NECROCITIZENSHIP ENACTED Raping White ­Women and Consolidating the State of Exception

When Mexico sends its ­people, ­they’re not sending their best. ­They’re not sending you. ­They’re not sending you. ­They’re sending p­ eople that have lots of prob­lems, and ­they’re bringing ­those prob­lems with us. ­They’re bringing drugs. T ­ hey’re bringing crime. ­They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good ­people. —­donald trump, presidential campaign announcement, june 16, 2015 Ask me: would I rather have the assistance of five hundred troops or twenty-­four investigators? And I’d say, give me twenty-­four investigators. —­victor rodríguez, chief of police, mcallen, texas, testimony at border security summit, april 29, 2010


Five years before Donald Trump characterized Mexican men as rapists, the need to protect white females was on full display during debates over spillover vio­lence. On April 29, 2010, Texas state representative Veronica Gonzáles presided over border security hearings in McAllen. Gonzáles saw ­these hearings as an opportunity “to hear from our state law enforcement officers and other agencies on what is being done to keep our residents safe from the drug cartels fighting in Mexico” (City of McAllen 2010). At the hearings, members of law enforcement openly debated the meaning of spillover

vio­lence and the need for further border militarization. State agents subsume spillover into a narrative of sexuality that calls for immediate and excessive action that in itself produces necrocitizenship, vertical sovereignty, and insecure security within the population.1 Not all participants at the hearings engaged in the discourse of spillover. South Texas law enforcement agents vigorously argued against depictions of the region as a war zone and contested renderings of spillover vio­lence. In d ­ oing so, local leaders and law enforcement officials called for and emphasized—­almost to the point of hyperbole—­a scientific paradigm for understanding crime and vio­lence. Local law enforcement officials and politicians sought to contextualize regional crime through statistics and other concrete and more universal mea­sures. Why did locals select a scientific register in their challenges to policies designed to increase levels of militarization? We interpret their call for science on two levels. The first centers on challenging outsiders who transform them into ­simple instruments of necropower and mere subjects of necrocitizenship. Local officials inject science into the conversation to disrupt state agents’ construction of the border as a war zone that then merits increased militarization. The second centers on the ways in which state agents articulate the state of exception as necessary while rendering it as the norm. The Italian phi­los­o­pher Giorgio Agamben (2005) writes about the ways in which the state of exception reveals the force of law while si­mul­ta­neously situating itself as the norm. While we draw inspiration from Agamben’s ideas, our application of his phrase state of exception does not cleanly follow the contours of his model.2 Ethnographically, states of necessity, states of exception, law, and norm fit uncomfortably, particularly when one considers how they map onto deeper histories of race and class relations.3 ­Here we draw inspiration from Achille Mbembe’s (2003) discussion of how states of exception within colonial contexts concatenate biopolitics and necropolitics, a po­liti­cal formation that relies fundamentally on racism.4 Certainly in the case of early twentieth-­century South Texas, armed groups such as the Texas Rangers exercised ­these aspects of colonial rule, terrorizing and murdering Mexican American inhabitants. In the pre­sent context, the director of the State of Texas’s Homeland Security presented the necessity for militarization and the creation of surveillance networks as a commonsense response to spillover. At the same time, local officials at the hearings did not explic­itly invoke a larger history of race relations.5 Instead, they chipped at the edifice that vio­lence and terror are the norm. Race is there80

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fore everywhere and nowhere: a tool that stirs fear. Sexuality, in contrast, is in need of state protection. An Ethnographic Moment: Performing Surveillance

Let us contextualize the event from an ethnographic perspective. By April 29, 2010, the government had erected the border wall, drones ­were patrolling the border, and the Texas legislature was hosting the Border Security Summit in our field site along the border in McAllen. A state representative from McAllen, Demo­crat Veronica Gonzáles, hosted the hearings and acted as interim chair for the event.6 The leaders of McAllen, such as Mayor Richard Cortéz, ­were pleased to see the legislature hosting the hearings in the borderlands, allowing local residents an opportunity to attend the hearings and, in turn, state representatives an opportunity to tour the border area. Residents of South Texas hoped that state representatives would leave the region with a more in-­depth—­and positive—­image of the borderlands. In other words, from the perspective of local po­liti­cal leaders and business elites, this trip out of Austin (the center) to McAllen (the periphery) provided state representatives from North and East Texas an opportunity to revisualize the border as an area of wealth, prosperity, and growth—­the creative-­class community that the McAllen Chamber of Commerce is working to produce—­ and their new convention center is part of that image production. The special session of the legislature was held at the convention center on Thursday, April 29, 2010, beginning at ten ­o’clock in the morning and ending around eight o­ ’clock in the eve­ning. A new complex, the convention center represents the vision of McAllen’s leadership: a beautiful structure landscaped with native South Texas plants and palms. An expansive fountain and reflecting pool await visitors outside the convention center’s front doors. This pacific place also includes a greenspace large enough to host festivals. The convention center grounds are part of a larger complex, which includes newly constructed big-­box retail stores and national chain restaurants, such as Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, P. F. Chang’s, Macaroni Grill, and Ben and Jerry’s. For locals, t­ hese stores are monumental signifiers of McAllen’s affluence to the outside world. We have attended numerous events at the convention center, from veterans’ cele­brations and the Palm Fest to the Winter Texan Expo and Health Fair and the Rio Grande Valley Home Show. With t­hese previous experiences in mind, it seemed incongruous to pull into the parking lot of the convention center and almost exclusively see law enforcement vehicles. We Necrocitizenship Enacted


parked between two Texas Department of Public Safety (dps) state police cars. What surprised us, however, was our experience upon entering the convention center building: an airport-­style security detail with approximately eight agents. A group of dps troopers oversaw operations at the checkpoint. A series of agents stood by a t­able, some with metal-­detecting wands and ­others with the task of searching the bags and equipment of individuals before they entered. They also had a sign-in sheet that asked for our names, addresses, and places of work. The dps agent searched our video camera bag and briefcase. We answered his questions about our institutional affiliation and our reasons for attending the meeting. ­After they searched our bags and we answered their questions, he and his team granted us permission to pass. ­After zipping our bags, we walked down the corridor and paused before two sixty-­inch tele­vi­sion screens that aired the hearings. Groups of men clustered around the tele­vi­sions, many armed with pistols and dressed in law enforcement uniforms. ­Others wore suits and looked like law enforcement of some sort (big men, military haircuts, many with Secret Service–­like ear pieces). A few additional men stood outside the hearing chamber chatting and being interviewed by regional reporters, from both Mexican- and US-­ based media. The hearings embodied and performed security and surveillance from the moment participants entered. Being treated like a potential terrorist keyed the event. Recall that citizens attempting to attend t­ hese public hearings w ­ ere questioned about their work and workplaces to gauge w ­ hether or not they should be allowed entry. This passage made us think that our be­ hav­ior at the event was being monitored to the point that we ­were hesitant to ask questions. In addition, the sheer number of men with guns made the convention center seem like a fortress. The state of Texas started visitors’ experience by impressing attendees with the might and power of the security state. Through their searches, guns, uniforms, questions, and forms, agents of Texas let participants know who was in charge at t­hese public hearings. For the next six hours, we listened to testimony on border security mea­ sures, ranging from the extent to which spillover vio­lence exists in the Rio Grande Valley to the need for military personnel at the border. T ­ hese debates, on the one hand, demonstrated how state actors (representing the state of Texas) attempt to construct the border zone as one overflowing with vio­lence and criminal activity and suffused with exponential potential for even more destabilizing vio­lence and criminal activity. On the other hand, 82

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they also demonstrated local politicians’ and business leaders’ strategies to ­counter discourses of the border as naturally violent.7 At ­these public hearings, state actors and law enforcement agents aired their differing views about the need for border security as it relates to spillover vio­lence. Our analy­sis focuses on the perspectives of three participants: state representative Veronica Gonzáles; the head of the Texas dps, Col­o­nel Tim McCraw; and the chief of police of McAllen, Victor Rodríguez. Representative Gonzáles, as chair of the hearings, attempted to open a discursive space for questioning the meaning of spillover. Col­on ­ el McGraw defended the use of the concept of spillover. Chief Rodríguez called attention to the need for a more focused and “investigative” approach to border law enforcement and advocated for a more precise definition of spillover, if not an end altogether to the use of the concept. Spillover itself is an in­ter­est­ing choice of a word to use in the context of law enforcement since it has an automatic resonance with anti-­immigrant attitudes. The word implies bounty and actions out of control. Spillover is a fairly new term, coined in 1940, and Merriam-­Webster defines it as “something that flows out of or spreads beyond a container, space, area.”8 As anthropologist Leo Chávez ([2008] 2013) argues, conservative pundits and the national media have a tradition of using ­water meta­phors to describe immigrants crossing the US-­Mexico border. Men and ­women become “waves” and “tides,” and their ­children become “anchors.” In this chapter, we analyze how the term spillover became yet another tool that certain state actors deploy to justify exclusionary practices. In other words, the state of Texas’s use of spillover at the Border Security Summit functioned to create a specific set of citizenship practices. Many state officials do so through using racist, sexist, and heterosexist constructions; they successfully construct a vulnerable feminized citizenry threatened by unseen dark, Mexican, and masculine forces of extreme vio­lence. Mexican American men and local law enforcement—­some of whom know the metamessage of the state’s script—­pushed back during t­ hese hearings. This chapter limns that exchange. Insecure Security and Spillover Discourse

The unpre­ce­dented expansion of border policing, I argue, has ultimately been less about achieving the stated instrumental goal of deterring illegal border crossers and more about po­liti­cally recrafting the image of the border and symbolically reaffirming Necrocitizenship Enacted


the state’s territorial authority. Although the escalation of policing has largely failed as a deterrent and has generated perverse and counterproductive consequences that reinforce calls for further escalation, it has been strikingly successful in projecting the appearance of a more secure and orderly border. —­peter andreas, border games Oddly enough, before the state can proj­ect its appearance of order and security on the border, it has to craft its territory as out of control and in need of control, control that can be provided by the state and its selected private contractors. Our observations at the security hearings align with Agamben’s (2005) view that state agents contrive a nexus between necessity and exception through the production of crisis. In the case of South Texas, the border wall, the drone patrols, and the exponential increases in the Border Patrol are insufficient to resolve the crisis. What is striking about ­these border security hearings is that this state of necessity was articulated in terms of an invisible and omnipresent threat. Necessity begins and ends with spillover. Representative Gonzáles opened the security summit by highlighting the need for understanding spillover and stating that it was difficult to separate truth from hype: While many of us feel that we are safe, we won­der ­whether we truly are. It’s hard to know for sure what is true, what is false, what is hype, and what is to come. Some argue that border security is a federal issue, and securing our nation’s borders is a federal issue. But, with such a large border, and with our close proximity to Mexico, being only minutes away, it’s become clear that protecting our citizens is not just a federal prob­lem, not just a Mexican prob­lem, but one that we must address from the local level all the way up. We read Gonzáles’s statement as saying, “Let’s step back from dramatized portrayals of my home and take a cold, hard look at the facts—­what’s actually occurring on the ground. And if we need more intervention, then we need to start ­here, with local leadership.” Perhaps the major accomplishment of the hearings was that the local state representative, Gonzáles, chaired the meetings and attempted to emphasize the need for data and clear policy. In his opening comments, Mayor Cortéz of McAllen echoed such sentiments (truth vs. media hype, the need for a scientific and evidence-­based


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approach, the importance of the local) and emphasized the importance of science in a pedantic (and, at least for us, almost humorous) fashion: So, ­here in McAllen, we look very seriously at the pro­cess that we use to solve our prob­lems. . . . ​Science is a perfect approach. So, whenever science can help us, we want to use science. And I’ll give you a very brief example. If we want to find out how much liquid is in this b­ ottle [he holds up a ­bottle of ­water], then we d ­ on’t have to guess. We can just pour it out and precisely mea­sure it. Cortéz’s scientific approach involves not only consulting local officials about border security but also trusting their knowledge: As o­ thers are hearing about our area and are judging us by our area, then our challenge, as a community and as a country and as a state, is [to ask]: “How accurate is that information about our area?” [And our challenge is to ask: “­Will we] . . . ​allow someone to judge us on the basis of that?” . . . We have all kinds of ­people defining who we are, what we are, and the conditions that they see h ­ ere. But yet, they are not from h ­ ere. So, it would seem to me, that if somebody wanted the truth as to how it is to live ­here in the border that you start with us. And when we apply procedures to solve the prob­lems, then ­there is [sic] also rules of probability in place. If someone wants to send . . . ​help to my city, our city . . . ​I would appreciate someone asking me: “What type of help do you need, mayor?” As part of his invocation of science, the mayor references the rules of probability in relation to caricatures of the US-­Mexico border area that depict spillover vio­lence as an imminent threat and the pending invasion of the United States: So the rules of probability hit me when I think about t­ hese ­things and I say: “Is it, with reasonable probability, that the bad guys from across the border are g­ oing to come through the bridge, armed, swinging bayonets and bandits and throw bombs at us through the bridge?” Yes, that is a possibility. But, I submit to you, u ­ nless someone w ­ ill give me evidence, that it’s prob­ably a low possibility. If we are ­going to have tanks and all kinds of

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defense mechanisms, to provide us safety, for that improbable event to happen, then I believe that is an improper utilization of assets. Okay. ­Today [looks across the ­table to someone] I hope you’ll help me find the answer to that. . . . We want to be the partners to all t­ hose that want to help us. We are not ­here to tell you how to help us. We just simply want to be part of the pro­cess, of the difficult pro­cess, of deciding what it is. Cortéz references bayonets and invasion, of course, to contest seemingly pervasive news broadcasts describing the border as a war zone. In d ­ oing so, however, the mayor emphasizes that he cares about public safety: Public safety for our citizens of McAllen is of the utmost impor­tant [sic]. We enjoy the quality of life that we have, but you ­can’t have any quality of life without safety. We ­will never, never choose economic success over public safety. But we ask, and we beg [pause for emphasis]. ­Don’t forget [pause for emphasis] to ask us and work with us on how we are ­going to solve this prob­lem ­because I read the news media all of the time, and the description of our city and our area is totally inaccurate. As manifest in Mayor Cortéz’s testimony and as we have shown in previous chapters, national renderings of the border and its in/security do not capture the nuanced views of border residents. Cortéz carefully maintains a balance, aiming for an approach that is critical of militarism and yet supportive of law and order. In the end, he simply asks for a less militaristic and more realistic depiction of his hometown. Col­o­nel McCraw responds to Cortéz and alters the terms of the discourse by agreeing that while it is unlikely that drug cartels ­will form battalions and invade the United States, a deeper and perhaps more insidious threat lurks in the border area: We ­don’t see a battalion of Zetas [a Mexican drug cartel] taking . . . ​one of our bridges h ­ ere in South Texas. We d ­ on’t see that as a high risk of happening. However, we do see, that is most concerning, is now that the cartels . . . ​have partnered with the transnational gangs, which ­were formerly our prison gangs, and they operate on both sides of the border, that the vio­lence that we see, or ­don’t see, shows up not just in the border region, but shows up in major metropolitan areas around the state. . . . The fact that they are recruiting in our prisons and in our schools along the border to support their cartel operations and . . . ​actually 86

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using kids, from our in­de­pen­dent schools, to go down and do hits for the Zetas. You know, it’s one of ­those ­things. It’s not necessarily mea­sur­able. You ­won’t find it in the uniform crime report, but that is, from a Texas perspective, spillover vio­lence. (emphasis added) The impor­tant ­factor for McCraw is the way in which the Mexican cartels are corrupting schoolchildren and gaining influence in prison gangs. McCraw represents the region as normatively being in a state of war that requires vigilance and swift action by state agents. In this scenario, any crime that can be connected back to Mexico is spillover, and that threat is immea­sur­able. At this point, Representative Gonzáles matter-­of-­factly interrupts McCraw to ask for a more precise definition and ­actual mea­sure of spillover.


chairwoman gonzáles:  Can I stop you ­there, Col. McCraw . . . ​

col. mccraw:  Yes m ­ a’am. chairwoman gonzáles: [making eye contact] and ask you. We hear the words spillover all the time, and we understand that the federal government has one definition for spillover, and


the state government has another. How does the state define spillover?

col. mccraw:  Well, I think, I would like to start and say, “Correctly.”

But . . . ​that’s unprofessional to do so. . . . ​[laughter from men]

[He starts reading from prepared statement.]


The federal government, you know, defined it as: “Deliberate, planned attacks by the cartels on US assets including civilian,

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military and law enforcement officials, innocent US citizens or physical

institutions such as government buildings, consulates or businesses.”

And, this definition does not include trafficker-­on-­trafficker vio­lence,


whether perpetrated in Mexico or the US.


[He stops reading and makes eye contact.]

And, from a Texas standpoint, you know, ­ whether someone is a trafficker

or not, if he or she is killed in McAllen or her ­sister is kidnapped as a result of

cartel-­related activity, it’s still vio­lence. . . . ​ You ­can’t work your way out of

that definition.


Also, from a Texas standpoint is that, you know . . . ​Extortion is a part of

vio­lence and that sometimes extortion is difficult to capture in ucr [Unified

Crime Report] data ­because an illegal aliens, crimes on illegal aliens, on this side

of the border, is spillover vio­lence.


Because, as you know, ­these cartels, t­ hese smuggling organ­izations, you



know, prey . . . ​on ­these individuals. ­Because they come into our country and

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sometimes it’s not just in terms of indentured slaves . . . ​of young females. But it’s

also not just paying your money in terms of . . .  getting across the river and into a

major metropolitan area. But also, the extortion afterward, that piece of that

job that y­ ou’re getting, you know, for the next year to ­those gangs.


So, ­there are a lot of ­things that are not necessarily seen that are reflected

in terms of what we would consider spillover vio­lence. But from our definition it

is very s­ imple.

The state of Texas defines spillover vio­lence as: [reading]

“Mexican cartel–­related vio­lence that occurs in Texas.”


We included aggravated assault, extortion, kidnapping, torture, rape, and murder.

The victims of ­these crimes include illegal immigrants being smuggled into the

US; Mexican or US citizens working with the cartels or their innocent ­family

members; and ­those who are not associated in any way with the cartels or


transnational gangs. (emphasis added)

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McCraw’s answer plays on two themes: • The Texas definition of spillover is clearer, more direct, and more encompassing than the federal definition: it includes all forms of vio­lence. • The Texas definition focuses on threats to not only c­ hildren in school but also young ­women and undocumented immigrants (in his terms “females” and “illegal aliens”), conveying their heightened need for protection. The state of Texas’s definition seems more inclusive in defending the rights and safety of the most vulnerable members of the population—­ including young females and innocent f­amily members. This rhetorical move makes Texas seem more concerned about the safety of its citizens, and that of noncitizens, by avoiding the unnecessary complexities of federal policies and statistics. However, while one might appreciate the concise definition of spillover vio­lence offered by McCraw, “Mexican cartel–­related vio­lence that occurs in Texas” (line 35), it remains difficult to quantify such spillover.9 Indeed, for some policy makers, the ability to estimate the impacts of spillover might play a role in how they allocate resources to border security. The conversation continues with Chairwoman Gonzáles asking McCraw to address just this issue; McCraw does not provide a number in his lengthy response. It is worth continuing to cite McCraw and Gonzáles’s exchange at length to exemplify how the state conceptualizes border vio­lence as invisible, constant, and menacing—­and hence beyond the scope of normal procedures for collecting crime data. Note that, according to McCraw, spillover vio­lence is “not seen, not heard” (lines 69–70) and that his explanation of such vio­lence relies on gendered imagery (lines 61–64).



chairwoman gonzáles: [making eye contact] So, given the state’s definition of it, how much

would you say we have in spillover? Have we seen a large increase in the amount

of what you call “spillover” since the cartel wars . . . ​ began in Mexico, or

heated up in Mexico?

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col. mccraw: [making eye contact] We’ve seen increased extortions and increased

kidnappings. The challenge with kidnappings—­even though you see them—­it’s the

nonreportable ones that ­we’re most concerned about. . . . ​ The numbers ­aren’t

definitive . . . ​Chairman, Chairman, Chairperson. . . . ​ It’s not definitive, in the sense

that we can show a major spike. But, from our own investigations, we know . . . ​that

the Zetas have kidnapped, you know, US citizens.


On this side of the border, we know, not unlike what happened with the

Vincente Trio Fuentes hit cell, or hit team, have and . . . ​ in El Paso and picked

up someone and kidnapped them and brought them back and tortured them on the

other side of the border. Anecdotally, it’s occurring.

The challenge with the kidnapping stats, although we have US citizens


that have been killed in Mexico, . . . ​is this: that as a former assistant director in

the fbi, I worked many kidnapping cases in my ­career and the best way to do it in

the US is you come at them, the first rule of . . . ​the first rule you do, is you contact

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local law enforcement or the fbi when you have a close loved one or relative

60 kidnapped.

Now, based on my position right now, position is that of assistant, and

background with kidnapping, if my ­daughter was to be kidnapped [pause] in El

Paso, God forbid, I would not work with law enforcement, to be candid.

[Making eye contact throughout this example]


You know, ­because you ­can’t, if I want her back. You report it to law

enforcement and you have to work . . . ​with the law enforcement, you know, in

Mexico, ­she’ll be dead. It is the truth. So that’s one of t­ hose, you know I’m not

suggesting that ­there’s all sorts of kidnappings that go undetected. I’m just saying

that is . . . ​the type of environment that ­we’re working in right now. That’s not

70 seen, not heard, and ­you’re talking to many that worked . . . ​

in the maquiladoras,


and they worry about that living in fear . . . ​another example of what would

constitute spillover vio­lence.

And as a state, obviously, you made it very clear, the state legislature, is

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that Texas has been not to react to it. ­We’re ­going to take a proactive approach.


We’re ­going to develop and adopt protocols so when ­there is, you know, dif­fer­ent,


heightened, areas of alert, that ­we’re ­going to employ a disciplined, unified

command, that’s information driven. And what­ever resources we have in the

state, ­we’ll put in what­ever sector it is to combat, you know, what­ever threat we

have at any given time. [McCraw’s commentary ends, and the group of panelists

shift to a Power Point and the film introduced and shown by the Texas Rangers.]


Representative Gonzáles asked McCraw a straightforward question regarding an increase in numbers, and McCraw hedges. The bottom line becomes that the state of Texas needs to employ a “proactive” (line 74) approach to spillover. McCraw starts to cross a threshold ­here in how he talks about vio­lence on two levels: the stylistics of whom he actually talks about (vio­lence against w ­ omen), the domestic meta­phor more generally; and the way he deploys ­these ­things not to argue for a specific policy but rather to seek carte blanche for more militarization and surveillance in the borderlands. On the first point, as Katie Oliviero shows, “par­tic­u­lar forms of anti-­ immigration spectacles inflame the public imaginary and exploit po­liti­cal paradoxes within democracy, vulnerability, and gendered nationalism” (2011, 680). In the case of border security, the vulnerability of the state of Texas’s citizenry is at stake, and, in response, per­for­mances of masculine nationalism, through the protection of females, are deployed. McCraw produces this gendered nationalism through ­free association that links crime to Mexico and leaves the listener to connect the dots. McCraw speaks in a confident tone that privileges his own insider knowledge, which needs neither

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numbers nor proof. Notice the rhetorical usage of the phrase “you know I’m not suggesting” when in fact he is suggesting that undetected kidnappings frequently occur (lines 66–69):

Now, based on my position right now, position is that of assistant, and

background with kidnapping, if my ­daughter was to be kidnapped [pause] in El

Paso, God forbid, I would not work with law enforcement, to be candid.

[Making eye contact throughout this example] 65 You know, ­because you ­can’t, if I want her back. You report it to law

enforcement and you have to work . . . ​with the law enforcement, you know, in

Mexico, ­she’ll be dead. It is the truth. So that’s one of t­ hose, you know I’m not

suggesting that ­there’s all sorts of kidnappings that go undetected. I’m just saying

that is . . . ​the type of environment that ­we’re working in right now.

From this quote, it is unclear ­whether his ­daughter would be dead ­because she was in Mexico or ­because a Mexican-­origin population surrounded her or ­because Mexican police w ­ ere corrupt and had tipped off the kidnappers. Our guess is that he was referring to the latter; however, our reflection on this point should not obfuscate the fact that rhetorically Mexico is somehow involved in this criminal act. Mexico becomes a metonym for corruption and violent criminality, which in our current po­liti­cal environment often stands for brown-­skinned men in the United States.10 In addition, it is difficult to


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know the likelihood that Col­on ­ el McCraw’s d ­ aughter could be kidnapped in El Paso, and this point appears unimportant.11 We do know, however, that we must act to prevent such a possibility even if it may not exist. For McCraw, even though this is a hy­po­thet­i­cal situation, the need to be “proactive” is not. This urgency, again to quote Oliviero, “is forged by a warning that is already closed off—­the apocalypse is a moment away” (2011, 689). Notice that when another law enforcement administrator talks about issues of border vio­lence, he does so in an entirely dif­f er­ent way. He speaks of quantifying vio­lence and policy based on fact without incorporating highly charged imagery, such as that of rape and indentured slaves. Chief Rodríguez states at vari­ous points in his testimony: “What we ask for is action without the rhe­toric and action without the sound bites”; and “We should stop the hysteria. The sky is not falling. We are not being overrun at the border.” Given that both Col­o­nel McCraw and Chief Rodríguez grew up in border cities, have extensive experience in law enforcement, and have trained or worked with the fbi, one might expect them to have similar understandings of spillover.12 As you can see below, Rodríguez suggests that we focus on what is vis­i­ble and quantifiable: money and crime reports. He also insists that when we do look at the numbers, we find that crime on the border is lower than crime in North Texas.


mcallen police chief victor rodríguez: Recently we have resorted to warning our communities about “spillover.” In ­these

warnings we have communicated a fear as if to say that the ­battles in Mexico may

not be contained in Mexico and that t­ hose ­battles may “spill” onto the US as if

the Mexican vio­lence was a conquering force, threatening to next conquer us and

engage us in combat.


This is the “spillover” picture we have painted, and our response has been:

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we ­will send our troops to the border.

The threat, my friends, is not a vis­i­ble army of criminals.

The threat ­isn’t invisible.

The threat is drug-­trafficking money . . . ​that infiltrates and corrupts our




The threat is the crimes that drug-­trafficking money c­ auses.

The threat is the criminals that drug-­trafficking money buys.

The realities are that the border communities are safer than Texas’s

innermost and largest communities. Our review indicates that all significant


border cities are less violent and less crime-­ridden than all major cities in Texas.

And I cite briefly the following in 2008 uniform crime reporting information.

The highest murder rate in Texas occurs in Dallas at 13.3 hom­i­cides per

100,000 population. Dallas’s rate is equal to approximately 200 ­percent greater than the

highest murder rate in the, in the most violent border cities.


Houston and San Antonio follow in ­those categories. The . . . ​

highest rape rate in Texas occurs in Fort Worth. The highest robbery rate in Texas

occurs in Dallas. The highest aggravated assault in Texas . . . ​occurs in Houston.

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Based upon crimes of vio­lence, Houston . . . ​suffers [from] the most or the highest

most violent crime rate. When compared to McAllen, this is a crime rate that is


400 ­percent greater than McAllen’s. (emphasis added)

For Chief Rodríguez, a clear difference exists between crime and spillover vio­lence. That cities far removed from the border, such as Dallas (a ten-­ hour drive from McAllen) and Houston (a six-­hour drive), have higher crime rates (200 ­percent and 400 ­percent) suggests the importance of employing a balanced and rational approach when looking at such statistics along the border. He explains that fueling policy through fear and amplification of an unknowable threat, at best fosters a misallocation of resources and, at worst, prompts the deployment of more military personnel to the borderlands. He points out that the threat is known and readily quantifiable: money and the criminals that money creates (see lines 10–13). In making the threat knowable and vis­i­ble, Chief Rodríguez refutes McCraw’s rhe­toric of terror and ­counters calls to send more military personnel and weaponry to the border (“troops”). From the perspective of Agamben’s analy­sis of states of exception, one might interpret Chief Rodríguez’s testimony as an attempt to contain the state of exception—to “halt the machine” and “to show its central fiction” (2005, 87). Indeed, like Agamben, Chief Rodríguez views 9/11 as a key turning point in which policy makers transformed the state of exception into the norm, placing the borderlands at the borderline of the ­legal and the po­liti­cal. 9/11 and Beyond

The US Department of Homeland Security has made enforcement of immigration laws its top priority. Immigration has become . . . ​one ­thing: border security. [And border security] has come to mean one border, that is, the US-­Mexico border. As a US city on the US-­Mexico border, we have come to see the effect of this narrowly focused policy. All ­things border are now viewed and responded to by all of us through the Homeland Security lens created by 9/11. It has become con­ve­nient to tie many ­things to something in Mexico. —­victor rodríguez, mcallen chief of police

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In writing about our perpetual war on terror that began on 9/11 and is ongoing, Ben Chappell (2006, 314) argues that 9/11 did not change the script for race relations in Texas but provided an opportunity for retrenchment and renewal of that script. In other words, racial profiling in communities of color across the United States is now more accepted; the terrorist is a foreign man (not Timothy McVeigh); and a national-­security panopticon is the norm. On the border, media portrayals, po­liti­cal campaigns, and state-­level policy makers imbue ­these dynamics with a heightened quality: all crime is viewed as transnational with pos­si­ble links to cartels and terrorist cells based in Mexico. Immigration enforcement and border security, indeed, have become fused since 9/11. This fusion has a racial trajectory as it is applied mainly against the US-­Mexico border and places where Mexican Americans are the majority population. (Note how Chief Rodríguez’s understanding of Mexico contrasts with McCraw’s metonymic associations.) McAllen’s chief of police is highly aware of this sensationalism related to vio­lence and its links to how citizens view crime in a post-9/11 security state. Chief Rodríguez points out the changes in crime reporting and policy in the pre-­and post-9/11 periods. He testifies about this change in a dialogic fashion as though he is speaking both in the voice of his superiors in law enforcement and in that of a local agent of law enforcement answering their queries: Do we experience crime? Yes. Do we experience violent crimes? Yes. Do some of t­hese crimes have a drug-­related nexus? Yes. Do illegal drugs have a Mexico nexus? Yes. This should not be a question about ­whether we experience drug-­ related crimes or drug-­related vio­lence. If we have drug-­related crimes or drug-­related vio­lence and drugs have a Mexico nexus, then all such crimes have a Mexico nexus. In actuality, we can always make that leap. We can always find the Mexican nexus. Most crimes can be connected to a person who is connected to somebody that is connected to someone with a Mexican nexus as it relates to our business in this part of the state. In our part of the state we have, we have had horrific acts of ­vio­lence. . . . ​In 2003 we had six p ­ eople killed at one time in Edinburg. We call it “the Edinburg massacre.” Twelve ­people, gang members ­were charged. The difference is time. The difference between then and now,


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and I ask you to pause for a moment: what if t­hese crimes happened ­today? For the chief, the answer to this question is the key to his argument. Should the investigator of this crime be civilian, military, or paramilitary authorities? In this sense, Chief Rodríguez seems old-­fashioned, since he supports the role of civilian law enforcement in controlling crime inside the United States. Chief Rodríguez continues: And therein lies a prob­lem for us. ­Today, the headlines would prob­ably be that “Border vio­lence is h­ ere.” “Border vio­lence has led to spillover” or “Transnational crime is ­here” or something along the lines, the lines of “A thousand troops summoned to the border.” That’s what would happen t­oday if ­those two crimes ­were to happen ­today. (emphasis added) In what is a thinly veiled response to McCraw’s concerns about Mexican transnational gangs operating in prisons as an example of spillover, Chief Rodríguez states: Are gangs trafficking Mexican cartel dope? Now think about that for just one second. What other dope is ­there if it’s not from Mexico? Where ­else does dope come from if not from Mexico? Do we have gangs? Yes, but I would suggest to you that we cannot begin to address the gang prob­lem ­unless we get a l­ ittle bit more realistic. We talk about addressing gangs in our communities. Ladies and gentlemen, on this front our approaches have failed. We have gangs in even our most remote and most controlled environments: the prisons. The one place where we stand a chance to bring gang or gang-­related [violence] under control is a place where we control the most—­prisons—­and ­we’ve failed ­there. We are a growing community. In fact, the US and Texas have grown by millions. Therefore, yes, it is pos­si­ble to have more crime t­ oday, but we are not Mexico. Chief Rodríguez suggests that prison gangs should not be treated as primary examples of the threat of spillover but rather as a call for the state to reevaluate its policy and develop more intelligent strategies. Indeed, prisons are an example par excellence of state surveillance and control of ­people. If, by the state’s own mea­sure, the prison surveillance apparatus seems to be such a disaster, how can state actors expect it to be anything other than in­effec­tive

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in the borderlands? Chief Rodríguez continues to apply another perspective and wider logic to what media repre­sen­ta­tions and the state seem to take as a given, particularly in relation to spillover. From another logic, that of the Mexican citizen, Texas’s spillover actually signifies the state’s functionality. Mexicans come ­because they trust agents of the state in the United States to ethically exercise their duties. He comments: If anyone runs across the border, it’s not spillover. It is an effort to escape the vio­lence. It is a run to a safe haven where lawlessness does not rule. It happened just last week at Camargo and Rio Grande City port of entry. ­People ran across the bridge for safety. T ­ hose [who] c­ ouldn’t make it ­were being victimized within sight of US officers. That is a testament of faith and confidence in our law enforcement officers and our criminal justice system. It is a testament of faith in confidence about the rule of law that our country is known for. In the end, Chief Rodríguez disconnects law from the state of necessity that derives from a “lawless frontier”: All of this is not to say that we do not need resources to assist our daily ­battle against crime. However, as we, what we ask for is action that is responsive to the realities of the situation. What we ask for is action without the rhe­toric and action without the sound bites. I submit that it is prudent to be cognizant of the instabilities in our southern neighbor. It is prudent to seek, to develop, and to analyze all the intelligence pos­si­ble. It is prudent to contemplate worst-­case scenarios. It is prudent to plan contingencies, and it is prudent to take mea­sured steps. But let’s do so without rhe­toric. Let’s do so with responsibility. Let’s not allow rhe­toric to drive our policy. We are not a lawless frontier. (emphasis added) For Mbembe, the state’s designation of territory as a “colony” or “frontier” is an aspect of how permanent states of exception link with necropolitics. Rodríguez’s denial that the border region is a frontier thus unshackles South Texas from the logic of terror and militarization. Policy Recommendations

Chief Rodríguez concludes his testimony with three policy recommendations that aim to reduce death and killing on both sides of the border by inverting the notion of spillover. First, he advocates that the state must more 100

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tightly control “the sale, resale, purchase, multiple purchases, possession, and transportation of the weapons and the ammunition that are at the root of vio­lence in Mexico and ­here.” Second, he argues for southbound inspection stations at international ports of exit in order to “deter and stop the unlawful exportation of guns and ammunition” and “the unimpeded flow of our citizens’ stolen vehicles, stolen property.” Chief Rodríguez’s second solution addresses a larger concern for the safety of Mexican citizens: he notes that such southbound checkpoints would also hinder the cross-­border movement of “murderers, rapists, sex offenders, and child molesters.” His third recommendation centers on law enforcement officials and officers maintaining their integrity and professionalism in the face of violent crime and the corrupting influence of money. Illicit money is the greatest threat to border security: Fi­nally, I suggest a calm, cool, and collected law enforcement policy. Ask me, and I’ve heard all the boots-­on-­the-­ground talk ­today. Ask me: would I rather have the assistance of five hundred troops or twenty-­four investigators? And I’d say, give me twenty-­four investigators. The real threat is illicit money, and its ability to criminalize persons, persons and systems h ­ ere. We need coordinated regionalized law enforcement to help identify and to act against violent offenders and criminal organ­izations. . . . ​We should move against illicit funds, assets associated with criminal organ­izations. ­After 9/11, we wised up as a country, and we placed more emphasis on intelligence and proactive investigations. The situation we face now requires that kind of response. The Mexican situation requires the same kind of response. We owe Texas, and we owe our Texas communities, responsible action. His testimony reminds legislators that the relationship between Mexico and the United States is much more complicated than the spillover meta­phor allows. Chief Rodríguez concludes his testimony by offering concrete policy recommendations that take into account both drug smuggling from Mexico and the wider role of US policy in exacerbating vio­lence. He keeps the audience’s focus on drugs as the northbound part of the equation and guns as the southbound part. In d ­ oing so, he highlights the reciprocal nature of the illegal exchange, and he expresses concern about the safety of communities in Texas and in Tamaulipas. ­There are, of course, many ways to interpret the testimonies at the hearings. At a general level, as Robert Lee Maril points out, the perspectives of Necrocitizenship Enacted


border residents “are a rich, underutilized resource for pragmatic solutions” to border security (2006, 287). The hearings are thus another example of marginalizing local officials’ perspectives. From an economic standpoint, McCraw’s testimony—­with its emphasis on statewide surveillance efforts, deployment of paramilitary troops such as Texas Ranger Reconnaissance, and characterization of the border as fraught with invisible dangers—is a request for money to fund the agencies that he directs. Likewise, one can argue that Chief Rodríguez’s request for a more investigative approach to drug vio­lence—­note, not spillover vio­lence—is also a move to direct money to cities and municipalities. In addition, both Mayor Cortéz’s and Chief Rodríguez’s testimonies, with their emphasis on safety, seek to foster a fertile business environment. Members of the Texas Border Co­ali­tion, which includes elected officials and business leaders (Monica Weisberg-­Stewart, Sam Vale, Eli Liska, Keith Patridge, and Manuel Ochoa), also testified against border militarization while favoring many of the policies outlined by Chief Rodríguez. For the purposes of our analy­sis, however, we want to reemphasize ­here how ­these differing testimonies relate to the normative construction of states of exception and necrocitizenship. We read local officials’ testimonies as an attempt to question repre­sen­ta­tions of their homes and communities as being in a state of war. They also resist the state’s positioning of them as enforcers of policies that are primarily based on hollow models of transborder crime and death that exclude local voices. Therefore, the invocations of a scientific approach, responsibility, and prudence are not merely rhetorical ploys but a way to reintroduce log­os into hearings on border security. The hearings provide an opportunity to watch local officials reveal the seams through which the state of exception and the force of law have been welded into real­ity. This pushback, we should emphasize, is itself embedded in a larger history of race and vio­lence in South Texas since it is a prism through which border residents register the calls for remilitarization coming from Austin. The racial dynamics unfolding at the Border Security Summit are the g­ reat unsaid. None of the participants reference that ­these policies are designed for a region that is overwhelmingly Mexican American, bicultural and bilingual. No one, including the press covering the hearings, mentions that the invited speakers themselves are, for the most part, or­ga­nized along a racial hierarchy. Racial dynamics drive the continuous construction of the US-­ Mexico border (not the US-­Canada border) into a state of exception, a space 102

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that allows for the bound­aries between ­enemy and alien to blur—­even inside the nation-­state itself. Rape and Border Security

While Agamben theorizes states of exception and Mbembe demonstrates the centrality of race and colonialism to the formation of necropolitics, neither author focuses on the role of sexuality in constituting their linkages.13 Yet sexuality forms the foundation both for the articulation of states of necessity—­historically cast as protecting ­women from rape and vio­lence—­ and for practices associated with necropolitics, including terror and murder. The lack of an analy­sis of sexuality is not simply a lacuna. Sexuality is a locus that draws into it the politics of race. Sexuality renders the state of exception necessary, thus enabling, to employ Agamben’s phrase, the violent interlinking of the state of exception, the norm, and the force of law. In Col­o­nel McCraw’s testimony, sexualized imagery takes center stage in justifying preemptive militarization, which includes intensified networks of vertical surveillance. Col­o­nel McCraw’s militarized solution to border security relies on a politics of fear that highlights w ­ omen’s vulnerability. Explicit mentions of fear and vio­lence against ­women can be found throughout his testimony (see, for example, lines 18, 27, 62, 65, and 67). Implicit references to fear and vio­lence against ­women are made five times (in lines 26, 27, 36, 59, and 70). In seventy-­two lines of testimony, he references vio­lence against ­women eleven times. Col­o­nel McCraw not only works to stir fear related to vio­lence against ­women through repetitive piling but also uses catchy and jaw-­dropping rhe­toric to enflame our concerns. He speaks of cartel members who “prey” on (line 26) “young females” and make them into “indentured slaves” (line 27) and l­ater speaks of rape. A ­ fter stirring up sufficient fear of gunslinging Mexican pistoleros who seek out vulnerable ­women and ­children, he brings his point home to his audience in his final arresting meta­phor when speaking about potential vio­lence happening to his ­daughter (lines 61–69). Col­o­nel McCraw’s answers to per­sis­tent and difficult questions covering a range of topics often rely on anecdotes focused on the victimization of ­women. For example, Representative Barbara Mallory Caraway asks how undocumented mi­grants could report crime without fear of deportation and criminal proceedings. Representative Caraway is an African American ­woman, and her district, 110, is located in urban Dallas with a diverse constituency, half of which identifies as Hispanic.14 Even though Dallas is geo­graph­i­cally Necrocitizenship Enacted


­ istant from the Texas-­Mexico border, Caraway shows concern for the d rights of undocumented mi­grants (Texas Legislative Council 2003). Col­o­ nel McCraw responds not with a clear policy statement but with an anecdote about an undocumented ­woman victimized by a Mexican American male: I’ve personally worked a case where a young female who’d been impregnated and tortured, raped and kept indentured and on drugs for a year. We had . . . ​in terms of . . . ​the victim part, in terms of how do we make her ­whole again, how we can help her and break, we had to bring her ­family up, you know, from Mexico, we had to bring, you know, we had to spend the time with her, she gave her baby, before, eventually, she was a witness, in that regard, and how she can, at some point, be reintegrated back into the community.15 Col­o­nel McCraw’s answer returns to ­women’s sexuality—­including procreative power—­and the threat from Mexico, presumably Mexican men, and then shifts back to talk of spillover vio­lence. In other words, he draws attention to ­women’s vulnerability and the power of the state of Texas to protect them, without mentioning the specific ways that mi­grants can report crime. ­Here, the gendered and racialized aspects of crime and crime reporting are subsumed to a broader consideration of sexuality and spillover vio­lence. Sexuality encompasses race while making it dis­appear. Sexuality is the bold print that creates a state of necessity without reference to specific policies and laws. The argument is difficult to dismiss. Who would be against the protection of white ­women, in one case, and of the “young females” from Mexico living in “indentured servitude”? Certainly Chief Rodríguez and other local law enforcement officers support prosecuting and investigating such crimes to the fullest extent of the law. This multicultural gesture, the protection of undocumented females, is not meant to address policy but rather to convey “unmarked tropes of masculinity, whiteness, and heteronormativity” in the production of insecure border security (Oliviero 2011, 702). This is more than a multicultural gesture, however. It is an awkward call for life in the empty space of a state of exception, “in which ­human action with no relation to law stands before a norm with no relation to life” (Agamben 2005, 86). Note the clumsy phrases, “she gave her baby” and “how can we help her and break,” which are incomplete and raise more questions than answers. Did she give the baby to someone? What programs exist for reintegration? What was she reinte104

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grated into? Was she deported and her child, a US citizen, left b­ ehind? What became of the (Mexican American) male who committed this crime? It is worth considering h ­ ere the historical construction of masculinity and the consolidation of the state of exception in the borderlands. In fact, the 1846–1848 Mexican-­American War, the creation of military bases along the border, the terrorist activities of the Texas Rangers in the early 1900s, and the fear of communists crossing through the southern border in the 1940s all thrived on the villainization of Mexican American and Mexican males. Américo Paredes in his pathbreaking book With His Pistol in His Hand describes how in the early 1900s the occupation of the border region by the Texas Rangers relied on racist imagery of the Mexican male: The picture of the Mexican as an inveterate thief, especially of h ­ orses and ­cattle, is of interest to the psychologist as well as to the folklorist. The ­cattle industry of the Southwest had its origin in the Nueces-­Rio Grande area, with the stock and the ranches of the Rio Grande rancheros. The “­cattle barons” built up their fortunes at the expense of the Border Mexican by means which ­were far from ethical. One notes that the white Southerner took his slave w ­ omen as concubines and then created an image of the male negro as a sex fiend. In the same way he appears to have taken the Mexican’s property and then made him out a thief. (1958, 20) During the same time period in South Texas history described by Paredes (1848–1928), William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb cata­logue the excessive vio­lence employed by Anglos against ­people of Mexican origin. One instance portrays a mob of Anglos burning Antonio Rodríguez, a twenty-­year-­old Mexican-­origin ranch hand, at the stake for allegedly killing the white wife of a ranch own­er: On November 3, 1910, a mob broke into the local jail where Rodríguez was awaiting trial for murder, smothered his body with oil, and burned him at the stake. According to local residents, “the action of the mob was justified as lives of the ranchers’ wives had been unsafe b­ ecause of the attempted ravages of Mexican settlers along the Rio Grande.” Newspaper reports, however, revealed that ­there was no evidence to connect Rodríguez with the crime. (2003, 428)16 Paredes would apply to this case his biting sense of irony, perhaps asking, how is it that white settlers can steal land held by border residents for Necrocitizenship Enacted


generations, rape their ­women, and then burn a Mexican American man at the stake without due pro­cess and yet see themselves as the upholders of law and order? We use Agamben ­here to interpret how, in this action, the norm of community safety and the protection of white w ­ omen lead to the suspension of l­egal pro­cesses and the normative creation of a state of exception where vio­lence acts without log­os yet the judicial system remains intact. The mob needs neither data nor proof to know that it is upholding the law by acting outside of it. This state of exception exists as a bundle of norms that justifies mob vio­lence. Note that law enforcement neither apprehended nor convicted members of the mob. The normative rationale for such vio­ lence thus rests on protecting white ­women through the ­legal framework of the law and the mob. Col­o­nel McCraw’s testimony at the Border Security Summit draws attention to w ­ omen’s insecurity and argues for increasing militarization, which ultimately includes placing paramilitary forces on the ground, gunships on the river, and drones and he­li­cop­ters in the sky. While Col­o­nel McCraw certainly does not advocate mob vio­lence, in his usage and invocation of spillover vio­lence, he plays on citizens’ fears to occlude challenge and increase support for funding his initiatives. Conclusion

For the director of the State of Texas’s Homeland Security, even though spillover vio­lence is invisible and unquantifiable, it can certainly be gendered and raced. Col­o­nel McCraw represents and embodies Texas’s paradigm on spillover vio­lence in his advocacy of a “get-­tough” policy as he outlines an approach that views any crime with direct or indirect links to Mexico—­not just cartels—as spillover vio­lence. In contrast, Chief Rodríguez argues that spillover inaccurately characterizes what is essentially a drug enforcement issue. For the police chief, spillover necessitates military action, but, as he states in his testimony, he would rather have twenty-­four more investigators than five hundred National Guard troops. In the national debate, many pundits and politicians would see this exchange about spillover in terms of ­those who ­favor a get-­tough policy on securing the border (McCraw) versus ­those who are soft and do not ­favor a militarized approach and most likely support open borders (Rodríguez). Among some commentators, as we w ­ ill see in chapter 5, this debate could be constructed racially as a disagreement between a white Texan with fbi experience and a Mexican border resident whose citizenship and allegiances are suspect. McCraw’s description of his 106

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views as the “Texas perspective” pushes in this racialized direction. Is Chief Rodríguez’s understanding of spillover not a Texas perspective? From an anthropological perspective, security intertwines with sovereignty, race, and sexuality in a ­couple of notable ways at ­these hearings. Security is primarily represented in terms of maintaining sovereignty in the face of anarchy and a failed state in Mexico. The “Texas perspective” traces and proj­ects the flow of this anarchy through transnational gangs who infiltrate local schools and recruit local schoolchildren. At the same time, cbp and the military do, in fact, scout and recruit local ­children at their schools (González 2010; Mendoza-­Denton 2008; Monforti and McGlynn 2010). The politics of sovereignty are, in effect, played out at local schools through recruitment into structured vio­lence—or state-­sanctioned vio­lence. Sexuality and gender, in terms of both security discourses and the composition of the House Security Committee, feature in border militarization, making security about protecting ­women and ­children (“our wives and ­daughters”) while si­mul­ta­neously casting the state as a paternal guardian or protector (of the ­women and ­children of Texas). The role of state policy in fomenting vio­lence remains unrecognized and depoliticized. US policy that relies on militarization generates social conditions that fuel border conflict. This is a point that Paredes makes in showing how Anglos, while stealing Mexican lands, transformed Mexicans into thieves and ­were believed. McCraw’s testimony does not recognize how US policy catalyzes and/or creates the conditions for bloodshed. McCraw’s anecdotes, hy­po­thet­i­cal situations, and stories draw attention away from the accountability of policy makers and law enforcement agents and t­oward an issue that saturates our surround: female vulnerability and sexuality.

Necrocitizenship Enacted



BLEEDING LIKE THE STATE The Open Veins of Latin Amer­i­ca


To some extent, the pushback from border politicians and residents at the 2010 border security hearings worked. In response to concerns about their inflammatory rhe­toric, Col­o­nel Tim McCraw and other state-­level law enforcement agents toned down their use of the word spillover. Two years ­later, on March 1, 2012, state representative Veronica Gonzáles once again chaired a security hearing in McAllen that brought together members of the House Border and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee and the House Public Safety Committee. This time the hearings ­were shorter and did not attract as many community members. Legislators narrowly defined the goals of ­these meetings, in contrast to the 2010 hearing, in terms of the development of command-­ and-­control structures and programs to increase surveillance capabilities along the US-­Mexico border.1 According to Representative Gonzáles, “this is about intelligence sharing and coordination that has been done among the vari­ous agencies. What ­we’re hoping to hear t­ oday is that we have gotten better at how we are coordinating among the agencies. It’s now happening in real time. We would still like to know what they need in order to do that better.”2 In 2010 state lawmakers and law enforcement officials publicly debated the concept of spillover vio­lence and the

Flow of Transnational Crime and Violence Murder Assasination Deadly Assaults Kidnapping Torture Extortion Corruption Robbery Human Smuggling Sex Trade

“Special Interest Allien” (SIA) Cartels/Criminal Gangs Cash Smuggling Drug Smuggling Marijuana Cocaine Methamphetamine Heroin MDMA Perscription Drugs

Cities reporting Mexican drug trafficking organizations Major Mexican trafficking and staging cities Flow of transnational gang crime & violence from Mexico into Texas and throughout the United States

Map 4.1  Graphic showing crime flowing from Latin Amer­i­ca through Texas into the rest of the United States. The graphic is from General Barry R. McCaffrey and Major General Robert H. Scales’s 2011 report, Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment. The arrows pointing northward are bright red in the original.

overall proj­ect of militarizing the border. By 2012, more like the discourses of development described by James Ferguson (1994), policy makers dwelled on command and control, transforming border securitization into a technical ­matter. While spillover was neither explic­itly mentioned nor contested, it did frame the hearings. Spillover was now prominently displayed in a graphic of Latin Amer­i­ca bleeding crime and corruption into the United States. This visual indicates that we are now beyond the need to define spillover or debate its applicability to the border. The graphic means that t­ here ­will be blood.3 Red Veins

Compared to the atmosphere of the previous hearing, suffused with pointed debate about policies and use of the phrase spillover vio­lence, this time Col­o­nel McCraw’s testimony remained uncontested. Vertical surveillance platforms—­ video cameras and geographic information systems (gis)—in fact starred at the hearings.4 As Col­on ­ el McCraw’s lengthy pre­sen­ta­tion unfolded, ­Power­Point–­style images ­were projected on a ­giant wall to his left. A slide that figured prominently throughout the pre­sen­ta­tion overflowed with red arrows. The red flow emanated from South Amer­i­ca through Mexico and crossed into the United States, seeping across rural areas into all of its major cities (image available from Smith 2011). McCraw displayed this graphic throughout his testimony. In the map, Texas serves as the main point of entry for illegal activities that range from assassination and corruption to trafficking of illegal and prescription drugs. A photo­graph of Col­on ­ el McCraw presenting, with this map projected onto a wall, appeared in the local paper (the Monitor 2012) and tele­vi­sion reports (krgv [abc] Channel 5 2012). ­These arrows showed the flow of drugs, h ­ uman trafficking, and vio­lence as they crossed into the United States in what one can consider an inadvertent allusion to the open veins of Latin Amer­i­ca—­which now bleed corruption, illegality, and death. Eduardo Galeano’s classic, Open Veins of Latin Amer­i­ca: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent ([1971] 1997), examines how Eu­rope and the United States extracted raw materials and products from Latin Amer­i­ca—­from silver and gold to copper, petroleum, sugar, and bananas. This extraction of primary products and minerals for use by developed countries did not generate wealth for Latin American workers but rather slavery, peonage, low wages, and totalitarian rule. Latin Amer­i­ca’s resources bled out to enrich companies in Eu­rope and the United States. 110

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­These open veins now represent flows of illegality, undocumented mi­ grants, terrorists, ­human traffickers, and drug smugglers. While McCraw labeled his red arrows with criminal activities, t­ here is another way of reading his diagram, more in line with Galeano’s arguments, if we shift the referent. The United States needs mi­grant ­labor from Latin Amer­i­ca, and such ­labor contributes to corporate profits (for example, in agriculture and ­ eople fleeing vio­lence and poverty. construction). This ­labor consists of p This ­labor makes difficult border crossings and suffers grave hardships, even death, in search of a job and a safe place to live. In many places, this ­labor is fleeing areas where wages are impossibly low and where poor ­people have neither state-­guaranteed rights nor protections—­conditions that Galeano describes in Open Veins. H ­ uman beings migrating through Latin Amer­i­ca to the United States are now bleeding as commodity mi­grants—as potential low-­ wage laborers; as inmates in detention centers; as sources of ransom money, revenues from prostitution, and profit from selling body parts (Vogt 2013). Such an understanding of commodity migration could lead us to a wider series of considerations. Perhaps, at the very least, we should not represent the movement of impoverished and frightened h ­ uman beings with alarming red arrows.5 Such a reconsideration of the spillover graphic, however, is well beyond the scope of ­these compartmentalized security hearings. As Latin American mi­grants “bleed” into the United States, local politicians and law enforcement are now seen as collaborators in creating command-­and-­control structures. At the hearings, police chiefs and border politicians l­ imited their questions to technical issues about the linking of video surveillance, global positioning systems, enhanced software systems, and, of course, funding for such border security initiatives. ­These initiatives include the construction of detention centers and the signing of contracts with private corporations to manage such centers. Refugees attempting to cross into the United States are now supporting another major industry—­border security. The Generals’ Report

It turns out that the map with the red arrows originated from a report written by retired Army General Barry R. McCaffrey and Major General Robert H. Scales.6 The report “offers a military perspective on how to best incorporate strategic, operational and tactical mea­sures to secure the increasingly hostile border regions along the Rio Grande River” (Staples 2011a). The report’s authors take as their starting point that South Texas is a war zone: Bleeding like the State


Living and conducting business in a Texas border county is tantamount to living in a war zone in which civil authorities, law enforcement agencies as well as citizens are ­under attack around the clock. The Rio Grande River offers l­ ittle solace to the echoes of gunshots and explosions. News of shootings, murders, kidnappings, beheadings, mass graves and other acts of vio­lence coming across the border go far beyond any definition of “spillover vio­lence.” (McCaffrey and Scales 2011, 10; emphasis added) What does it mean to “go far beyond any definition”? Is it irrelevant to define spillover? Has discussion ended? The Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas dps jointly commissioned the generals to write the report, which praises Texas’s proactive mea­sures for securing its borders through the use of military-­style command-­and-­control structures and tactics. One might won­der why the agricultural commissioner of Texas contracts the Generals’ private corporation, Colgen: Amer­i­ca’s Premier Landpower Advocate, to study international issues and border security. In his role as agricultural commissioner, Todd Staples is proactive in terms of publicizing the dangers that undocumented immigrants, terrorists, and drug smugglers pre­sent to Texan ranchers and farmers. The Texas Department of Agriculture, for example, sponsored a website, Protect Your Texas Border (Staples 2011a), that drew attention to just t­hese issues and included firsthand accounts from landowners. The website featured a newscast titled “Immigrants Force Rancher out of ­Cattle Business.” In that video, ranch owner Richard Garcia explained that ­after dhs constructed the border fence, mi­grants ­were crossing through his property in increasing numbers. The “vandalism” (a term used often by Staples) in this film seems l­imited to a broken chain on a fence. On Garcia’s property, the reporter draws the camera to signs of immigrant traffic as he holds up a muddied white teddy bear. Do such signs of toddlers crossing Garcia’s property raise a desire to bring in more troops, drones, and he­li­cop­ters, or instead humanitarian relief ? The Texas Department of Agriculture home page also featured the map with the red arrows of evil pouring from Latin Amer­i­ca into the United States. When one clicked the map, a PowerPoint popped up focused on the fbi’s “misinformation” on crime rates and Texas’s work in “filling the gap” left by the lack of federal intervention in border security. Staples has, at a variety of hearings, criticized the federal government for utilizing statistics to misrepresent crime rates.7 Staples did not, however, provide an alternative


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set of data. His overall message wass that one should trust neither the fbi’s dedication to upholding the law nor its statistics. As images, quotable discourse, and conversation about this report circulate, such as through Commissioner Staples’s website and Col­o­nel McCraw’s testimony, the generals’ report became an irrefutable piece of evidence. In his 2012 testimony in McAllen, Col­o­nel McCraw cited the generals’ report to bolster his arguments for increasing the militarization of the border. According to Staples (2011a), the generals’ military assessment “provides sobering evidence of cartel criminals gaining ground on Texas soil [emphasis added].” The end result is that proponents of border militarization cited each other as evidence to support their arguments. This circular evidence-­producing machine placed the generals’ advocacy for border militarization at its core. The objectivity of the generals’ report was beyond question, and their military solution, including command-­and-­control centers, became the only appropriate response. ­After the hearing, we chatted with Representative Gonzáles about the event’s quieter tone and highly specific focus on communication and surveillance technologies. Representative Gonzáles explained that she had asked law enforcement officials to ratchet down the spillover rhe­toric. She also mentioned that her committee was now charged with looking at intelligence sharing and communication issues among law enforcement agencies. As we ­were about to ask Representative Gonzáles a follow-up question, members of the grassroots organ­ization La Unión del Pueblo Entero who had testified on behalf of their constituents invited Representative Gonzáles to take a picture with them. ­After serving as the photographer and listening to Representative Gonzáles chant “Sí se puede” with the group’s members—­a testament to the wide support that Representative Gonzáles enjoys in South Texas—we talked with members of the American Civil Liberties Union who voiced consternation at what they had witnessed in the hearings. They explained that they had watered down the criticisms of state policy in their testimony ­because, ­after all, they had to be realistic about working in Texas. No one offered to criticize how the map with red arrows, bluntly representing threats from Latin Amer­i­ca, framed the hearings. When we spoke with Col­o­nel McCraw at the hearings, the surveillance machine was operating in high gear. He and other state officials reinforced the importance of creating a surveillance system for the entire US-­Mexico border, and South Texas in par­tic­u­lar, using technologies that link private industry, state agencies, and the public sphere.8 This network would not only allow for enhanced security but also provide data and command-­ Bleeding like the State


and-­control capabilities for responses to natu­ral disasters. We talked with McCraw about the costs of purchasing enhanced surveillance capabilities, to which McCraw replied that the application of gis technologies was relatively inexpensive. ­After we asked about the cost a second time, he responded, “Around $3 million.” While Col­o­nel McCraw hesitated to share financial numbers, the marketplace character of ­these hearings was apparent. We chatted with Brian Holsonbake, president of SkyLine Network Engineering (in Mary­land), who testified at the hearings about his com­pany’s ability to integrate real-­time surveillance with command-­and-­control centers in Texas. This technology links video surveillance cameras in police cars and cameras at ports of entry and along the Rio Grande and allows the person using the technology to view this video in real time, as the events unfold. We found it fascinating that a salesperson seeking the state of Texas as a client formally testified at the hearings, though, in hindsight, we prob­ably should not have been surprised. ­After the hearings, we drove to pick up our ­children from school while discussing the e­ arlier debate over the meaning of spillover vio­lence and the new focus on command and control. We concluded that the shift to command and control did not represent a shift from the model of spillover vio­lence and border militarization that had guided state policies. In fact, it placed local law enforcement at a disadvantage. No longer w ­ ere local law enforcement officials in a position to argue against the spillover approach and the militarization of border security since the technical issue of shared intelligence and communication now dominated the discussion. In the March 2012 hearing, for instance, the testimony of McAllen’s chief of police, Victor Rodríguez, focused on how his force would be able to collaborate with command-­and-­control systems. The state relegated local law enforcement officers to being a conduit of this integrated command-­and-­control apparatus. The assumptions of the generals’ report, based on the characterization of South Texas as a war zone, w ­ ere beyond the discursive and visual frame of the hearing. And, as we s­ hall see in the next chapter, congressional representatives from the borderlands who question the objectivity of such reports pay a heavy price. Latin Americans Bleed

As we continued to debrief in our m ­ inivan, we tried to visualize how command and control—­the integration of digital security-­scapes with military hardware—­would translate on the ground. Interagency cooperation was also 114

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a theme, and indeed such coordination is now a central aspect of border security efforts. Interagency cooperation references surveillance and governance structures in which all levels of law enforcement (the Department of Defense, the Drug Enforcement Administration, dhs, the Texas dps, sheriffs) combat vio­lence and illegality emerging from Latin Amer­i­ca. The state of Texas and dhs have, in fact, intensified their efforts to create a security net throughout South Texas. Through Operation Stonegarden, dhs provides funding to multiply the dps presence in the borderlands, covering travel and lodging expenses as well as overtime pay for game wardens, sheriffs, and police officers (US Department of Homeland Security 2009). A few months ­after the hearings, we learned that interagency cooperation has lethal effects. On Thursday, October 25, 2012, Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens chased a red pickup truck and called for assistance. A dps he­li­cop­ter, mounted with a sharpshooter, joined the pursuit and pelted the truck with bullets. The sharpshooter killed two Guatemalan mi­grants who w ­ ere lying in the truck’s bed. In total, nine Guatemalan mi­grants w ­ ere en route to New Jersey, where they had construction jobs. The seven surviving mi­grants contradicted initial dps reports that they ­were invisible to the sharpshooter, stating that the tarp covering them in the bed of the pickup had flown off in the course of the fourteen-­mile chase.9 In addition, dps claimed that the truck was only loaded with drugs. The truck was not transporting drugs as the game wardens and troopers assumed—­only ­people. Terri Burke, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, raised larger issues regarding the safety of the Texas public, asking, “Why is a state game warden involved in enforcement of federal immigration law? Why is a game warden in dangerous high-­speed pursuit of ­people who ­were suspected of nothing more than a civil offense? And where’s the ‘public safety’ when a trooper in a he­li­cop­ter opens fire on unarmed persons in a vehicle on a public road?” T ­ hese questions ­were never answered, and one is left to won­der why park rangers are militarized and ­doing the work of a traffic cop. According to their incident report, game wardens chased the pickup truck ­because it failed to use its blinker. Game wardens do not normally enforce traffic laws, especially in towns, so it is unclear why they attempted this traffic stop. We won­der why dps has a he­li­cop­ter mounted with a sharpshooter and, of course, why he shot twenty-­one bullets into the vehicle. The state of Texas conducted an investigation but did not release the findings to the public, so the answers to ­these questions may never be known. We have some thoughts pertaining to Texas’s Bleeding like the State


logic where shooting high-­caliber bullets into a passenger vehicle seems to be acceptable be­hav­ior. The killing reflects the increasingly militarized culture of dps, a shift that some agents have enthusiastically embraced. Six months before the dps sharpshooter killed two Guatemalan men Discovery Channel aired a documentary called Texas Drug Wars. In the 45-­minute broadcast, dps makes its vision for border policing clear. “­We’re not ­going to give up one square inch of this territory,” says Stacy Holland, captain of the dps aviation division. “­We’re using tactics and equipment that you w ­ ill see in war zones.” To demonstrate, a dps tactical officer, perched in a he­li­cop­ter with a ­rifle, aims at a suspected drug smuggler’s truck as it careens along a busy highway in South Texas. “If you ­don’t believe in border security, you ­will,” say a voice-­over, “­because it’s coming to a town near you.” (del Bosque 2015) Captain Holland, as it turns out, pi­loted the he­li­cop­ter involved in the shooting of the Guatemalan mi­grants. Six months before the murder, the captain thus called for “using tactics and equipment that you w ­ ill see in war zones,” and indeed dps had brought the war “to a town near” us. ­Because the high-­speed nature of the chase jeopardized public safety, dps agents viewed the shooting as necessary. We could not believe that a car chase on the edge of Hidalgo County demanded a response of such extreme force. The local newspaper, the Monitor, reported, “dps’ gutsy policy contradicts common practice for all other law enforcement agencies in the Rio Grande Valley, where deadly force may only be used if a peace officer believes death is imminent.” Four months ­later, ­after close review of the event, Col­o­nel McCraw stated, “I’m a firm believer they did exactly what they thought they needed to do” (Fox News 2013). Conclusion

­ hese murders, their contested interpretations, and the corpses themselves T reflect the real­ity of states of exception and its attachment to necropolitics, how death dominates con­temporary governance. Local police chiefs advocate for more restrictive uses of deadly force while state-­level agents foster the use of “tactics and equipment that you w ­ ill see in war zones.” The necessity for militarization, and the real­ity of spillover, is now beyond question and debate. Graphics of vio­lence, crime, and corruption bleeding into the United States prove that we are “beyond any definition of ‘spillover.’ ” And ­people who seek to escape poverty and vio­lence pool into flows of menacing 116

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illegality that are a threat to US sovereignty. State agents respond to this threat by tightening command-­and-­control structures and incorporating law enforcement, even game wardens, into the ­battle for the nation. Democracy, ­here, has been fenced in. The debate is no longer focused on larger issues, such as the efficaciousness of spillover, but compartmentalized into a military architecture (both literally and theoretically). Viewing citizenship through the lens of a deathscape is a crux where the US history of militarization of the US-­Mexico border region and global, xenophobic retrenchments articulate, collide, and are negotiated in daily life. Gonzáles’s and Rodríguez’s entanglement in just this necrocitizenship constitutes a manifestation of the imperial, the colonial, and capital. We pull a theory of governance by death in colonial Africa to the con­temporary US border to provoke a conversation about walls, sovereignty, citizenship, and democracy.10 A ­couple of questions to consider include, has necrocitizenship killed liberal citizenship? Are ­there gaps in necrocitizenship’s wall? The phrase “open veins of Latin Amer­i­ca” once described the bleeding of raw materials and commodities into the United States. Now, mi­grants flow through ­these veins, and ­because of border militarization, they continue bleeding.

Bleeding like the State




Generals ­under attack not by Al Qaeda but by members of Congress. —­greta van susteren (fox news: on the rec­o rd, 2011) Living and conducting business in a Texas border county is tantamount to living in a war zone in which civil authorities, law enforcement agencies as well as citizens are ­under attack around the clock. —­retired army general barry r. mccaffrey and major general robert h. scales, texas border security


The map of the open veins of Latin Amer­ic­ a bleeding vio­ lence, pain, and suffering into the United States is not ­limited to Col­o­nel Tim McCraw’s PowerPoint pre­sen­ta­tion at the McAllen Convention Center. You also can stop for a cup of coffee and some eggs at a local café and watch Fox News as it plays on the seemingly ubiquitous tv screens across the Rio Grande Valley’s eating establishments. As in the case of hearings, Fox News enables militarized discourses that construct the border region as a war zone that deprecate Mexican Americans, including ­those who support border securitization. One day when we ­were watching Fox, we caught another repre­sen­ta­tion of danger in our backyard as the conservative host Greta Van Susteren narrated her October 17, 2011 tele­ vi­sion program On the Rec­ord. With a sense of urgency, she said:

Two U.S. generals ­under attack not by Al Qaeda but by members of Congress. The generals are hired to assess the danger at the u.s.-­ mexico border. They w ­ ere called to Congress to report their findings. Two Texas congressmen apparently ­didn’t like the generals’ assessment of the scene down at the border, so the congressmen went to their Plan B and attacked the generals.1 A glimmer of hope? Perhaps a c­ ouple of US congressmen w ­ ere boldly criticizing calls for more border wall construction? We listened as Van Susteren apologized for the misbehavior of Congressmen Henry Cuéllar (D-­Texas) and Silvestre Reyes (D-­Texas): Major General Bob Scales joins us. And let me be the first to apologize. [They laugh together.] I’m ­really ashamed. I know you very well. I know General McCaffrey very well. You ­were called up to give information about your report, and I think it’s scandalous the way you ­were treated. General Scales responded: Yes. It was embarrassing. And what we wanted to do was to get our message across. We d ­ idn’t want to go through some verbal sparring contest with Congress. Unfortunately, that’s what it devolved into. We wanted to tell the tale about Mexican narco-­terrorists who have extended their reach into the United States, who have gang member infantrymen in 1,000 cities in this country, who are making somewhere between twenty-­eight billion and thirty-­six billion dollars off of this and are terrorist groups that are beginning to act less like criminals and more like insurgents, military insurgents. This is a very big prob­lem out ­there. General Scales’s and Van Susteren’s conversation about the congressional hearings exposes viewers to danger at the border, particularly the threat of Mexican vio­lence embedded in both the bodies of “narco-­terrorists” and members of Congress. On the tele­vi­sions in the valley, or any smartphone, laptop, computer, or iPad, almost anyone anywhere could have watched and rewatched On the Rec­ord’s accounting of the border security hearings. Van Susteren, General Scales, and the producers of On the Rec­ord created a meme (a piece of quotable material, extractable from one context into another) of a threat of Mexican vio­lence that constructs opposition to border

Necrocitizenship Kills


militarization as irrational and unpatriotic, and the opponents, ultimately, as persons who attack US sovereign authority. When vari­ous actors use this threat of vio­lence, opposition to border militarization is transformed. In Van Susteren’s, Fox News’, and the general’s construction of Mexican American citizens, the politics of necrocitizenship surfaces as the voices of ­those willing to die for the country dominate and as the Latinx body is disrespected and dismembered. ­After General Scales and Van Susteren laugh about pathetic and aggressive Mexican American congressmen, On the Rec­ord aired the following news clips, excerpted from the House Homeland Security hearings on border security:2

Clip I

general scales:  Not only have I done a Ph.D., I’ve done six books and about 300 scholarly articles. So I know a ­little bit about how to write. No, that’s not how we did it. congressman cuéllar:  Wait, Washington, D. C. is at twenty-­three. ­We’re ­here in Washington. ­Wouldn’t you call Washington, D. C. a war zone? Just a “yes” or “no.”

general mccaffrey:  The questions are never answered with “yes” or “no.”

congressman cuéllar:  I’m asking you just—

general mccaffrey:  I’m not g­ oing to answer a question with a “yes” or “no.” I think what ­we’re ­doing—

congressman cuéllar:  OK, thank you.

general mccaffrey:  We are talking to each other.


Clip II

congressman cuéllar:  I looked at your report. All I found was anecdotal evidence. I think if I would have done my dissertation or my report, I would have got an F. ­Don’t you think anybody that would render this as a Ph.D. would have gotten an F in the report?

Clip III

congressman cuéllar:  You ­were paid $80,000 as former military—­taxpayer dollars to make this report, is that correct?

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general scales:  We had five ­people work four months on this report. And I assure you.

congressman cuéllar:  Sir, general, with all due re­spect, general—

congressman mccall: ­Will the gentleman yield for a second. I do think ­these are respected generals and I believe we need to show re­spect and allow them to answer the question.

congressman cuéllar:  Let me ask my question again. ­Were you paid $80,000 yes or no?

general mccaffrey:  Let me ask you, are you suggesting that this report had po­liti­cal or monetary motivation? If you are, sir, that is a shameful comment.

congressman cuéllar:  Let me say.

general mccaffrey:  My dedication to this country was based on thirty-­two years of ser­vice.

congressman cuéllar: General—

For many viewers, this program was more of the same: vio­lence on the border, Mexican men killing and plundering. We tuned out and wondered: What just happened? What report? Why was On the Rec­ord’s coverage focused on the comportment of two Mexican American congressmen? To unpack ­these questions, we follow Fox’s own editing of ­these three clips and analyze a range of video techniques that portray militarization as the rational route in a chaotic and bloody field. The gore rendered by Fox’s violent splicing is on full display. Clip I

Viewers see and hear a disrespectful, uneducated Cuéllar railing against two generals who sit composed u ­ nder rhetorical fire. Fox achieves this effect by recontextualizing, via the editing pro­cess, statements, queries, and images. In the short introductory clip, the editors cut the ­middle out of Cuéllar’s question, which provided the substance of his criticism. ­Here is how Fox renders the exchange:

Necrocitizenship Kills


Clip I

congressman cuéllar:  I looked at your report. All I found was anecdotal evidence. I think if I would have done my dissertation or my report, I would have got an F. ­Don’t you think anybody that would render this as a Ph.D. would have gotten an F in the report? general scales:  Not only have I done Ph.D., I’ve done six books and about 300 scholarly articles. So I know a ­little bit about how to write. No, that’s not how we did it.

The average viewer cannot tell that Fox deleted segments of the exchange and then recombined them with soft fades.3 The full question at the ­actual hearings reads in this fashion (sections deleted in the Fox broadcast are given in italics and ­were transcribed by the authors from a C-­SPAN (2011) video of the hearing): Congressman cuéllar:  I looked at your report. All I found was anecdotal evidence. I think if I would have done my dissertation or my report, I would have got an “F.” If I would have put no citations, bibliography and ­we’ll talk about your bibliography in a few minutes, no footnotes ­don’t you think anybody that would have written this as a Ph.D. would have gotten an “F” in the report? Cuéllar’s provocative question has a context. B ­ ecause Fox eliminates Cuéllar’s utterances related to the bibliography, viewers have no understanding as to why the congressman believes that the generals’ report would have earned an F. In response to this question, Fox cuts to General Scales confidently pointing out, “Not only have I done Ph.D., I’ve done six books and about 300 scholarly articles. So I know a ­little bit about how to write.”4 Also excluded from On the Rec­ord is Cuéllar’s prefatory remark where he highlights common ground, that he is pro-­military and pro–­border security, and thanks the generals for their testimony. The excerpt below includes his full introduction on Capitol Hill: Thank you very much. First of all, I want to thank all the witnesses for being ­here. I do know that we all have the same goal and that is to protect our country. We are all in agreement. Certainly, I want to thank my good friend Todd Staples. We go back since the state legislature, and


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I appreciate all the work that ­you’ve done and the Generals and every­ body. And, I want to make sure that my friend Michael McCall understands that I just have some questions. We are all on the same page, but I just have some questions. And, again no disregard to our military folks, but I just want to ask some questions. Being from the border, I have three b­ rothers who are peace officers: one is a border sheriff; one was a dps Narcotics Intelligence Officer for twenty-­seven years. I’ve got two other peace officers t­here. My f­amily lives ­there. My two kids live ­there. I lived ­there all my life. I was Governor Perry’s Secretary of State so I understand both the border and the Mexican side. . . . ​I used to be the Chairman of the Bud­get for dps and the Texas Rangers. So I understand all of that. So I just wanted to give you this as a background. Starting the Fox report with that quote would have keyed an entirely dif­fer­ ent attitude ­toward Congressman Cuéllar. Cuéllar is by no means a liberal Demo­crat. He, for example, affiliates himself with the Blue Dog Demo­crats, a group of conservative Demo­cratic legislators. In addition, Texas’s Republican governor Rick Perry appointed Cuéllar as Texas’s secretary of state, and Cuéllar accepted the appointment. During the 2010 election season, politicos speculated as to w ­ hether or not Cuéllar would flip and run as a Republican (like Edinburg state congressman Aaron Peña). Fi­nally, Cuéllar supported militarization mea­sures along the border similar to t­ hose proposed in the generals’ report, including drones. ­These facts are what makes the Fox broadcast acutely puzzling. They misrepresent not only the Texas-­Mexico border region in hearings on spillover vio­lence but also the character and po­liti­cal ideology of a congressman who advocates for border security. The metamessage is “We cannot trust ­people from the border, and we must more heavi­ly militarize in spite of their knowledge of the area.” This metamessage is not hy­po­thet­i­cal. Viewers on Fox’s website wrote that Cuéllar showed shameful disrespect for the generals, called him a “dumbshit,” and accused him of working for the Mexican drug cartels.5 Van Susteren’s program was posted on YouTube, where respondents called for p ­ eople to “light his [Cuéllar’s] ass up” and labeled Cuéllar an “anti-­American hispanic.”6 Another viewer, DownSouthFishermen, stated: ­ eally? Comparing the Mexican border with a War Zone was wring [sic]? R I acknowledge ­you’re an idiot, so I’ll try and write in “easy to understand” Necrocitizenship Kills


language. We have millions of Illegal Aliens pouring over the border with Mexico. In ­those millions are drug cartels and terrorists from other countries bringing weapons and materials with them for one reason: Kill Americans. We have Border Patrol Agents killed often as well. And this ­doesn’t seem like a “War Zone” to you?7 The Fox broadcast does, therefore, succeed in working with long-­held cultural assumptions about Mexicans and Mexican Amer­i­cas and then inciting a cyber mob. Clip II

In this clip, Fox News jettisons Cuéllar’s main line of questioning about the generals’ assertion that “citizens are ­under attack around the clock” in ­favor of one that features him in a testy engagement about Washington, DC, as a war zone. Cuéllar’s question (“­Wouldn’t you call Washington, D. C. a war zone?”) comes out of nowhere in the Fox broadcast. In the a­ ctual congressional hearings, Cuéllar asked the question approximately three minutes and thirty seconds before Clip I. Disconnected from the previous line of conversation, the Fox clip reinforces Cuéllar’s lack of etiquette. ­Here is the transcript:

Clip II

congressman cuéllar:  Wait, Washington, D. C. is at twenty-­three. ­We’re ­here in Washington. ­Wouldn’t you call Washington, D. C. a war zone? Just a “yes” or “no.”

general mccaffrey:  The questions are never answered with “yes” or “no.”

congressman cuéllar:  I’m asking you just—

general mccaffrey:  I’m not g­ oing to answer a question with a “yes” or “no.” I think what ­we’re ­doing—

congressman cuéllar:  OK, thank you.

general mccaffrey:  We are talking to each other.

In the first line, the number twenty-­three abruptly pops up without the larger context of the conversation. In the congressional hearings, Cuéllar asks, “­Wouldn’t you call Washington, D. C. a war zone?” as part of a series of questions that he poses to 124

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both generals about their ­handling of statistics in their report. Congressman Cuéllar introduces a chart that highlights that border towns’ crime rate is lower than t­ hose of cities across the United States located far from the border. For example, the murder rate in El Paso (a border town) is 1.9 per 100,000 residents, while that in New Orleans is 51.7. Fox starts where Cuéllar asks the general about the DC hom­i­cide rate of 23 per 100,000 residents. Cuéllar then asks if we should also label all cities with high hom­ i­cide rates as war zones. The way that Cuéllar contextualizes his question about hom­ic­ ide rates, and his larger point that South Texas is not a war zone, goes unmentioned in the clip. ­Here is the exchange, with the sections deleted by Fox in italics (transcription by the authors from C-­SPAN 2011): congressman cuéllar:  Two ­things that you all said in the report that ­really upsets a lot of us that live in the border cause you make it sound like ­there is [sic] no nice ­people living at the border. ­ oing business in the [Points thumb up] One was your quote . . . ​“D border and a border county is like ­doing business in a war zone.” . . . ​Number two, the citizens on the U.S. border, Texas side, are “­under constant attack.” I think, it was “24 hours a day.” ­Those are the two points . . . ​that I’m ­really focusing on. Let me . . . ​ask you this: if you look at the chart over ­there . . . ​and you see certain ­things . . . ​you have El Paso, Brownsville all of that, then you have, Houston, Dallas. Longview, actually, has the highest on 14.2. And, I think the highest one in the nation is Gary, Indiana and New Orleans at 51, almost 51 murders per 100,000. So would you, and by the way Washington DC is at 23. We are ­here at Washington. Would you call Washington DC a war zone? general mccaffrey:  The questions are never answered with “yes” or “no.” Congressman cuéllar:  I’m asking you just— general mccaffrey:  I’m not ­going to answer a question with a “yes” or “no.” I think what ­we’re ­doing— general mccaffrey:  I’m not gonna answer a question with a yes or no, I think what we are ­doing, we are talking in general, the murder rate in El Paso, does not take into account the fifty murder [sic] Mexican nationals on that county that Dr. Vickers takes into account. If you want to use the word war zone you have to go to that rural community. El Paso is a beautiful

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vibrant place where the hospital is so fearful that they want their own police force guarding against Mexicans criminals coming in to get wounded cartel members. Congressman cuéllar:  General thank you uhm, the other general is Washington DC a war zone? general scales:  No. congressman cuéllar:  Ok but looking at ­those numbers you all came out with the conclusion that Laredo, El Paso, Uhm McAllen all t­ hose areas are a war zone, is that correct? general scales:  No, is not what we [interrupted] congressman cuéllar:  OK, thank you. The Fox report begins with “Washington, DC.” The viewers of the Fox program are, therefore, not privy to Cuéllar’s rationale for asking this question. Fox excludes General McCaffrey’s response, which recognizes that border cities are indeed safe and contradicts his report. Fox does not report General Scales’s response to the question, a s­ imple “no.” General Scales’s answer might lead viewers to question the characterization of the border as a war zone and the applicability of a military strategy in places that the generals themselves deem safe. The viewer might take Congressman Cuéllar’s questions seriously. The chart that Congressman Cuéllar uses to compare hom­ic­ ide rates is shown for three seconds at the end of the Fox video clip. The Fox viewer would not know that this chart refers to the previous discussion of hom­ i­cide rates. Professionals in the film-­editing and public-­speaking business would most likely tell you that holding a chart for three seconds is an insufficient amount of time for viewer comprehension. In fact, the mainly white chart, filmed at an awkward ­angle, becomes, to the viewer, part of the editing transition—­a fade into and out of a flash—­with this almost illegible white chart popping up while the audio of Cuéllar drones. At the a­ ctual hearings, General McCaffrey concedes that border cities are safe and declares that rural regions are war zones based on the “fifty murdered” mi­grants mentioned in the expert testimony of Dr. Michael Vickers. Vickers’s claim to expertise is that he is “a rancher and veterinarian from the city of Falfurrias in Brooks County, Texas.”8 Vickers is not a sociologist, does not hold advanced degrees in criminal justice, and is not a professional in law enforcement. Before the generals’ appearance, at the same congressional hearings, Vickers’s testimony vividly portrays what he


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calls “criminal hom­i­cides”: “Most unsettling are the dead bodies showing up on the ranches. Fifty-­one illegal aliens’ deaths have occurred so far this year with another thirty-­one reported still missing and nearly five hundred deaths since October 2004. Some are murdered but at least all are criminal hom­i­cides” (emphasis added). Both generals repeat Vickers’s testimony as proof that rural South Texas is a war zone, and Vickers distorts the ­causes of death. The majority of mi­grant deaths in rural areas stem from exhaustion and dehydration: they are not caused by “narco-­terrorists” killing p ­ eople. The US Government Accountability Office (2006), nongovernmental humanitarian organ­izations (No More Deaths n.d.), journalists (Nelsen 2013; del Bosque 2016; Fernández 2017), police research groups (Police Executive Research Forum 2016), geographers (Jones 2017; Nevins 2013), and anthropologists (J. De León 2015; Rosas 2006, 2012) recognize that ­these deaths are a result of federal policy, more specifically dhs’s strategy of deterrence. By placing heavy resources in urban areas, dhs funnels mi­grants into the most deadly border-­crossing areas—in the case of the Texas border, that is Brooks County in rural South Texas—­where Vickers resides.9 Humanitarian organ­izations attempt to leave w ­ ater for mi­grants, so that they w ­ ill not die in remote areas, and the Border Patrol obstructs t­ hese efforts by emptying ­water jugs and even arresting activists. Neither Vickers nor the generals acknowledge the role of dhs’s strategy of deterrence in producing mi­grant deaths. The generals are impressed by Vickers’s testimony. Vickers dwells on dismembered Latinx bodies in his testimony—­his wife finds the head of a mi­grant ­woman; mi­grant corpses are mutilated, and limbs detached: One day when my wife came home she noticed the dogs playing with a round object in the yard. It was a w ­ oman’s skull. Her body was found about 150 yards from our back door. She had a fractured tibia. She ­didn’t walk out ­there with a broken leg. We suspect rape and murder. Other dead ­women ­were found on my south fence and my neighbor’s ranch during that same period. Last year three female skele­tons ­were found on an adjacent ranch southeast of my home. Vickers deploys the putrefaction surrounding the decomposed female bodies as proof of murder and vio­lence that justifies war. ­These white men lay bare the macabre spectacle of dogs toying with the remains of Latinxs in order to expand the scope of border vio­lence and punctuate the urgency of aggressive Necrocitizenship Kills


action. The Latinx corpse attests to the brutality and savagery of Latinxs and the righ­teousness of the generals’ call for drones, sensors, troops, and surveillance.10 In the face of this dramatic testimony, Congressman Cuéllar’s use of statistics seems boring, ce­re­bral, and inconsequential, at least ­until Fox transforms Cuéllar into another example of an expendable Latinx. Clip III

By this point in the ­actual hearings, the generals and the congressman all appear frustrated. On the Rec­ord, however, created and aired a clip that spotlights Cuéllar’s ire and “shameful” be­hav­ior while obscuring that of the generals.11 Fox’s overall editing of this transition makes it appear that Cuéllar is simply interested in money, that is, w ­ hether money is the motivating ­factor ­behind the generals and their corporation authoring the report. Fox reinforces this repre­sen­ta­tion of Cuéllar as focused on moneygrubbing through their ­running tag­lines, “demo­crat cuéllar questions the $80k generals ­were paid for report” and “general scales defends $80k payday for 4 months work by 5 ­people.” From Fox’s reporting, a viewer could reasonably assume that the hearings revolved around their fee, which was not the case. In fact, at the hearings Cuéllar initiates a line of inquiry about the quality of the report itself, even though the government (the state of Texas) funded the research.


Clip III

congressman cuéllar:  You ­were paid $80,000 as former military—­taxpayer dollars to make this report, is that correct?

general scales:  We had five ­people work four months on this report. And I assure you.

congressman cuéllar:  Sir, general, with all due re­spect, general—

congressman mccall: ­Will the gentleman yield for a second. I do think ­these are respected generals and I believe we need to show re­spect and allow them to answer the question.

congressman cuéllar:  Let me ask my question again. ­Were you paid $80,000 yes or no?

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general mccaffrey:  Let me ask you, are you suggesting that this report had po­liti­cal or monetary motivation? If you are, sir, that is a shameful comment.

congressman cuéllar:  Let me say.

general mccaffrey:  My dedication to this country was based on thirty-­two years of ser­vice.

congressman cuéllar: General—

The clip concludes before viewers see Cuéllar agree with General Scales and quote him, “Let’s cut through the politics.” In response, General McCaffrey declines the overture and expresses his indignation at Cuéllar: “Please do not turn this into an ad hominem attack on my motivations for this study. You, sir, should not raise that point.” L ­ ater General McCaffrey reiterates his outrage: “You are asking a provocative question that I cannot accept.” This exchange, not shown in the Fox News report, demonstrates the tension mounting between the congressman and the generals over what questions are permissible. Had Fox News chosen to air this part of the testimony, where the generals reject Cuéllar’s reconciliatory gesture, viewers might have interpreted their interaction differently. Perhaps Cuéllar would appear more civil and the generals emotional and irrational? Fox’s pre­sen­ta­tion of Cuéllar works through long-­standing cultural assumptions about Mexican Americans, presenting them as undeserving of re­spect. They achieve a role reversal: with crafty editing Fox transforms Cuéllar from an elected US congressman whose job is to ask questions at formal hearings into an individual acting outside acceptable modes of discourse. Concluding with General McCaffrey avowing his lifetime of military ser­vice, the program makes this inversion commonsensical. This focus on the generals’ military ser­vice occurs throughout the broadcast. In his interview with Van Susteren, General Scales notes that combined he and General McCaffrey have served eighty years in the military, commenting, “We’ve both been shot at many times.” Van Susteren responds by turning Cuéllar into the shooter: “Usually you expect the ­enemy though.” In many areas of our society, equating a US congressman with a foreign threat might be interpreted as bombastic and unpatriotic. In Fox’s On the Rec­ord,

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however, it becomes part of an amicable chat about the mercurial Congressman Cuéllar. Van Susteren and the generals vaunt their knowledge of the “situation on the border,” and Van Susteren summarizes: We have been down t­ here. I was warned when I was down t­ here over in South Texas. And, you know, I d ­ on’t know how much is exaggerated by what p ­ eople tell us. But it’s hard not to believe it is a serious prob­ lem with an open border, a known civil war ­going on down ­there, the latest Iran terrorism t­hing we heard about last week. T ­ here is something t­ here. I ­don’t know the magnitude, but to show the disrespect of two p ­ eople who had gone down ­there and studied with ­others is just extraordinary. Van Susteren’s jaunt provides sufficient knowledge for her to publicize a “known civil war g­ oing on down t­ here” at the “open border.” Van Susteren’s open-­border meme repeats Thomas Tancredo’s words discussed in chapter 1 and ratchets up the rhe­toric with her outrageous claim that our field site is in the midst of a civil war. The generals’ intelligence is reliable as well, Van Susteren relates, ­because they have “gone down ­there and studied with ­others.” Notice Van Susteren’s seamless movement between excursions to the borderlands and re­spect, “to show the disrespect of two p ­ eople who had gone down ­there and studied with ­others is just extraordinary.” From this perspective, knowledge derived from Mexican American residents of the borderlands seems inconsequential, including two elected congressmen born and raised in the Texas-­Mexican borderlands. In fact, Van Susteren implies that Cuéllar’s rudeness stems from his ignorance of the situation. In the face of her impressions as well as the generals’ research, Congressman Cuéllar’s credentials appear trivial even though he assiduously highlights them. In the words of the long-­standing racist script, he’s “just another dumb Mexican” (see Paredes 1995). The blunt and brutal nature of the coverage leaves ­little space for alternative interpretations. Does YouTube Redeem?

Perhaps anticipating fallout from the hearings, Congressman Cuéllar’s office posted a video on YouTube almost immediately ­after the hearings.12 On YouTube, Cuéllar paints himself as raising reasonable questions and the generals as men who exalted themselves above such queries. In the end, Cuéllar notes that it is his job to defend the border against such “attacks”: 130

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I just asked them very ­simple questions. They got a ­little excited. I asked them what evidence they had. How are they coming up saying that this area, let’s say Hidalgo County, is . . . ​as dangerous as a war zone? I asked them a question: would you consider Washington, DC, a war zone? And they said, “We cannot answer that question.” One of them said, “No.” And I said, “Well, the crime rate in Washington, DC, is like ten times more than what it is in Hidalgo County or in Brownsville, but then why are you calling Hidalgo and the other areas a war zone, but not Washington, DC?” All I was d ­ oing was asking very ­simple questions. I want to know the facts. How did you come up with this report? They sure did not want to be asked any questions on it. I think that if anyone is g­ oing to attack the border I am ­going to be the first one. I do not care who is on the other side. I ­will defend the border. Following this statement, Cuéllar vocalizes his support for cbp and repeats himself in Spanish, stressing that he is speaking about the US side of the border.13 YouTube viewers missed Cuéllar’s message that border security is impor­tant and South Texas is not a war zone. They treat Cuéllar as if he is not entitled to be a US citizen: he does not have the right to question the generals, and Cuéllar is more interested in helping ­those “on the other side of the border.” One such responder, with the ­handle rgarcia77, stated, “This was a disgusting display of disrespect to men who have served this country honorably and who only want what is best for this country. Protecting our borders s­ houldn’t be a partisan issue. We should be more concerned with our security instead of looking out for the interests of t­ hose on the other side of the border. Shouting and acting like a baffoon [sic] isn’t impressive.”14 While Cuéllar affirms his support for border security and notes that he has three ­brothers in law enforcement, his allegiance to the United States remains suspect. To us, it seems as though the border as a war zone gushing violent men has become part of racism’s topography on the national stage. We watch in awe as Cuéllar’s attempt to question the border-­as-­war-­zone meme is turned against him. This meme is codified, a fact elevated beyond question. The act of questioning itself is transformed into an issue of rationality, re­spect, and patriotism. How can Mexican Americans from South Texas refute this talk? And, more generally, how can democracy thrive in such a context?

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The hearings reveal a hierarchy of necrocitizenship. Throughout the a­ ctual hearings, committee members praise the patriotism of the generals, and the generals themselves reassert their willingness to die for the nation (they have “been shot at many times”). The generals’ concern for the nation rises above monetary and po­liti­cal concerns. In contrast, Cuéllar’s vari­ous claims to support border security, his comments that members of his ­family are involved in law enforcement, and his references to his own years of work in Congress do not equate to the combined eighty years of military ser­vice of the generals. Fox and YouTube viewers, despite all evidence to the contrary, claim that the congressman is ignorant and beholden to the Mexican drug cartels. Cuéllar, to restate in terms of necrocitizenship, is denationalized even though he reenacts his and his f­ amily’s ser­vice to the nation. This construction of necrocitizenship operates on two axes. On the first, ­there is a partisan ele­ment to Fox’s reporting since both Congressman Cuéllar and Congressman Reyes, the other congressman who questioned the generals, are Demo­ crats. In this sense, categorizing their politics as being soft on defense and security is a typical partisan ploy between Republicans and Demo­crats. On the second axis is the politics of race, place, and gender—­both Cuéllar and Reyes are Latinx men from the border. ­These national hearings and Fox’s coverage enact, once again, the marginalization of their voices as professionals who are committed to the nation-­state’s security. Latinxs have no voice and surface as mutilated corpses who are rhetorically exhumed to articulate an irrefutable truth—­South Texas is a war zone. The construction of the border as a war zone continuously predicates itself on the heightening of an exterior threat, Mexican men, and the production of an interior one, founded on racism against Mexican Americans. Van Susteren distills this racism in her introductory remarks: “two Texas congressmen . . . ​attacked the generals.” The other assailant is Congressman Silvestre Reyes of Texas, who had been the first Hispanic sector chief in Border Patrol history and was the architect of Operation Hold the Line. Reyes, in fact, designed the current strategy of funneling mi­grants to rural areas where Border Patrol agents can apprehend them more easily. Reyes is by no means antimilitary: the Association of the United States Army granted Reyes, a Vietnam War veteran, the Outstanding Legislator Award. Nowhere during On the Rec­ord did Van Susteren or General Scales mention Congress-


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man Reyes by name, nor did they reference his commentary at the hearings themselves, which included numerous invitations to visit the border and learn more about it firsthand. In the hearings, Congressman Reyes comes across as avuncular. He neither touts his credentials nor directly challenges the generals’ report. Rather, he extends to the generals Texas hospitality and offers to show them around so that they can learn what the border region is ­really like. Given Congressman Reyes’s support for the Border Patrol and security, it is indeed remarkable that Van Susteren and Scales criticize him for daring to question the generals’ report. One can only marvel at this extraordinary turn of events where one of the authors of the current Border Patrol strategy of deterrence, a Vietnam veteran and Border Patrol sector chief, is equated with Al-­Qaeda. More perfidious, perhaps, is their constant drive to represent the citizenship of border residents as suspect and their views as unreasonable and ignorant while insisting that border residents live in a war zone. Manifest ­here is a clear lack of re­spect for Mexican American congressmen and the ­people they represent. Buried beneath ­these constructions of necrocitizenship are Latinx mi­ grants whose deaths fuel arguments for increased militarization. U ­ nder pressure to explain why South Texas is a war zone, the generals deliver mi­grant corpses and Latinx congressmen. The reasons for ­these deaths—­including their links to dhs’s strategy of deterrence and to wider issues related to imperialism, poverty, and vio­lence—­are not mentioned. Dead from exposure and dehydration, dismembered by animals and the ele­ments, Latinx bodies rationalize additional vio­lence and cast Mexican Americans from the nation. Necrocitizenship kills.

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A nation WITHOUT BORDERS is not a nation at all. —­donald trump, tweet, july 28, 2015 1,950-­mile-­long open wound dividing a pueblo, a culture ­running down the length of my body, staking fence rods in my flesh, splits me  splits me me raja  me raja —­gloria anzaldúa, la frontera/borderlands


Border walls not only bar unwanted mi­grants but also diminish the rights of US citizens. The US public’s ravenous ­appetite for border walls raises issues that are critical for under­ standing the ­future of citizenship and democracy within the United States. The US government through dhs waived thirty-­seven laws in order to erect the border wall, stripping US citizens of their l­egal rights and denying environmental groups, ­human rights organ­izations, and Native American leaders the opportunity to challenge its construction. Walls, as part of larger proj­ects of militarization, transform the southern border into a zone of exclusion where death is normalized, with over six thousand mi­grants ­dying from exposure and dehydration since 1998. Diminishing rights and mi­grant deaths both stem from sovereign practices associated with necropower. To have citizenship is, ostensibly, to have rights and life. To be a noncitizen, a person without rights, is to be exportable, disposable, and killable. Necrocitizenship describes the condition of citizenship u ­ nder necropower. In devising the concept of necrocitizen, we neither reduce citizenship to

existing without rights nor dwell on the centrality of rights to ensure life. Rather, we draw attention to how the state manufactures populations as being si­mul­ta­neously outside of and within rights, constructed as noncitizens while being citizens, and offered the spectral possibility of full citizenship through death. We have explored the manufacture of necrocitizenship in a variety of contexts, including state policies that transform the border region into a war zone and the politics of rajando through which the border wall slashes and divides communities. The word raja encompasses how borders not only divide but also scar and wound both the landscape and ­people. Raja theorizes how the border wall cuts through the in-­between spaces of border culture while mapping this tearing onto border residents’ subjectivities and bodies. In this book, we examine necrocitizenship as an abstract status and show, through fine-­grained ethnographic analy­sis, its manifestations in every­ day life, including, ironically enough, in re­sis­tance to militarization itself. Mexican American residents push back against border militarization at festivals and ­music events while making citizenship claims based on military ser­vice. Necrocitizenship also emerges in Mexican American border politicians’ attempt to blunt border militarization. Through our analy­sis of po­liti­ cal hearings, we outline the politics of necrocitizenship as it courses through the dichotomies of race, class, and sex to marginalize Mexican American politicians: justifying militarization in terms of protecting white ­women from dark-­skinned men. Fi­nally, we focus on politicians and the national media, who exploit the dehydrated and dismembered Latinx body in order to propel militarization. The logic of necrocitizenship transforms the Latinx body into a corporeal commodity that benefits broader state-­driven neoliberal agendas—­the military industrial complex, cheap ­labor, surveillance technologies. Donald Trump’s 2015 tweet quoted above reminds us that many US citizens believe that the survival of the state is reliant on walls that purport to seal borders. Globalization has shaken the Westphalian model of sovereignty (one nation, one p ­ eople) by fostering multinational po­liti­cal and economic structures that render the nation-­state obsolete. The 1648 treaty of Westphalia, which ended Eu­rope’s Thirty Years’ War, established the princi­ples for enacting sovereignty as state control over a territory both as a political-­ administrative unit and as the bound­aries of a nation: a ­people with a shared culture, language, and history. With colonial expansion, that ideal of the nation-­state informed how Eu­ro­pean powers drew national bound­aries and 136


administered conquered territories. The Westphalian model became global in scope, and the consolidation of a national identity, or nationalism, became central to modern state formation. While rattled by globalization and its attendant mobilities, this seemingly outmoded ideal of a bounded territory with one ­people and culture continues to resonate with publics and circulates at the highest echelons of po­liti­cal discourse. That model of encasement dominates po­liti­cal landscapes across the world, even as social scientists note that transnational flows of capital, ­people, and cultures have weakened and transformed nation-­state sovereignty. The global popularity of border wall construction that started in the 1990s exemplifies the turbulence surrounding the Westphalian ideal. The promise of a world without walls following the fall of the Berlin Wall clashed with the real­ity of nation-­states as they hardened and reconstituted their borders, building seventy walls since 1989. While ­those walls ­were erected in the name of security, an assemblage of discourses about maintaining the cultural integrity of the nation surrounded their construction. Such rebordering raises questions about sovereign power and citizenship in the twenty-­ first ­century. Are border walls a symptom of weakened sovereignty? Are they a symbolic and misguided attempt to reassert state power in the face of globalization? Or are they indicators of transformations in sovereign regimes that consolidate global inequalities and diminish the rights of their very own citizens? It is not a coincidence that anthropological theorization of citizenship erupted in the 1990s as ethnographers observed just t­ hose pressures on Westphalian sovereignty percolating on the ground. Citizenship became a hermeneutic for anthropologists to explain how social actors articulated cultural difference within and outside the framework of the nation-­state. ­After 9/11, with the start of the global war on terror, states more energetically constrained citizens’ rights, demarcated citizens from noncitizens, and attacked venues for social protest. States identified nonstate actors as a new threat to the global order: they included a jumbled array of ­people—­nonenemy combatants, refugees, smugglers, terrorists, and undocumented immigrants, mostly marked as dark-­skinned men. Anthropologists shifted the central referent of citizenship from culture (Rosaldo 1994) to the relationship between the subject and the state (Green­house 2011). Pioneering work by Gilberto Rosas (2012) demonstrated how citizens and noncitizens are caught in webs of vio­ lence that result from fortifying borders, transforming border agents into petty sovereigns with power over life and death. Conclusion


Reflecting life on the ground, thinking about citizenship has been reduced from questions of rights to basic biological survival. Neoliberal policies that deregulated economies and commoditized social relations have decoupled basic h ­ uman rights from citizenship with an intense focus on demarcating citizen and noncitizen. The consequence of ­these policies is death not only on the US-­Mexico border but globally, with over twenty-­two thousand mi­grants ­dying while attempting to enter Eu­rope from 1990 to 2018. Adriana Petryna and Karolina Follis (2015) offer the concept of “fault lines of survival” to highlight the culturally and historically contingent nature of citizenship as well as the way it is a terrain for life and death. Such stakes are evident, as Petryna and Follis describe, in state policies t­ oward mi­grants whose vessels have capsized in the Mediterranean Sea. In some instances, states have deported the mi­grants who survive while granting posthumous “ghost citizenship” to t­hose who drown in the passage. Death bequeaths citizenship, and life a lack of ­human rights—­a clear example of necrocitizenship at work. Mi­grant deaths, border militarization, the security state, and diminishing rights signify that citizenship is unstable and its bound­aries are constricting. Enjoying the protections and guarantees of state-­granted rights and duties is increasingly a luxury. One can lead one’s entire life without ever being a full citizen, even when one is a l­egal citizen. One can grow up in a tourist town, such as Antigua, Guatemala, where police and military forces take the protection of tourists and not the local population to be their main task (­Little 2014). One could work in a Guatemalan maquila (assembly factory) where neither the state nor multinational corporations enforce workers’ legally mandated rights (Goldin and Dowdall 2015).1 One can suffer threats and vio­lence from drug traffickers and gangs without having l­egal recourse or police protection. One might migrate through Mexico, risking death, rape, and injury to reach the United States. And to avoid walls, checkpoints, and fortifications, one might walk through remote desert areas in the United States, where many perish from dehydration. One might seek asylum even though the l­egal environment is hostile to such a claim or quietly live in the shadows, attempting to avoid deportation. For citizens without rights and noncitizens alike, sovereign power expresses itself not as guaranteeing rights but as determining who ­shall live and who ­shall die. And as the power of the security state intensifies, this distinction between citizens without rights and noncitizens is collapsing. The Westphalian ideal of sovereignty is listing, new sovereign formations are erupting, and the life rafts of citizenship are literally and figura138


tively scattering in the waves. Anthropologists, geographers, and sociologists have entered t­ hese ­waters by traveling with mi­grants, living in border regions, working with members of minoritized communities, and advocating for the rights of marginalized populations. In their explorations of the politics and meanings of belonging, social scientists have both referenced the theoretical turbulence around sovereign practices associated with citizenship and traced their circulation in everyday life. Now more than ever ethnographic research is needed for the study of citizenship, both to illuminate the particulars of how social actors navigate the treacherous ­waters of national belonging and to rescue citizenship from the rocky shoals of state policies aimed at exclusion, death, and the diminution of rights. Our focus on necrocitizenship does just that. On the US-­Mexico border, activists and politicians have challenged the national drive to construct walls, intensify militarization, and transform the region into a war zone. They inveigh against their diminishing rights in the face of the real id Act and other mea­sures that have transformed the region, from the Rio Grande to checkpoints seventy-­five miles north, into a zone of surveillance and policing. They reassert their citizenship and belonging to the nation, both ritually and strategically, by participating in festivals, wearing patriotic clothing, and calling attention to their military ser­vice. They emphasize rational approaches to policy making and clear-­ headed understandings of border security, and they even express concern for what is happening in Mexico. T ­ hese efforts, however, are trumped by racist policies and discourses, states of exception and exercises of necropower, maps of Latin Amer­i­ca bleeding into the United States, and evocations of dismembered Latinx bodies. Such is the absurdity of necrocitizenship— a pernicious exercise of power that has to end.



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Veronica Gonzáles, Reynaldo Anzaldúa, Chief of Police Victor Rodríguez, and Congressman Henry Cuéllar still live and work in the Rio Grande Valley. Over the years of our work on militarization and the wall, we have watched Gonzáles be reelected and ­later retire from her post to take a position at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Anzaldúa still loves conjunto and, with his wife, sells goods at the farmer’s market. Health issues and surgery have slowed him down but not ­stopped him. Chief Rodríguez hosts press conferences as he is trying to work through Donald Trump’s policies for border security. Congressman Cuéllar continues to take increasingly conservative policy stances, such as suspending due pro­cess for child mi­grants, while criticizing border militarization. Recently elected US Congressmen Filemon Vela and Vicente González have taken up the mantle of border wall protest, posing for and posting “bridges not walls” billboards across the Rio Grande Valley. For us, the borderlands remain that enigmatic and contradictory place that Américo Paredes and Gloria Anzaldúa so aptly theorize and portray in their works. We created the concept of necrocitizenship to draw attention to the ways in which outsiders—­state policy makers and the national media—­create the borderlands as a deathscape. We desire to intervene and also focus your attention on death’s opposite: life. The borderlands is a place of life where farmers raise organic grapefruit, where an international boundary generates life for two nation-­states, and where ­people go to school, go to work, and also go to the polls. Latinx US citizens of the borderlands have, for the most part, opposed construction of the US border wall, have opposed state vio­lence, have opposed the diminishment of their rights within the constitution-­free zone and at interior Border Patrol checkpoints (Dorsey and Díaz-­Barriga 2015; Díaz-­Barriga

and Dorsey 2018). Many residents disagree with ­these policies and elect congressmen and congresswomen who are at odds with the mainstream in the state of Texas, and yet state troopers, national guardsmen, and agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, fbi, and cbp flood the region. In our work, we have tried to share the vibrancy and life of the borderlands with the world. We would like to finish this ethnographic monograph with a few thoughts: the border is a river; t­ here are towns and cities on both sides of the border that share a history and share En­glish and Spanish; contact generates innovation—­musical, gastronomical, linguistic, economic, and social; the US side of the border is an eco-­corridor—­green with palm forest preserves and international bird and butterfly hubs. Border wall construction is monumental, and we recognize the weight of writing an ethnography on this epic theme. Since we began fieldwork on walling and militarization in 2008, we have felt a moral obligation as public intellectuals to share our work with diverse publics in diverse settings utilizing equally diverse methods. In our own small way, we have worked to intervene and shape public perceptions of walling and militarization. We have presented our findings at government hearings, at architectural workshops, to the general public at museums, and of course at local, national, and international academic conferences. From our first days in the field, we started a blog that documented our research and findings, tracking our ethnography at a brisk pace. On a less ephemeral level, Dorsey founded the Border Studies Archive in the library of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, which features a Border Wall and Border Security collection and interactive features of this collection are available online to the public. We collaborated with a photographer based in Paris on an art book, and we curated an internationally juried art exhibition titled Fencing In Democracy at apexart in Manhattan (Díaz-­Barriga and Dorsey 2016). Fencing In Democracy indexed how walls enclose democracy through suspending laws, and the exhibit located the wall in relation to the experiences of mi­grants, the transformation of the landscape into killing fields, and, in subtler ways, the reshaping of border subjectivities. We more recently wrote and produced a short documentary on art, ­human rights, and the wall, which is featured on the American Anthropological Association’s World on the Move website (Dorsey and Díaz-­Barriga 2017a). We have observed that the historical rec­ord offers many examples of building walls to restrict and control p ­ eople, and ultimately ­those walls crumble. But before they crumble, walls imprison, make legitimate ­human 142


interaction across po­liti­cal borders illegitimate, and reduce democracy to tyranny. In our public work we express our concern for the f­ uture of democracy, hoping that our ­children ­will not be raised in an environment where walls and death are normalized or, worse, ignored. We hope that historians ­will not look back on the real id Act of 2005, a massive stripping of citizens’ rights, as the beginning of the United States’ demo­cratic devolution. And we long for a day in which Latinxs and members of other minoritized groups can oppose militarization without being cast from the nation. The border wall, w ­ hether or not it is extended and fortified, w ­ ill be one mea­sure of the success or failure of our democracy.



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1 The House Natu­ral Resources Committee, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, led by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-­Arizona), and Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans, led by Del. Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-­Guam), held the joint oversight field hearing, “Walls and Waivers: Expedited Construction of the Southern Border Wall and the Collateral Impacts on Communities and the Environment,” at the University of Texas at Brownsville on Monday, April 28, 2008. For a video of Tancredo’s comments, see Txreporter (2008). 2 Ned Norris Jr., chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation, spoke at this event. 3 Pub. L 109-13, 119 Stat. 302. Enacted May 11, 2005. 4 In fact, it was during the Clinton presidency that the current architecture of border militarization started appearing. Many top Demo­crats, including Senators Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton, voted in ­favor of the 2006 Secure Fence Act, which authorized the construction of almost seven hundred miles of border wall. 5 For data on Texas cities, see fbi (2015), ­table 8: “Texas: Offenses Known to Law Enforcement,” https://­ucr​.­fbi​.­gov​/c­ rime​-­in​-t­ he​-­u​.­s​/2­ 015​/c­ rime​-­in​-­the​-­u​ .­s​.­​-­2015​/­tables​/­table​-­8​/­table​-­8​-­state​-­pieces​/t­ able​_­8​_­offenses​_­known​_­to​_­law​ _­enforcement​_­texas​_­by​_­city​_­2015​.­xls. 6 In chapter 4 we analyze such a statement in a Fox News program. 7 We use the term remilitarization to highlight that border militarization has been an ongoing pro­cess starting with the 1846–1848 Mexican-­American War. It intensified in the 1970s with Richard Nixon’s war on drugs (Timmons 2017) and the adaptation in the 1980s of military tactics and strategies from US adventurism in Central Amer­i­ca (Dunn 1995, 2010). Julie Dowling and Jonathan Inda (2013, 4–5) argue that this remilitarization is the result of the transformation of the United States into a neoliberal state focused on exclusion. In a similar vein, Joseph Nevins outlines the ways in which Operation Gatekeeper, a program of Customs and Border Protection (cbp), resulted from larger po­liti­cal trends that viewed mi­grants “as a putative threat to the national sociocultural and po­liti­ cal fabric” (2002: 10). Robert Lee Maril (2004) provides an in-­depth description of the life of cbp agents in the Rio Grande Valley around 2001. Guillermina G. Núñez and Josiah McConnell Heyman (2007) demonstrate the devastating impacts of t­ hese policies on undocumented ­people in the borderlands, including

severely limiting their mobility. Angela Stuesse (2010) shows how border residents have challenged this intensification of border policing. 8 The Mexican American Legislative Caucus in the Texas House of Representatives held a hearing regarding the construction of a wall along the Texas-­Mexico border on November 13, 2008. The hearing began at 8:00 a.m. in the House Appropriations room, e1.032, in the Capitol Extension in Austin, Texas. 9 Many residents consider Scott Nicol and Stefanie Herweck to play key roles in the No Border Wall Co­ali­tion. In addition to coalescing the movement, they created and maintained a website. They also donated materials that they collected related to the construction of the border wall to the Border Studies Archive at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (formerly the University of Texas–­Pan American). ­These materials include playful ephemera such as ­no-­border-­wall beer as well as more traditional items such as over a thousand photos of the border wall and its construction and a series of documents related to its construction that they obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests (University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Border Studies Archive 2019). We formally interviewed Nicol and Herweck when we first arrived in the field and spoke with them informally about the border wall numerous times from 2008 to 2019. 10 Residents of South Texas call the structure the border wall or muro de odio (wall of hate), while dhs calls the structure the border fence. We use Anzaldúa’s preferred label, border wall. 11 Anzaldúa was interviewed by Rick Sánchez on cnn’s Out in the Open, in a show airing on December 14, 2007. Anzaldúa is quoted in a number of stories on the border wall, including in the Los Angeles Times (see Bustillo 2007). Anzaldúa owns a set of “patriotic baseball hats” that he selects from before making public appearances (personal communication, August 2008). 12 This quote and ­others in this chapter about the hearing are based on a transcript that we prepared from an audio recording we made and interviews we conducted at the hearing. 13 ­Unless other sources are listed, quotations are from our own interviews, recordings, notes, and observations. 14 We formally interviewed Anzaldúa twice, and we have met with him periodically at vari­ous events across the valley and in Austin over the years since 2008. 15 For each pair, the state/entity that constructed the wall is listed first. 16 See Vallet (2016) for an in-­depth discussion of border walls at a global level. 17 The term necropower, as articulated by postcolonial theorist Achille Mbembe (2003), refers to the ways in which the state engages in policies aimed at exclusion and death rather than incorporation and the well-­being of the population. States of exception, as developed by the phi­los­o­pher Giorgio Agamben (2005) in his work on genocidal states, highlights how states manipulate laws to achieve their own ends. For a more expansive engagement with ­these concepts, see chapters 3, 4, and 5.


notes to introduction

18 Border wall construction is a burgeoning global industry. Israeli-­based companies, for example, drawing on their experience constructing the Israeli-­ Palestinian wall, consulted on the design of the US-­Mexico wall. In 2014 an Israeli com­pany won a $145 million contract to build watchtowers in Arizona along the US-­Mexico border (see Homeland Security News Wire 2014; Lappin 2014). 19 We published a chapter (in En­glish, French, and Spanish) that used statistics from the US Government Accountability Office (2006) to demonstrate that the Border Patrol purposely drives mi­grants to desolate sections of the border, leading to an increase in mi­grant deaths (Díaz-­Barriga and Dorsey 2011). In 2007 ­human rights groups, such as Coalición de Derechos Humanos, had counted up to five thousand mi­grant deaths ­under such circumstances (Rodríguez 2007). See also Doty (2011) and Meyer and Isacson (2015). Gilberto Rosas (2012) and Jason De León (2015) also published similar statistics and made similar arguments regarding mi­grant deaths and prevention through deterrence” as functioning to funnel and ultimately kill ­people. Also, see US Border Patrol (1994) for a description of the strategy of prevention through deterrence. Juanita Sundberg (2011), in her elaboration of a posthumanist po­liti­cal ecol­ogy, theorizes how border security policies and shifting mi­grant patterns envelop and are impacted by nonhuman ele­ments. 20 This study does not include deaths caused by local and state-­level law enforcement, nor the vio­lence caused by vigilante groups working on private property. In October 2012 in South Texas, for example, a sharpshooter in a he­li­cop­ter working for the Texas Department of Public Safety shot at a pickup truck and killed two Guatemalan mi­grants. The fbi has been asked to investigate the shooting. See Brezosky (2012b). 21 Descriptions of the border as a desolate space are not accurate for regions such as the Rio Grande Valley, which is verdant and populated (Dorsey and Díaz-­ Barriga 2010). 22 According to Article 5 of the bsf Acts and Rules, “Any member of the force ­shall be liable to perform any duties in connection with the safeguarding of the security of the border of India, the administration, discipline and welfare of the Force and such other duties as he may be called upon to perform in accordance with any law for the time being in force and any order given in this behalf by a superior officer ­shall be a lawful command for the purposes of the Act.” Quoted in Jones (2009, 887). 23 The waived laws included the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. § 4321; the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1531; the Federal W ­ ater Pollution Control Act (Clean ­Water Act), 33 U.S.C. § 1251; the National Historic Preservation Act, 16 U.S.C. § 470; the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, 16 U.S.C. § 703; the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. § 7401; the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. § 470aa; the Safe Drinking ­Water Act, 42 U.S.C. § 300f; the Noise Control Act, 42 U.S.C. § 4901; the Solid Waste Disposal Act, as amended by

notes to introduction


the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act, 42 U.S.C. § 6901; the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C. § 9601; he Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act, 16 U.S.C. § 469; the Antiquities Act, 16 U.S.C. § 431; the Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act, 16 U.S.C. § 461; the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1281; the Farmland Protection Policy Act, 7 U.S.C. § 4201; the Coastal Zone Management Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1451; the Wilderness Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1131; the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1701; the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 668dd–668ee; the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, 16 U.S.C. § 661; the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 551; the California Desert Protection Act, Pub. L. No. 103-433, 108 Stat. 4471 (2004), Title I §§ 102(29) and 103; the Otay Mountain Wilderness Act of 1999, 16 U.S.C. § 1131; Pub. L. 106-145, 102(29) and § 103 of the California Desert Protection Act, 16 U.S.C 1132; Pub. L. 103-433; the National Park Ser­vice Organic Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1, 2–4; the National Park Ser­vice General Authorities Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1a-1; the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978, Pub. L. No. 95-625, 92 Stat. 3467, §§ 401(7), 403, and 404; the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act, Pub. L. 101-628, 104 Stat. 4469 (1990) § 301(a)–(f ); the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, 33 U.S.C. § 403; the Ea­gle Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. § 668; the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, 25 U.S.C. § 3001; the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1996; the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb; the National Forest Management Act of 1976, 16 U.S.C. § 1600; and the Multiple Use and Sustained Yield Act of 1960, 16 U.S.C. §§ 528–531. 24 In fact, we attended public hearings on ­future border wall proj­ects and found them vapid, allotting an anemic amount of energy and time to public input. Our experience seemed to parallel stories of other hearings across the Rio Grande Valley for the 2008 wall construction proj­ects. Chapter 1

1 See Rosas’s (2012) discussion of Mexico’s role in creating deathscapes. 2 Unlike the theorizing of ethnographic film (Ruby 2000), anthropologists have neither differentiated the anthropological photo essay from documentary and media repre­sen­ta­tions nor vigorously debated its role within the discipline. While visual anthropologists have successfully employed photo­graphs to create public dialogue (Pink 2001), ­these instances are undertheorized. 3 The Border Studies Archive website can be found at http://­www​.­utrgv​.­edu​/b­ sa​ /­en​-­us​/­index​.­htm. 4 We conducted this fieldwork with funds from grants 0852531 and 0841433 from the National Science Foundation. We directly incorporated suggestions from the anonymous reviewers, and we would like to thank and acknowledge them for their comments.


notes to introduction

5 Following a talk that we gave at the University of Texas–­Pan American in 2009, members of the audience began a lengthy discussion about strategies for photographing the wall, including the best times and places to visit the wall. 6 On June 6, 2014, Andy Beale was detained at the Santa Teresa border checkpoint in New Mexico and told that he could be charged with a felony for taking photo­graphs of the border fence (Meyer 2014). 7 Around the time of the publication of this photo essay, National Geographic, for example, won vari­ous National Magazine Awards—­for photojournalism in 2009; for general excellence, photojournalism, and reporting in 2008, and in 2008, editor in chief Chris Johns was named editor of the year by Advertising Age magazine (Foster 2012). 8 This genre also includes a requisite photo of the fence ­running into the Pacific Ocean. 9 A caption in the Time piece states, “Agent Steven McPartland searches for signs of smugglers. A naturalized citizen (from Canada) himself, Agent McPartland says he resents the ­people who enter the country illegally” (Suau 2008). 10 For example, the conquistador Juan de Oñate’s massacre of the Acoma Pueblo in 1598, and the Texas Rangers’ reign of terror in the borderlands during the early twentieth c­ entury. 11 In 1999 the Nature Conservancy had paid $2.6 million to purchase the 1,034-­acre property (Brezosky 2012a). 12 On more than one occasion, border residents have informed us that they would like “intelligent” or “smart” border patrol. What they mean is that they would like agents who act with more knowledge of local cultural practices and norms, for example, understanding the significance of re­spect. Having said that, it is also impor­tant to note that most border residents have a ­family member or a friend who works in the Border Patrol. Border residents do not treat the Border Patrol as a monolith—­they have complex views of the agents themselves and the institution as a ­whole. 13 The Brownsville Herald describes the deal in the following manner: “The plan would hand over 10 acres of municipal property, valued at $95,800, to the federal government at no cost. In return, the temporary barrier could be removed, and property returned, once the city reinforces 2.4 miles of levees, satisfying the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s tactical criteria. The city has not yet acquired funds to pay for levee reinforcement” (Sieff 2008). 14 In 2012 Brownsville was in the pro­cess of negotiations with dhs to recoup the land that it lost for construction of the border wall—­though complications had emerged over landownership rights in areas where the new levee was to be constructed (Pérez-­Treviño 2012). 15 The public meeting, “Impact of the Border Wall,” was or­ga­nized by Texas State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. on September 17, 2011.

notes to chapter 1


Chapter 2

1 ­These expressions of patriotic citizenship to express belonging are not ­limited to border residents. See Pérez (2015) for a description of how Latinx youths participate in Ju­nior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (jrotc) programs in Chicago to express citizenship and belonging to the nation. 2 For a fuller development of this argument, see Dorsey and Díaz-­Barriga (2011). 3 We learned about Granjeno’s festival in a roundabout fashion while attending a planning meeting for a binational event or­ga­nized by Los Caminos del Rio Heritage Proj­ect. The members of the Los Caminos proj­ect, including their director, Eric Ellman, ­were developing the recreational potential of the Rio Grande through designing a kayaking course on the river in which Anzalduas Park would be the launching point for the kayaking classes. The planning session included members of community groups, local politicians, and state representative “Kino” Flores. During the meeting, Ellman also mentioned that they would provide kayak rides on the Rio Grande as part of the Friendship Festival. ­Later that day, we talked to Reynaldo Anzaldúa, who also told us about the festival. As it turns out, Anzaldúa was ­going to participate in the parade. He told us that preparations would begin at nine ­o’clock in the morning. 4 At that time, he was ­under investigation for corruption related to receiving gifts from the ­owners of the Budweiser distributorship. Ultimately, he did not run for reelection. 5 In addition, the Hunt Corporation, which owns the luxury housing development Sharyland and other commercial interests in the area, donated several hundred acres of land for the proj­ect (Pinkerton 1999). 6 According to Villarreal, such attempts to incorporate Granjeno ­were part of a historical trend and larger politics of excluding Granjeno from large-­scale proj­ects, including construction of the Anzalduas International Dam and Bridge, reaching back to the 1960s. In 1999 the State Department issued a license to the cities of Hidalgo, McAllen, and Mission to open and operate an international bridge. Both Mission and McAllen attempted to prevent Granjeno from incorporating and joining the bridge proj­ect, even though they planned for the bridge to be located approximately five hundred yards west of the town. The most recent maneuvers involving the new bridge particularly raised the ire of Granjeno’s residents. 7 Most likely this business partner is Garza Cantu. Pinkerton (1999) wrote, “On the Mexican side, Reynosa developer and oilman Garza Cantu has assembled land for a 16,000-­acre development called the Rio San Juan, a combination of upscale residential neighborhoods, commercial buildings and industrial plants.” In his dissertation on economic development in McAllen, Seth Pipkin (2012: 92–93) explains that the landowners on the Mexican side are the Grupo Rio San Juan. 8 Pipkin, an associate professor of planning, policy, and design, compares Brownsville’s and McAllen’s growth. Brownsville experienced anemic cross-­border


notes to chapter 2

trade and growth, while McAllen surged. He argues that McAllen’s economy has grown due to the city’s ability to work together with local interest groups and keep the larger picture in mind without fragmenting into bickering interest groups as Brownsville has over the past three de­cades. Mike Allen and the McAllen Economic Development Corporation are key to this success in bringing groups together. 9 Lupe Sáenz, a US military veteran and conjunto ­music aficionado who produces the conjunto ­music tele­vi­sion show Acordeones de Tejas, displayed on his Facebook page (April 2013) almost equal attention to military ser­vice and conjunto ­music. Sometimes on his page we have read posts praising conjunto and using it as a way to bash Mexicans and Mexican culture. 10 Information from flyer for the Seventh Annual “El Veterano” Conjunto Festival, November 11, 2005. Linda Escobar is both a popu­lar conjunto musician and a Tejano roots ­music activist with over forty years of experience in the ­music industry. Her first ­album, at age eight, went gold and sold over one million copies. She is an award-­winning performer who has received numerous tributes from vari­ous conjunto/Tejano organ­izations: Female Vocalist of the Year (1987), Narciso Martínez Award for Conjunto Female Vocalist of the Year (2001), and inductee and board member of the Tejano roots ­Music Hall of Fame (2003, 2007). As recently as a few weeks before our conversation at Mannie García’s home, listeners rated her song “Amigo Freddy Fender” number one on keda am radio, one of the top conjunto/Tejano stations. 11 The “El Veterano” Conjunto Festival Committee, thus far, has given twenty-­ seven scholarships. 12 On the first years, “El Veterano” occurred on Memorial Day weekend, lasting three days. ­Because Linda Escobar found ­running a three-­day event exhausting, she shifted the festival to a single day event. She changed the date to Veterans Day in part due to the name “El Veterano” and also in part ­because May is a busy festival time for conjunto/Tejano musicians. On years that Veterans Day, 11 November, lands on a weekday, the festival happens on a Sunday bracketing Veterans Day. 13 In Spanish pachanga generally refers to a party. In South Texas the word pachanga has a very specific cultural and po­liti­cal meaning that centers on barbecues and informal events that have wider po­liti­cal significance, such as po­liti­cal campaigning (see Dorsey 2006). 14 The 2010 US Census documents 94 ­percent of Robstown’s population as ­Hispanic with 35 ­percent of its population living below the poverty line. 15 “­Couples dancing,” at this festival and at many conjunto festivals that we attended over the years, signifies more than just a husband-­and-­wife or heterosexual pairing. You ­will also see ­mothers and ­daughters dancing, ­women dancing together, a man or ­woman dancing with a young child, and c­ hildren dancing together. We have not, however, observed men dancing together.

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16 For example, a video of Boni Mauricio and his son jamming at the Ninth Annual “El Veterano” Conjunto Festival (2007) can be found at the following link: http://­www​.­youtube​.­com​/­watch​?­v​=­zXAk7W​-­N5So (accessed March 11, 2010). 17 For an analy­sis of Paredes’s World War II experience, including interview materials where Paredes describes his experiences in Japan, see Saldívar 2006. 18 Indeed, the post–­World War II Chicano m ­ usic scene was complex. For example, Anthony Macías (2008) describes the musical borrowing between Chicanos and African Americans ­after World War II in Los Angeles. 19 In the song Escobar uses charco, which means “puddle of ­water.” According to Linda Escobar, her ­father selected charco instead of the more semantically accurate el mar (the ocean) for poetic reasons. 20 Eligio Escobar toured extensively in the United States and Mexico. Songs aired on Spanish-­language radio ­were his most popu­lar. 21 Quote from the Third Annual El Veterano Conjunto Jam Festival booklet, May 20, 2001. 22 As Taylor (2007, 90) notes in his work on the Minutemen and citizenship, one can aptly label this action as a “per­for­mance of citizenship”; the attendees perform a version of “Amer­i­ca.” Chapter 3

1 Wendy Brown, in her work on sovereignty and border walls, highlights that a marker of walling is “an increasingly blurred distinction between the inside and the outside of a nation itself, and not only between criminals within and enemies without” (2014, 25). 2 For the craf­ters of a state of exception, the creation of this nexus between norms and the ­legal suspension of law poses its own dilemmas and requires continual maintenance. As Agamben states: “In this way, the impossible task of welding norm and real­ity together, and thereby constituting the normal sphere, is carried out in the form of the exception, that is to say, by presupposing their nexus. This means that in order to apply a norm it is ultimately necessary to suspend its application, to produce an exception. In ­every case, the state of exception marks a threshold at which logic and praxis blur with each other and pure vio­lence without log­os claims to realize an enunciation without any real reference” (2005, 40). For Agamben, this pro­cess of normalization of the state of exception relies on a lack of real reference that is made to appear normal and real. We interpret Agamben to mean that architects—in our case Texas-­level actors—­who craft the state of exception are exposed at the impossible moments when they weld the force of law, norm, and real­ity together. That moment or that place is one where other actors—in our case borderlanders—­see the seams and can challenge the emergence of the state of emergency. At many public hearings, state-­level actors make the residue of the welding pro­cess seamless, but at o­ thers, such as this one, the seams are vis­i­ble. Hence, this invisible threat requires urgent and decisive ac-


notes to chapter 2




6 7 8 9

tion according to the state-­level perspective that we heard at the border security hearings in McAllen. The immea­sur­able and immediate nature of this threat short-­circuits the need for discourse based on data and analy­sis and instead leads to the use of anecdote and the production of fear within citizens. The necessity for the state of exception is therefore beyond question and debate. For example, we do not see residents of South Texas as living in a state of “bare life” but rather as being incorporated into practices associated with necrocitizenship. Through this pro­cess, individuals and populations are not rendered bare but rather have become fortified, part of militarized policing’s daily seeping into subjectivities (thanks to an anonymous reviewer for this description). This chapter demonstrates how border officials push back as they are entangled in and incorporated into a wider web of state policies based on death and exclusion. In general, anthropology is poised to theorize subjectivity and social marginality in the face of states of exception and bureaucratic power. João Biehl (2005), for example, describes the residents of a zone in Brazil where impoverished and socially rejected ­people are left to die as a zone of social abandonment. Mbembe (2003) differentiates between the colonial and the late-­modern colonial occupations as a way to understand the con­temporary work of militias, advance technologies, and vertical sovereignty in subjugating populations. For more scholarship on the racially based inequalities and domination in Texas, see A. De León (1983, 2009, 2012), Lugo (2008), Menchaca (2002), Montejano (1987), Najera (2016), and Orozco (2009). Representative Gonzáles and Mallory Caraway ­were the only two female members of the committee. Federal- and state-­level representatives clearly had distinct visions of cross-­ border vio­lence. Merriam-­Webster Learner’s Dictionary, s.v. “spillover,” accessed March 13, 2012, www​ .­learnersdictionary​.­com​/s­ earch​/­spillover. It is obvious that when reading a transcription, you receive a one-­dimensional and fairly flat iteration—­even with brackets, bold, and italics—of the embodied exchange that I (Margaret Dorsey) witnessed firsthand that day in McAllen. I find it impor­tant to highlight that ­there was something about this interaction that I found eerie. I find it challenging to pinpoint exactly what I found hair-­raising about this exchange, but below is my best effort to translate my embodied and gut-­level reaction to this hearing. I find it impor­tant to attempt to articulate this inchoate experience ­because it does say something of significance about the state of Texas’s attitude ­toward South Texas. I audio-­recorded ­these hearings and obtained the filmed version of this event. ­Every time I watch and listen to McCraw’s testimony I become disturbed to such an extent that I have difficulty writing about his testimony. One day when I was sitting in my office attempting to work with this text, I commented out loud, “Urg,” and Myra, a student worker who was in my office at that moment, said, “That

notes to chapter 3


testimony gave me the creeps as well.” Then I asked Myra—­and our other office mate who was listening from afar and assenting—­“What gave you the creeps?” We all agreed that it was difficult to put into words, but ­here are some of our shared thoughts. In general, I would characterize the issue as one of speaking in an authoritative manner. We agreed that McCraw spoke with entitlement: he made utterances sound as if they ­were facts. McCraw’s body language also sent a message of entitlement. My colleague who attended the Brownsville hearings (about one year ­later, where McCraw gave similar testimony) asked w ­ hether we had noticed how he sat at the ­table. She said he sat with his legs spread apart, and he leaned on the ­table. In other words, his body language communicated to the audience that he commanded the situation. I would add that we observe this attitude from the outset of his testimony in McAllen: he starts by interrupting Representative Gonzáles. He continues by making an arrogant statement: “Correctly.” He keyed his interaction by belittling Representative Gonzáles—­a Latina legislator—­through interrupting her. Consider the occasion. The event is a formal hearing of the Congress of the state of Texas, officially recorded by the state. Representative Gonzáles is the acting chair of the hearings. I find that in over two hundred pages of transcript the speakers who began their testimony before and ­after McCraw did not start by interrupting the chairperson. This act, especially combined with the following arrogance, let every­one know who was (McCraw) and who was not (Gonzáles) in “command” (to use his words) of the situation. I believe that we can extend this meta­phor to his approach, as demonstrated in his testimony, to the South Texas borderlands, primarily populated by Latinos/as. 10 Anthropologist Norma Mendoza-­Denton (2008) details the way in which similar policy and policy making centered on talk of stateless terrorists and gangs affects young Latinas in the San Francisco area. 11 In fact, according to Unified Crime Report data, El Paso is one of the safest cities in the United States (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2015). 12 Col­o­nel McCraw was born in Oklahoma but spent his childhood in El Paso. Chief Rodríguez was born and raised in Brownsville. Col­on ­ el McCraw has served as a narcotics investigator for the Texas dps, as an fbi agent, and as director of the State of Texas’s Homeland Security from 2004 to 2009. He is currently the director of the Texas dps. Chief Rodríguez received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas–­Pan American and a master’s in public administration from the University of Texas at San Antonio. He is also a gradu­ate of the fbi’s National Acad­emy and the executives in state and local governments program at Harvard University’s JFK School of Government. 13 Sexuality refers to a constellation of social practices that are culturally produced. This model includes sexual orientations and gender identifications. We understand that historically gender and sex have distinct meanings. With the


notes to chapter 3

emergence of sexuality studies, the classic notion of gender has been broadened to include sexual identifications. 14 According to the 2010 census, the population of House District 110 totals 150,703 individuals. Of ­these, 19,628, or 13 ­percent, identify as Anglo; 59,449, or 39 ­percent, as black; and 71,617, or 47.5 ­percent, as Hispanic (Texas Legislative Council 2011). 15 The following quote is the remainder of McCraw’s response: “So, ­there are capabilities, within communities, to be able to, for witnesses and ­those that are victims of crime, and I think that it was well said, that’s the challenges. We ­can’t ignore, just ­because they are a cartel member, but, more importantly, an illegal alien, ­they’re still a victim if it happens on this side. The cartels are preying on them, that’s still ‘spillover’ vio­lence, however you define it, and, I’ll say another ­thing, that spurns us, greatly, and one of my colleagues at the end of the ­table reminded me of it, that ‘spillover’ vio­lence affected, from a Texas perspective, you know, at the border we have 9 ­percent of the population of Texas, one in five of the referrals, for drug felony possession, of juveniles happens along the border. Cartels are recruiting our kids in high school, ­because if you can get a kid, you know, if you can get one of our kids ­doing . . . ​­they’re US citizens, ­they’re En­glish speaking, Spanish speaking, and t­ hey’re preying on them . . . ​and other times it’s the . . . ​to recruit them like . . . ​kind of like in Nuevo Laredo, to do hits for the Zetas and the other cartels.” 16 Other scholars have also documented this event. See Koenig (2010) and De León (1983). Chapter 4

1 Sally Merry and Susan Bibler Coutin (2014) highlight how collaborative forms of governance are mediated by audit cultures. In ­these hearings, the state approached border security through the lens of technology and surveillance so that data sharing and other forms of collaboration with local entities became a goal in themselves. 2 This and other quotes are from our transcript of the hearing. Also, Gonzáles (2012) in the press urged continued communication among lawmakers on border security. 3 The graphic could also have pointed the red arrows southward, showing how border security efforts are now expanding beyond the US-­Mexico border into Latin Amer­i­ca. The drive to seal the entire border represents an escalation of dhs’s strategy, from “prevention through deterrence” within the United States to “pushing the border out and working with our counter­parts” (Edward Dolan, dhs regional attaché for Central Amer­i­ca, speaking at the plenary panel titled, “Changing Flows of ­People Coming into the U.S.,” San Antonio, Texas, February 2018). This “pushing out” represents dhs’s latest strategy of combating

notes to chapter 4


illegal immigration, smuggling, and terrorism, moving beyond the border into Mexico and Central Amer­i­ca and extending as far south as Colombia. 4 At the 2010 Border Security Summit described in the last chapter, Chief Rodríguez had criticized ­these command-­and-­control structures, calling them “a vacuum of information.” He said the following about Texas’s Joint Operations Intelligence Center (joic): “The joic has its doors open to all of us. However, a lot of the operations that have gone into place, and this is my view only, um, are self-­interested. And they act almost as, almost as vacuums for information as, so they can meet their objectives. I ­don’t see, uh, I have not seen, um, a local community, a city, a municipality—­a benefit for them out of participating in t­ hose centers. ­There is more interest in us communicating information to them as opposed to getting that center to operate at the local level to do the kind of stuff I’m suggesting to you ­here.” 5 Patricia Zavella’s (2011) analy­sis of migration brings out this ­human ele­ment while focusing on gender and how border crossers develop a “peripheral vision” based on their sense of marginality. Carlos Vélez-­Ibáñez (2010) also preserves the humanity of border crossers in his analy­sis of how transborder ­people survive eco­nom­ically and socially in the face of twenty-­first-­century capitalism’s extraction of ­labor and value. Gomberg-­Muñoz (2017) writes about the per­sis­tence of in­equality and the politics of citizenship for border crossers. 6 Jonathan X. Inda (2006) analyzes the history of how the United States has criminalized undocumented immigrants and transformed them into objects of government, as prob­lems that need to be addressed and corrected. The generals’ report is a good example of this regime of truth production. 7 Commissioner Staples (2011b), in congressional testimony, noted, “I come to you ­today to say we must not minimize the actions of terrorists. This border assessment tells the stories of farmers, ranchers and rural landowners who have been victims of vio­lence; who witness grim atrocities on a far too frequent basis; and generally live in fear of ­those who cross their land day and night. Americans should be offended that statistics are being used to diminish the crimes committed against their fellow citizens by narco-­terrorists.” 8 See Díaz-­Barriga and Dorsey (2020) for an in-­depth examination of the public-­private partnerships and how they work to create a security grid in the constitution-­free zone. 9 Alva Caceres, the Guatemalan consul general in McAllen, stated, “I know my ­people are in the wrong crossing illegally and I know that the government of this country has to protect their border, but to shoot at unarmed ­humans is beyond me.” Quoted in Ortiz and Armendariz (2012). 10 We wish to thank an anonymous reviewer for raising this polemic. We borrowed language from the reviewer in this passage.


notes to chapter 4

Chapter 5

1 This quotation is from On the Rec­ord’s website, which includes the capital lettering and bold print. All quotations from the broadcast are from Fox News: On the Rec­ord, 2011. 2 Fox provides this transcript alongside the video clip from that day’s program (Fox News: On the Rec­ord: 2011). 3 We have not conducted a systematic or scientific study of viewers’ interpretations of this report. When we watched the Fox clip, we thought that it was directly from the hearings themselves, without changes. It was not ­until we watched the entire hearing again and compared the transcripts that we noticed ­these differences. 4 The report includes a short bibliography. The majority of the sources are internet based. 5 Fox took the comments off of their website before we w ­ ere able to download the link officially, but similar sentiments are expressed on Van Susteren’s blog about the exchange (Van Susteren 2011). A few sample comments from her blog draw attention to the tone and sentiment of her viewers: Viewer 1. ! “Cuéllar” not only disrespected ­these wonderful l-­e-­a-­d-­e-­r-­s . . . ​they totally “dissed” us all as his fellow Americans. . . . ​The rude and horrible be­hav­ ior by the “Left” of “over-­talking” anyone they disagree with to the point of absurdity is becoming the “straw that ­will break the camel’s back” for voters. . . . ​ They are showing their “childishness” and “selfishness” when they insist upon this “unacceptable be­hav­ior”!!! Viewer 2. ­After watching the very rude and hateful Congressman Cuéllar from Texas, makes me won­der who paid him to denigrate two of our countries heroes. This person is a total disgrace and should be kicked out of the state of Texas and sent back to Mexico or wherever he crawled out of the woodwork. Viewer 3. Disgraceful!! That pompous idiot trying to let us know he has a Ph.D. or something. He is a real ass. 6 DownSouthFishermen wrote: “Henry Cuéllar phone number: 202-225-1640. Call his office and light his ass up. /Henry Cuéllar mailing address: 2463 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington D. C. 20515. /Let this anti-­American hispanic hear from you on this issue.” (SuperFreedomCzar 2011). 7 Segment titled “Henry Cuéllar TX Demo­crat Disrespects US Generals.” The clip replays Van Susteren’s interview with General Scales, which includes a video montage of Congressman Cuéllar’s question-­and-­answer session with the generals about the report they submitted to his committee (SuperFreedomCzar 2011). 8 At the hearings themselves, Dr. Vickers also introduced himself with that quote (see US Government Publishing Office 2011).

notes to chapter 5


9 The Police Executive Research Forum (2016) describes mi­grant deaths in Brooks County, where Vickers is based, in the following terms: “In withering summer heat, this is a merciless trek. Temperatures often top 100 degrees and the terrain is arid and desolate. Mi­grants are often in poor physical condition as a result of their already protracted journey through Mexico, and rarely carry enough food or ­water to sustain them. ­Those who cannot keep up are often left ­behind. Some are rescued, but ­others succumb to exposure” (11). 10 Since 2009 over five hundred mi­grants have died in Brooks County. Forensic anthropologists at Texas State University who are part of the Operation Identification proj­ect have recovered and are attempting to identify the remains. Operation Identification is a collaboration between the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State University, the South Texas ­Human Rights Center, the Colibri Center for ­Human Rights, the University of Indianapolis, and Baylor University. Researchers in the group have published broadly on the methods they are employing to identify mi­grant remains (Texas State n.d.). 11 In real time, the exchange (seen in Clip III) comes a­ fter General Scales answers Cuéllar’s question about ­whether Washington, DC, is a war zone. 12 The video was made on the same day as the hearings, preceding Van Susteren’s report by two days (Cuellar 2011). 13 He stresses the importance of border security and argues that it is unjust to represent the border as a war zone. Cuéllar speaks Spanish without using the subjunctive tense and with a few ­mistakes in gender agreement, yet his pronunciation is perfect. He is, to use the language of our colleagues in modern languages, a heritage speaker. 14 This responder posted on Cuellar’s YouTube video (Cuellar 2011). Conclusion

1 Sarah Bronwen Horton (2016, 152–153) characterizes the harsh l­ abor practices and lax regulation of ­labor rights and laws in the Global South as a “Geography of Complacence.”


notes to chapter 5


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Acordiones de Tejas (tele­vi­sion show), 151n9 Af­ghan­i­stan, Mexican American ­veterans in, 67–70 Agamben, Giorgio, 25–27, 80, 84, 97, 103, 106, 146n17, 152n2 agriculture, border security and, 112–14 Ahumada, Pat, 41–42 Allen, Mike, 61–62, 61–64, 150n8 American Civil Liberties Union, 113, 115 American gi Forum, 67, 72 American Indian Religious Freedom Act, 11 Andreas, Peter, 8, 83–84 anti-­border wall activism: impotence of, 11; research on, 5–7 Anzaldúa, Gloria, 16–17, 24–25, 135, 141 Anzaldúa, Moisés, 53–60 Anzaldúa, Reynaldo, 5–7, 12–14, 49–50, 52–53, 55, 59–60, 77, 141, 146nn11–12, 150n2 Anzaldúa ­family, land seizure from, 37–39 Anzalduas International Dam and Bridge, 60–64, 150n6 apexart exhibit, x, 17, 142–43 Asia, border walls in, 7–8 Association of the United States Army, 132 Audubon Society, 28–29, 32–33 Aztec culture, 75–76 “Backyard Fence” (National Geographic photo­graph), 21–22 Barthes, Roland, 21 Beale, Andy, 149n6 Benmayor, Rina, 51

Berlin Wall, 137; fall of, 7–8 Big River Festival, 25, 27 bisection, politics of, 15–48; Anzaldúa’s work on, 16–17 border culture: citizenship and, 49–51, 135–39; conjunto ­music and, 64; ­conquest and colonization and, 24–25; current issues in, 141–43; gender and, 156n5; media portrayal of, 118–33; militarization of, ix–­xi; ­music in, 71–77; patriarchal democracy and, 72–77; patriotism and, 4–5; politics of bisection and, 25–26; social critique in, 59–60; stigmatization of, 1–3 Border Security Forces (India), 9–10 Border Security Summit, 81–83, 102–3, 106, 153n9, 156n4 Border Studies Archive, 17, 142–43 border walls: ethnographic research on opposition to, ix–­xi; globalization and, 9–10, 136–39, 147n18; naturalization of construction of, 15–17; sovereignty and militarization of, 7–11; Walls and Waivers congressional hearing on, 1–5 Border Wars (tele­vi­sion show), 27–28 bound­aries, border wall construction and fluidity of, 3 Bowden, Chris, 19 Brown, Wendy, 8, 152n1 Brownsville, Texas: border wall construction in, 2–4, 40–42; land seizure in, 40–42, 149nn13–14, 150nn7–8; rajando families and communities in, 36–44; trade routes through, 40–42

Buchanan, Pat, 70 Burke, Terri, 115 Cantu, Garza, 150n7 Caraway, Barbara, 103–4 Carrigan, William D., 105–6 Chappell, Ben, 98 Chávez, Leo, 83 Chertoff, Michael, 10–12, 26 citizenship: border residents’ view of, 49–51; border walls and, 135–39; contested discourses about, 70; marginalization of, 13–14; of Mexican Americans, 5–7; patriotism and, 12, 77–78; politics and poetics of, 12; in United States, 11–14 civilian law enforcement, 99–100 Coalición de Derechos Humanos, 147n19 Colgen corporation, 112 colonization: border wall politics and, 23–24, 136–37; militarization and, 153n4; state of exception and, 80–81 colonos militares (soldier-­settlers), 35–36 command and control rhe­toric: interagency cooperation and, 114–17; spillover vio­lence framed with, 113–14, 156n4 Congress: border hearings in, 1–2; media portrayal of, 119; rebordering laws and, 10–11 conjunto ­music, 64–70, 151n9 conquest, border wall politics and, 23–24 Consolidated Appropriations Act, 10–11 Constitution of the United States, real id Act as violation of, 10–11 Corpus Christi Caller-­Times, 71 corridos, border culture and, 72–77 Cortéz, Gregorio, 73 Cortéz, Richard, 81, 84–86, 102 Cortina, Juan Nepomuceno, 36–37



Cortina, Trinidad, 36 Cortina land grant, 36 “­couples dancing” at conjunto festivals, 151n15 crime: media misrepre­sen­ta­tions of, 124–33; spillover vio­lence and, 86–97; transnational characterization of, 98–100, 108–10 cross-­border movement, southbound checkpoints, 101–3 Cuéllar, Henry, 119–33, 141 cultural citizenship: Latinx identity and, 50–51; necrocitizenship and, 51–60, 77–78 Culture and Truth (Rosaldo), 59–60 Customs and Border Protection (cbp), 8–10; media coverage of, 131–33; re­sis­tance to visual documentation from, 18 Del Bosque, Melissa, 61–62 democracy: border walls and, 135–39; vio­lence and containment of, 117 Department of Homeland Security (dhs): border security priority and, 97–100; border wall construction and, ix–xi, 1, 9–10, 11–12, 18–19; Brownsville wall construction and, 40–42; Hidalgo County compromise with, 43–44; lawsuit against Nature Conservancy by, 29–31; Operation Stonegarden, 115 Department of Public Safety (dps) (Texas), 81–83, 115–17 “Deployed” (National Geographic photo­graph), 24 deterrence, border vio­lence and, 8–10, 126–33, 155n3 deterritorialization of Mexican American identity, 12; necrocitizenship and, 15–17 Díaz, Porfirio, 76

Doctors without Borders, 9 Donnan, Hastings, 8 Dowling, Julie, 145n7 drug trafficking: border wall politics and, 6–7; northbound flow of, 101–3; spillover vio­lence and, 86–97, 155n15; transnational vio­lence and, 108–11; vio­lence linked to, 98–100

Ferguson, James, 110 Flores, “Kino,” 55, 150n2 Flores, William V., 51 Follis, Karolina, 138 Fox News, 118–33, 157n3, 157n5 Fragmented Lives, Assembled Parts (Lugo), 24 Franz, John David, 35–36

“Edinburgh massacre,” 98–100 Ellman, Eric, 25, 150n2 “El Veterano” (Escobar), 73–75, 77 “El Veterano” Conjunto Festival (Granjeno, Texas): history of, 151n12; media coverage of, 70–77; patriotism and veteran identity in, 50–51, 65–70 encasement model, border walls and, 136–39 Endangered Species Act, 11 environmental damage, border wall construction and, 1–5, 10–11, 26–33 Escobar, Eligio, 65, 71–77, 152nn18–20 Escobar, Linda, 65, 68, 70–71, 76–78, 151n10, 151n12 Escobar, Ramiro, 68 Escobar, Raúl, 68–69, 77 exception, state of: Agamben’s discussion of, 152n2; border wall politics in context of, 11, 46; necrocitizenship in context of, 79–81; necropolitics and, 116–17; raja and, 24–27, 146n17; September 11, 2001, attacks and, 97–100; sexuality and, 103–6 exclusion, state policies of, 15–17; ­patriotism and citizenship as ­response to, 50–51

Galeano, Eduardo, 110–11 game wardens, militarization of, 115 García, Julieta, 42–43 gender: migration and, 156n5; security policy and, 154n13; sexuality and, 154n13 Gilberto Pérez y Sus Compadres, 65–66 globalization, border walls and, 9–10, 136–39, 147n18 Gonzáles, Veronica, 79–81, 83–84, 87–97, 108, 113, 141, 153n9, 155n2 Gonzáles, Vicente, 141 Gorgas Science Foundation, 32 governance: audit cultures and mediation of, 155n1; death and, 116–17 Granjeno, Texas: Anzalduas International Bridge construction and, 60–64, 150n6; Friendship Festival in, 49–51; land seizure in, 37–39; patriotism and citizenship in, 49–51 Granjeno Friendship Festival, 51–60; politics of, 60–64 grassroots movements, border wall ­opposition and, ix–xi “The ­Great Wall of Amer­i­ca” (Von Drehle), 21 Grijalva, Raúl, ix, xi Grupo Rio San Juan, 150n7

Federal Bureau of Investigation (fbi): border security data from, 3; transnational crime data from, 112–14 federal parkland, border property as, 27 “Fencing in Democracy” exhibit, 142–43

Herweck, Stefanie, 146n9 Hidalgo, Texas: border wall disruption in, 39–40; compromise agreement in, 43–44, 47–48



Hidalgo County Metropolitan Planning Organ­ization, 60–61 Hidalgo International Bridge, 60 Holland, Stacy, 116–17 Holsonbake, Brian, 114 Homeland Security USA (tele­vi­sion show), 27–28 House Border and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, 108 House Public Safety Committee, 108 humanitarian aid to mi­grants, vio­lence and intimidation of, 126–33 ­human trafficking: border wall and, 33–34; transnational flow of, 108–11 Hunt, Ray, 61–62 Hunt Consolidated, Inc., 61–62, 150n5 Hunter, Duncan, 2–3 immigration: border security policies and, 98–100; border wall politics and, 6–7 Inda, Jonathan, 145n7, 156n6 India, border vio­lence in, 9–10 interagency cooperation, command and control and, 114–17 international bound­aries, rebordering of, 8–11 International Organ­ization for Migration, 9 Iraq War, Mexican American veterans in, 67–70 Joint Operations Intelligence Center (joic), 156n4 Ju­nior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (jrotc), 150n1 Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, 28 land seizure: border wall construction and, 1, 12; in Brownsville, 40–42, 149nn13–14; economic develop-



ment and, 150n7; Hidalgo County compromise and, 43–44; po­liti­cal costs of, 47–48; private property on border and, 36–37; University of Texas Brownsville-­Texas Southmost College, 42–43 Latin Amer­i­ca, spillover vio­lence from, 108–10, 114–16, 155n3 Latinx culture: history and, 77–78; ­patriotism and citizenship and, 50–51 La Unión del Pueblo Entero, 113 La Virgen de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe), 75–77 law enforcement: corruption of, 101–3; sexuality and, 104–6 Lennox Foundation Southmost ­Preserve, 29–30, 33, 47 Lima, Lázaro, 50–51, 77 Los Caminos del Rio, 53 Los Caminos del Rio Heritage Proj­ect, 150n Los Dos Gilbertos, 66 Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, 27–29 Lugo, Alejandro, 24–25 Maril, Robert Lee, 101–2 masculinity: racial ste­reo­types of, 103–6; sexuality and security and, 104–6 Mauser weaponry, 76–77 Mbembe, Achille, 80, 100, 103, 146n17, 153n4 McAllen, Texas, 46–48, 81 McAllen Chamber of Commerce, 81 McAllen Economic Development ­Corporation, 61–64, 150nn7–8 McCaffrey, Barry R., 111–14, 118–33 McCraw, Tim: gender and racial themes in pre­sen­ta­tion of, 102–6, 108, 153n9, 154n12; on spillover vio­lence,

83, 86–97, 155n15; transnational crime testimony by, 111–14 media coverage: of anti-­border wall activists, 5; of border wall politics, 4–5, 118–33; “El Veterano” festivals, 70–77; sensationalization of vio­lence in, 98–100; unfettered border access for reporters and photog­raphers, 18–21; of US-­Mexico border wall, 15–17 Mellila, Morocco, Spanish border patrols in, 8–10 Mendoza-­Denton, Norma, 154n10 Merry, Sally, 155n1 Mexican American Legislative Caucus, 146n8 Mexican Americans: border wall politics and, x–­xi; conjunto ­music and culture of, 64–70; deterritorialization of identity of, 12; historical roots of, 5–7; media coverage of, 118–33; necrocitizenship and identity of, 15–17, 51–60, 131–33; normalization of militarization by, 12; as Other, 3–5; patriotism of, 49–51; poverty ste­reo­ types in images of, 21–24 Mexican-­American War, 105, 145n7 Mexican Revolution, 76 ­Middle East, border walls in, 7–8 mi­grant ­labor: mortality statistics on, 147nn19–20, 158nn9–10; transnational flow of, 111; vio­lence against, 115–17, 126–33 militarization of border, ix–­xi; interagency cooperation and, 114–17; media coverage and, 118–33; normalization of, 12; Old Hidalgo Pump House Museum and World Birding Center and, 33–36; park ser­vice personnel and, 115–16; photographic repre­sen­ta­tion of, 21, 24; poverty and, 21–24; as remilitarization, 145n7; sexuality and, 103–6; sovereignty and

history of, 7–11; spillover vio­lence and, 106–7 Mingo Saldívar y sus Cuatro Espadas, 65–66 Minutemen militia, 70 Moncivaiz, Michelle, 45–46 moonscape, US-­Mexican border as, 21–22 Morrison, Toni, 77 multiculturalism: cultural difference and, 5, 7; sexuality and, 104–6 National Environmental Policy Act, 11, 26, 46–48 National Geographic, 15, 18–24, 27–28, 45–46, 149n7 National Guard, border militarization and, x–xi Native Americans, border wall politics and, 4–5, 10–11, 23, 149n10 Nature Conservancy, 28–32 necrocitizenship: border militarization and, 13, 135–39; cultural citizenship and, 51–60, 77–78, 153n3; definition of, 11–12; Latinx body in context of, 50–51; media coverage and politics of, 118–33; US-­Mexico border wall and, 15–17 necropower: border vio­lence and, 10; defined, 146n17; states’ practice of, 12 neoliberalism, citizenship and, 138–39 Nevins, Joseph, 145n7 Nicol, Scott, 146n9 No Border Wall co­ali­tion, 5–7, 42–44, 146n9 Nogales, Arizona border crossing, 20 Old Hidalgo Pump House Museum and World Birding Center, 33–36, 47 Oliviero, Katie, 93–95 On the Rec­ord (tele­vi­sion program), 118–33, 157n1



Open Veins of Latin Amer­i­ca: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent (Galeano), 110–11 Operation Gatekeeper, 145n7 Operation Hold the Line, 132 Operation Stonegarden, 115 Other, border residents as, 3–5 “Our Walls, Ourselves” (Bowden), 19 Outstanding Legislator Award, 132 pachanga tradition, 67–70, 151n13 palm tree forests, border wall construction and, 29–33 Paredes, Américo, 71–77, 105, 107, 141 patriotism: border culture and, 4–5; ­citizenship and, 12, 77–78; El Veterano Conjunto ­Music Festival and, 65–77; Ju­nior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (jrotc) and, 150n1; of Mexican Americans, 12, 49–51; necrocitizenship and, 51–60 Peñitas, Texas, border wall construction near, 19 Perry, Rick, 123 Petryna, Adriana, 138 photography: anthropological research and, 148n2; moonscape characterization of border in, 21–22; poverty and militarization of border in, 21–24; raja as counterstatement in, 27–44; ­US-­Mexico border wall images, 18–21 Pipkin, Seth, 150nn7–8 Police Executive Research Forum, 9–10, 159n9 Pons, Max, 31–32 popu­lar imaginary: border wall in, 15–17; as projected real­ity, 45–46 poverty, militarization of border and, 21–24 prison gangs, 99–100 private property, borderland as, 36–37 Protect Your Texas Border website, 112–14



racism: border security policies and, 98–100; in border wall photography, 22–24; citizenship and, 14; media ­coverage of border and, 131–33; Mexican American critique of, 71–77; sexuality and, 103–6; sovereignty and, 12–13; state of exception and, 79–81 rajando: families and communities, 36–44; po­liti­cal dynamics of, 47–48; state of exception and, 24–27 rape: border security and, 103–6; necrocitizenship in context of, 79–81 real id Act, 1, 10–11, 26, 46–48, 139, 142 rebordering: nation-­states’ practice of, 9–14; visual ethnography of, 15–48 “Recognizing Granjeno” (Villareal), 60–64 remilitarization of border, history of, 145n7 repre­sen­ta­tion, politics of, visual ­ethnography and, 17–18 resource extraction, vio­lence and, 110–11 Reyes, Silvestre, 119–33 Rio Grande Valley Wildlife Corridor, 28–30 Roberto Pulido y Los Clásicos, 65–66 Robstown, Texas, 67–68 Rodríguez, Antonio, 105–6 Rodríguez, Victor, 79, 141, 154n12; border policy recommendations of, 97–103, 106–7, 114; on spillover vio­lence, 83, 95–97, 156n4 Rosaldo, Renato, 59–60 Rosas, Gilberto, 137 Rubén Vela y Su Conjunto, 66 rule of law, border policies in violation of, 10 Sabal Palm Sanctuary, 29, 31–33, 47 Sáenz, Lupe, 151n9 Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, 28–29, 47

Sasabe, Arizona, US-­Mexican border at, 16 Scales, Robert H. (Maj. General), 111–14, 118–33 Secure Fence Act, 10–11, 145n4 security paradigm: border wall construction and, 2–5; Homeland Security policies and, 97–100; interagency cooperation and, 115–17; in photography of border, 23–24; rape and, 103–6; spillover vio­lence and, 83–97; surveillance mea­sures and, 81–83 September 11, 2001, attacks: security ideology in wake of, 2–3; state of exception and, 97–100 sexuality: gender and, 154n13; necro­ politics and, 103–6; sovereignty and, 12–13 Sharyland Plantation, 62 Siegel, James, 23–24 Sierra Club, 6, 46–48 SkyLine Network Engineering, 114 social media, “El Veterano” coverage on, 70–77 sovereignty: mililtarization of borders and, 7–11, 152n1; race and sexuality and, 12–13, 106–7 spillover vio­lence, 79–81; gender and race and, 106–7; inflammatory rhe­ toric about, 103–6, 108; policies for managing, 100–103; public debate over, 108–10; security paradigm and, 83–97; surveillance mea­sures and, 81–83; transnational flow of, 108–11; war zone rhe­toric about, 111–14 Staples, Todd, 112–14, 156n7 state-­level actors: border wall proliferation and, 7–11; citizenship and, 137–39; exception ideology and, 152n2 Suau, Anthony, 21 Sundberg, Juanita, 147n19

surveillance: ethnographic analy­sis of, 81–83; interagency cooperation and, 114–17; law enforcement emphasis on, 97–100, 102, 113–14 Tancredo, Thomas, 1–5, 7, 13–14, 77, 130 technology: border-­wall security debate and, 4–5, 110–11; costs of, 113–14; interagency cooperation and, 114–17 Tejeda, Juan, 71 Texas Border Co­ali­tion, 43–44, 81, 102–3 Texas Department of Agriculture, 112–14 Texas Parks and Wildlife, 27–28, 115–17 “Texas perspective,” security policy and, 106–7 Texas Ranger Reconnaissance, 103 Texas Rangers, 71, 73, 80, 105 Time magazine, 15, 18–21, 23–24, 27–28, 45–46 Tohono O’odham Nation, 23 “Tracks in the Sand” (National ­Geographic photo), 23–24 transnational crime flow, 98–100, 108–10 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, 21 Trump, Donald, 47, 79, 135–36 Turk’s Cap Trail Boardwalk, 30 United States: border vio­lence in, 8–11; citizenship in, 11–14 University of Texas Brownsville-­Texas Southmost College, 42–43 University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, 17 US Border Patrol: border residents and, 50–51, 149n12; Brownsville residents and, 41–42; compromise with, 42–44; “El Veterano” conjunto festivals and, 77–78; environmentalists’ re­sis­tance to, 29–31; Granjeno Friendship Festival and, 51–60; intimidation of researchers by, 18; intimidation of residents by, 36, 40, 149n12; land seizure and, 37–38; photographic images of, 21–24, 28–29, 35



US Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice, 27–36 US-­Mexico border wall: border security priority and, 97–100; cost of, 11–12; media portrayals of, 18–21; moonscape characterization of, 21–22; necrocitizenship and, 15–17, 137–39; private property and, 36–37; rajando families and communities re­sis­tance to, 36–44; South Texas opposition to, 17–18; visual overview of, 12; wildlife areas in, 27–36 Van Susteren, Greta, 13, 118–33, 157n5 Vela, Filemon, 141 Vélez-­Ibáñez, Carlos, 156n5 veterans: criticism of vio­lence by, 72–77; Mexican American cele­ bration of, 50–51, 65–70 Vickers, Michael, 126–27, 159n9 Villareal, Martín, 56–64, 77, 150n6 vio­lence: increase at borders of, 9–10; against mi­grants, 115–17; militarization and, 79–81; sexuality and, 103–6; sovereignty, race, and sexuality and, 12–13



visual ethnography: border wall politics and, 17–18; raja in, 27–44 Von Drehle, David, 21 Walls and Waivers congressional hearing, 1 “waning sovereignty” model, 8 warfare, states of exception and, 25 war zone rhe­toric: media coverage of border and, 118–33; spillover politics and, 111–14 weapons trafficking, spillover vio­lence and, 100–103 Webb, Clive, 105–6 Westphalian model, border walls and, 9, 136–37 whiteness, necrocitizenship in context of, 79–81 Wilson, Thomas M., 8 With His Pistol in His Hand (Paredes), 71–77, 105 World War II veterans, Mexican American identity and, 70–77 YouTube, border politics and use of, 130–33 Zavella, Patricia, 156n5 Zimbabwe-­Botswana border, 9

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