This introductory chapter provides a history of the U.S.–Mexico border. Long before the border existed as a physical or legal reality it began to take form in the minds of Mexicans and Americans who looked to maps of North America to think about what their republics were and what they might someday become. Their competing territorial visions brought the United States and Mexico to war in 1846. Less than two years later, the border emerged from the crucible of that war. With U.S. soldiers occupying the Mexican capital, a group of Mexican and American diplomats redrew the map of North America. In the east, they chose the Rio Grande, settling a decade-old debate about Texas's southern border and dividing the communities that had long lived along the river. In the west, they did something different; they drew a line across a map and conjured up an entirely new space where there had not been one before.
this review focuses on pekka Hämäläinen's characterization and analysis of the comanche empire as a spatial category in The Comanche empire and discusses how this work relates to broader discussions about space and power in borderlands and imperial histories. although empires have long been central actors in borderlands histories, "empire" has not necessarily been a category of spatial organization and analysis and certainly not one used to describe spaces controlled by Native peoples. by contrast, while Hämäläinen emphasizes the imperial characteristics of the economic, political, and cultural dimensions of comanche history (as other contributors to this forum discuss), he also uses "empire" to characterize comanche dominance spatially. Hämäläinen helps us to rethink the spatial dynamics that both shaped and were produced by the encounters between comanches and Spaniards, French, mexicans, americans, and other Native peoples in the Great plains during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. by analyzing how comanches came to control vast stretches of the southern plains, The Comanche empire challenges our assumptions about how Native polities and imperial powers (and groups like the comanches that Hämäläinen argues were both) thought about territorial claims and how they employed more nuanced spatial strategies to assert their authority, extend their cultural influence, and control trade and resources.
This chapter focuses on the government efforts to regulate, tax, and restrict transborder movement and enforce jurisdictional boundaries within the context of social and economic integration. As the threat of Apaches and filibusters faded, the border shifted from a site where the state proved its power through military defense of its territory to one in which sovereignty was measured in customs collected, immigrants rejected, and bandits arrested. All of these responsibilities demanded that U.S. and Mexican officials attempt to control who and what crossed it. As such, the U.S. and Mexican governments resurveyed the boundary line and established new ports of entry along it. They also dispatched a growing force of customs, immigration, and law enforcement officers to the border to enforce a growing number of conditional restrictions. With these efforts the nation-states increased their presence in everyday life along the border and laid the foundation for the modern border control apparatus.
This chapter traces the emergence of an immigration-control apparatus on the boundary line and how political and economic conditions influenced how and against whom the nation-states used it. As U.S. immigration laws increasingly defined Mexicans as outsiders who could not freely cross the boundary line, the divisive power of the border became more apparent. This sense of division between the United States and Mexico and the United States' ongoing attempts to assert its authority over when and how Mexican immigrants cross the border, which reached one peak in the deportations of the Great Depression, continue to define the border today.
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