cover of book

Border Land, Border Water: A History of Construction on the US-Mexico Divide
by C. J. Alvarez
University of Texas Press, 2019
Cloth: 978-1-4773-1900-0 | Paper: 978-1-4773-1901-7 | eISBN: 978-1-4773-1902-4
Library of Congress Classification F787.A48 2019
Dewey Decimal Classification 363.6109721


Winner, Abbott Lowell Cummings Award, Vernacular Architecture Forum, 2020
Winner, Elisabeth Blair MacDougall Book Award, Society of Architectural Historians, 2021

From the boundary surveys of the 1850s to the ever-expanding fences and highway networks of the twenty-first century, Border Land, Border Water examines the history of the construction projects that have shaped the region where the United States and Mexico meet.

Tracing the accretion of ports of entry, boundary markers, transportation networks, fences and barriers, surveillance infrastructure, and dams and other river engineering projects, C. J. Alvarez advances a broad chronological narrative that captures the full life cycle of border building. He explains how initial groundbreaking in the nineteenth century transitioned to unbridled faith in the capacity to control the movement of people, goods, and water through the use of physical structures. By the 1960s, however, the built environment of the border began to display increasingly obvious systemic flaws. More often than not, Alvarez shows, federal agencies in both countries responded with more construction—“compensatory building” designed to mitigate unsustainable policies relating to immigration, black markets, and the natural world. Border Land, Border Water reframes our understanding of how the border has come to look and function as it does and is essential to current debates about the future of the US-Mexico divide.

See other books on: Building | Construction | Mexican-American Border Region | Public works | Water
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