252 - A River Runs Through It: the Chamizal Dispute (1895-1963)
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
Ever since the Mexican-American War (1845-49), the Rio Grande has been the border between the two nations from El Paso to the Gulf, giving Texas a natural southern boundary. Fixing the border on a river might seem a tidy solution. But while rivers last longer than most treaties, they are also bound by none. When a river shifts, it shifts, treaty or no.
Does the border then trace the old riverbed or the new one? Naturally, both parties would prefer the outcome that left them the most territory (and the other the least). A war, anyone? International law has a rule for this particular clash between fluctuation and demarcation: if the river changes course gradually, through erosion, the border follows. If the river radically changes course, through avulsion, the border should remain where it was before.\n
By 1895, the Rio Grande – and the US – had moved south about 600 acres (2,4 sq. km), a disputed area known as El Chamizal. Mexicans filed claims to the land south of the old riverbed (but north of the new one), an arbitration commission was established and it eventually proclaimed in 1911 that each country should receive part of the disputed area:
\nThe US was to receive the area between the riverbed as originally surveyed in 1852 and the riverbed as it had shifted southwards by 1864, the rest going to Mexico, even though this was to the north of the later riverbed of the Rio Grande.
The US did not accept this split decision, leading to sustained tension with Mexico and the development of a curious zone in El Chamizal, called Cordova Island. This was a virtual Mexican island in the disputed zone, leading to a grey zone that fostered crime and illegal border crossings.\n
In 1963, US president JF Kennedy and Mexican president Adolfo Lopez Mateos agreed to settle the Chamizal Dispute along the lines of the 1911 recommendations.
• The US and Mexico each received 193 acres of Cordova Island;
\n• Mexico received 366 acres west of Cordova Island, and 264 acres to the east of it.
\n• Mexico and the US shared the cost of a man-made channel that would (or should) prevent further blurring of the border.
\n• US citizens in the Chamizal area were relocated and compensated for the loss of their homes and businesses.
\n• A Chamizal National Memorial, an amphitheatre, a bookstore and a museum were established in the area, which every October hosts several cultural events such as the Border Folk Festival and the Siglo del Oro drama festival.
This map, found at this page at answers.com, would have benefited from a better dating of the three sets of riverbeds, which I assume must be the ones from 1852 (‘old boundary’), 1864 (‘Relocated River Channel’) and around 1895 (‘Rio Grande’).\n
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A guide to making difficult conversations possible—and peaceful—in an increasingly polarized nation.
- How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
- To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.
- The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations.
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