Border Books

The L.A. Times Book Review includes a thoughtful piece by Josh Kun on two recent books about the U.S.-Mexico border: Hyper-Border by Fernando Romero and 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border by Juan Felipe Herrera.

The U.S.-Mexico border is a 2,000-mile geopolitical line that runs from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean, slicing through 10 states, two deserts, at least four different regional accents and at least three different philosophies on how to cook meat, all while changing shape from rivers to rocks to ranch fences to wooden posts to menacing metal walls rigged with electronic sensors.

Yet the border has never been just a line on a map. CNN’s Lou Dobbs knows this as well as a Tijuana local who wakes up to the smell of U.S. Border Patrol tear gas. It is a machine and a metaphor, a tool and a scapegoat, an entire cosmology and, especially these days, a political quagmire as laden with quicksand as the mention of a Palestinian state at a Passover table. There’s no way to talk about it without getting lost in circuitous, maddening debate.

Romero’s book redefines the idea of a clear border by providing a complex image of the region, with its interdependencies, while Herrera’s book is a collection of his poetry, essays and reflections over 30 years of activism on behalf of border peoples, border generations, border languages.