Before you even get to the border, you can feel it. The wall cuts across the open land in an offensive display of US authority.
The Rio Grande Valley is the southernmost region of Texas. Bordering Mexico, with a poverty rate well below the national average, the Valley is primarily inhabited by Latinos, both immigrant and local. The Border Patrol controls the region like an occupying army, terrorizing civilians with their ever-present threat. Social service and support jobs abound. It hosts the largest concentration of colonias, makeshift neighborhoods lacking basic infrastructure, in the US.
Many of the undocumented residents are trapped in the Valley, victim to the impenetrable checkpoints on either side– both to travel further north in Texas, and to stray too far and risk being caught by the border police.
Under these conditions, a remarkable culture exists. In the colonias, women are often the community leaders, heading up cooperative projects to improve their neighborhoods or help their household or neighbors. In these underdeveloped areas, people come together in DIY fashion to provide the basic necessities of housing and whatever infrastructure they can.
Last year, the refugee crisis gave us not only a small glimpse of the deep contradictions of US imperialism, but also a look at the cooperation of Valley residents. With tens of thousands of children crossing the border to escape cartel violence, the crisis revealed just how seriously the US’ intervention in Central America has affected the region. People came from all over Texas and other parts of the country to offer clothing, food and shelter — and to protest the state’s response. While unknown numbers of children were fleeing across the border looking for solace and safety, Texas sent 1,000 National Guard troops to the border, and the governor, Rick Perry, toured the Rio Grande on a gun boat.
The Valley is a region with ripening contradictions. We investigate to learn from the people of the RGV, to understand their conditions, to discover what might be possible, and find how we might speak together.