Walking and Talking La Linea

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Too often the border gets a bad rap and it bugs me. Just Google the term U.S.-Mexico border and some of the first words that will pop up are: war, drugs, violence, narcotraffickers…you get the picture. Our southern border is everyone’s favorite piñata –journalists, conservatives and the like get a thrill out of whacking it with a rhetorical stick. 

But the border is more than that bleak picture so many of us read about in the newspapers or see on cable TV. It has its own unique culture: a mixture of Mexican, indigenous and Anglo traditions and languages that fascinates me. It is also one of the most traveled international borders in the world  — a place that more than 15 million people call home. Every year the population continues to grow on both sides of the border.  And every year businesses there generate billions of dollars for the American and Mexican economies. It is also home to parks like Big Bend and the Coronado National Monument where people come from all over the world to see the unique biodiversity of the desert.

Now that I sound like a one woman chamber of commerce, I’ll say that I have lived just about my entire life within close vicinity of the border: first in San Diego, then New Mexico and now Texas. The 1,254-mile border that Texas shares with Mexico is what brought me here. I set out to become a news reporter who specialized in writing about the border region. I wanted to dig beneath the “border town” stereotypes and try to show another side of  life there.  I worked in McAllen as a news reporter and reported on the Big Bend region for the Odessa American. I also served several years as a policy analyst and media flak for Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, a Democratic Senator from the Texas border. I live in Austin now, but the border always draws me back, and I travel frequently there and to Mexico for work and to visit family and friends.

In Mexico they sometimes refer to the United States as el otro lado – the other side of La Linea. Out west it’s a line in the desert. Further east the line becomes a river that twists and turns through Texas before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. I still get a thrill when I stand on the banks of the Rio Grande and just 20 feet away is Mexico and the gateway to Latin America and the southern hemisphere.

I want to focus on many issues: immigration, the environment, politics, culture, health and homeland security, just to name a few right off. I hope this blog can be a place to discuss some of the stereotypes and myths that are unfairly pinned on the border by national media and people who have never spent a day in a town on the southern border. I also hope to hear from folks on the border who have something to say about what’s happening in their communities – what they think is pure bull and what isn’t.

Maybe this is a tad too ambitious. If you think I am contributing to those myths and stereotypes myself let me know. Write, text or twitter for that matter; just be civil is all I ask. Español is welcome as is Espanglish and good ol’ English too. Andale, pues…

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. Melissa is a 2014-15 Lannan Fellow at The Investigative Fund.