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fo r THE BORDER HAS COME TO SYMBOLIZE THE VAST SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DISPARITIES THAT EXIST WITHIN NATIONS AND SOCIETIES, AS WELL AS THE VAST PSYCHIC CONTRADICTIONS THAT EXIST WITHIN INDIVIDUALS. U.S.-Mexican border. But you don’t hear too much these days about thousands of everyday, ordinary, peaceful transactions. If anything, the border has come to symbolize the vast social and economic disparities that exist within nations and societies, as well as the vast psychic contradictions that exist within individuals. First World meets Third World? Sure. But that’s an everyday occurrence in New York or Washington as well as Nuevo Laredo and Ciudad Juarez. So whether you chalk it up to NAFTA or to our interminable dramas of immigration and drugs, the border is no longer uncharted academic territory. On the contrary, the border is in; the border is “hot.” But for those who actually live there, it is something else entirely, a distinction that El Paso writer and publisher Bobby Byrd emphasizes in his introduction to The Late Great Mexican Border. “We shouldn’t make the mistake…of assuming that the two countries and two cultures have become entwined in an embrace that bodes well for those of us who live on the border,” Byrd insists. “We find we are living in a ‘de-constitutionalized’ zone, where the Bill of Rights can be ignored because of ‘sovereignty’ issues \(illegal immicause the border region is poor.” To “help re-fashion” our understanding of the border, Byrd and his daughter Susannah have edited an anthology of previously published essays, to which they have added an interview with West Texas activist Linda Lynch about the proposed Sierra Blanca nuclear waste dump. Among the contributors are two MacArthur-certified geniuses \(Guillermo Gomez-Pena, “an interdisciplinary artist/writer” from Mexico City now residing in Tijuana, and Gary Paul Naphan, an ethnobotanist who travels both contributors to the Observer \(Debbie Nathan, “Love in the Time of Cholera: Waiting for Free Trade on the U.S./Mexico Border,” and Barbara Ferry, “Following journalism, Tom Miller and Alan Weisman; and Richard Rodriguez, son of Sacramento and San Francisco \(a man who has managed to make a career of interpreting Mexico for gringos despite the fact that he Except for Gomez-Pella, whose tends to mix a heavy dose of literary theory with an imitation of vintage Carlos Fuentes \(“Dominant culture is a meta-reality that only exists in the virtual space of mainstream media and in the ideologically and aesthetically controlled spaces of the monocultural institutions….Border culture means boycott, complot, ilegalidad, clandestinidad, contrabando, transgresion, desobediencia binathe writing here is intensely personal and dramatic. Los Angeles writer Luis J. Rodriguez recalls the precise moment when, despite the odds, his mother decided to stay with his father and raise their children in El Norte. Charles Bowden, whose devastating article on Ciudad Juarez was published last December in Harper’s, describes his own physically exhausting trek across the Sonora desert, tracing the footprints of countless immigrants from Mexico and Central America while brooding on a busted marriage and trying to “beat” the Border Patrol. The potential for sensationalism and self-indulgence is enormous. Instead, Bowden manages to drive home what should be obvious, but unfortunately is not: All those desperate people who survive this journey are far more creative and resourceful than the rest of us can ever hope to be. As with every anthology, of course, the quality of the selections is mixed. There’s not much new territory here, particularly for those who have spent any amount of time living on or thinking about the border. Despite the headlines, despite the great drama and inequality, there is still that other border that Bustamante talked about years ago. Whatever else NAFTA has done, it has also pushed us together in ways never contemplated by its chief architectsin education, culture, in environmental and labor organizations. With or without NAFTA, economic integration is a fact of life that is changing Mexico even more than the United States. A far more interesting collection of essays might have addressed those issues, and would have included writers, journalists, radicals, teach ers, farmers, empresarios, etc. from Baja, Chihuahua or Monterreywhose “Mexico” is spinning further and further away from the Mexico City that Bustamente fled, so many years ago. Barbara Belejack is a freelance writer based in Mexico City, currently recovering from Semana Santa. SON OF DURANGO BY LAURANCE L. 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