In brief: Line in the Sand

Line in the Sand. A History of the Western US-Mexico Border
Rachel St John
2011, Princeton University Press
284 pages, hardback, plates

DESERT and scrub in the Americas has sometimes undergone a remarkable evolution to become significant, heavily regulated and internationally important sources of the defintion of state power. Nowhere is this more so than in the western border lands between Mexico and the US as the relative power of each country has evolved since the 19th century. What was once an unditinguished strip of land, a mere line on a map, has become the heavily regulated divide between two exceptionally different nation-states and the focus of many of the issues that determine US immigration and foreign policy. Rachel St John’s fascinating history of this evolution since 1848 and the end of the Mexican-American War builds on extensive research to paint a picture of how government officials, indigenous raiders, ranchers, railroad magnates, smugglers, investment adventurers and immigrants have all played their role in shaping state power on the border and found strategies to navigate this increasingly regulated landscape. – GO’T