Borderland Conditions between the United States and Mexico

Natalia Mendoza
Rachel St. John
November 30, 2012

The border as a unit of analysis becomes a key player when addressing issues of transnational scale. Throughout history, the shape and meaning of borders have evolved as dynamic configurations responding to a wide range of political, economic, and social affairs. In an effort to understand transnational organized crime (TOC) from a geographical lens, historian Rachel St. John and anthropologist Natalia Mendoza reflect on the changing condition of the U.S.-Mexico border and its spillover effect on peripheral communities. St. John has analyzed the history of the borderlands in her book Line in the Sand, where she explains how the capability of the border to attract people to it creates “a form of negotiated sovereignty” subject to “practical difficulties, transnational forces, local communities and the actions of their counterparts across the line.”[i] Mendoza’s ethnographical approach to her field work in the village of Altar in Sonora, Mexico, produced a collection of local narratives on how a community around the border has developed creative ways, both legal and extralegal, to confront the boundary line at a time when governments extend and reinforce the space of state surveillance. The following is a conversation between these two scholars regarding organized crime at the U.S.-Mexico border that can provide a better understanding of a wider conditionality of the boundary line.

[i] Rachel St. John, Line in the Sand: A History of the Western U.S.-Mexico Border (United States of America: Princeton University Press, 2011), 7.