Some blame individual United States Border Patrol agents for the recent order to destroy the Candelaria, Texas, footbridge across the Rio Grande. This may be misleading. The removal order probably came through a maze of bureaucratic channels before reaching the desk of Sector Chief Smietana at Marfa; nevertheless, the harm that could result from the fulfillment thereof remains ominous. Border residents in the Chihuahuense village of San Antonio del Bravo as well as the several hundred United States citizens who reside in and near Candelaria will be adversely affected should access via the footbridge be denied. Moreover, a bridge closure will result in an exodus of la gente to more populous areas such as Odessa, Texas, and Ojinaga, Chihuahua. The Red Sea never parts for the poor and dispossessed. Such an out-migration from the already sparsely-populated desert would be advantageous neither for the families involved, for the region itself, nor for the stability of the receiving cities.

One wonders, then, whether there remain any lawyers willing to work pro bono, that is: "without compensation for the public good." The myriad of large landowners in southern Presidio County, mostly distant city dwellers with no traditional or familial connection to the region, may care little about the bridge issue; regrettably, certain of them may even favor it. Certainly folk who reside along the Rio Grande, most of whom bear Hispanic surnames, cannot afford to pay astronomical legal fees. Therefore, so much for Equal Justice Under Law, the famous motto engraved over the portico of the United States Supreme Court. "Equal Justice," is obviously reserved for those who can afford it.

A lawsuit defending the rights of traditional Candelaria residents, perhaps class-action in scope, timely filed, could result in an injunction that would stop enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security's order for removal of the bridge. In other words, it would buy time. It seems certain that by early next year the Washington power structure will have shifted. Then this supposed "problem," exacerbated by politicians who know nothing about acculturative factors at work along the "forgotten Rio Grande" may, like a votive candle, have melted away.

The question at hand is more profound than it first appears to be. Consider history: first, the displacement of Mexican-origin people along the Rio Grande border that began with choplogic interpretations of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (the Treaty) in 1848-49 (signed by both countries on February 2, 1848). Second, takeovers and outright swindles, often under coverture of interpretations of the Treaty, Article X (land grants), beginning in the "Magic [lower Rio Grande]Valley" of Texas a century ago; acquisition by sale, the Gadsden Purchase of 1853 for example; another, under the heavy hand of vengeful White ranchers and their agents, those being certain companies of bloody-minded Texas Rangers (the Porvenir Massacre comes to mind); the pandemic of Spanish influenza in 1918 during which 3% or more border dwellers of Mexican-origin died; or as cannon fodder in a series of twentieth-, and now twenty-first century "rich man's war, poor man's fight" scenarios, and otherwise since 9/11 under the guise of "Homeland Security," (a catholicon if ever one existed).

One thing seems certain. If something isn't done to stop the accreting vacantness of the Chihuahuan Desert in the United States above Terrell County, Texas, the region will become a desplobado, or "no man's land." Several centuries of progress for the area will be ended and the process of acculturation brought to a standstill. If that's what a handful of people really want, then shame on them.

Glenn Willeford
Alpine, Texas & Cd. Chihuahua, Mexico


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