Man Against Nature
Whatever else might be said about the borderlands, one truth is indisputable : Ill fares the land. For this crime against nature, Americans and Mexicans share equal responsibility: The ongoing abuse is a binational enterprise, at times part and parcel of the global economy. As Peter Steinhart warns in his book Two Eagles, the "fine ecological balance is tipping," plunging toward its "complete destruction, until there will be nothing left but those new steel fences the U.S. Border Patrol is erecting to keep Mexicans out." Man has laid waste to a remarkable region, where plants, animals, and the land interblend in a wondrous, strange symbiosis.
The landscape of the borderlands is hardly static. West of Del Rio, a town not too distant from Laredo, Texas, as miles are reckoned in this vast territory, Nature rarely beckons with open arms. Only the Lower Rio Grande Valley, which lies on the Gulf of Mexico, sometimes provides lush, green havens, where Mexicans and Americans, with only a river to separate them, have lived, if not always in the friendliest of fashion, side by side since the middle of the nineteenth century. A discordant borderlands awaits to the west. In this belt of striking diversity exists a landscape seldom imitated—a jumble of craggy mountains, expansive valleys, riverbeds, grasslands, and deserts. Yet judged by its natural resources, it is a stingy land; poverty is more at home here than abundance.
From El Paso to San Diego lies a harsh landscape, of mesquite and prickly pear cactus; in one author's view, this is "brush country ... ugly in summer, drought-stricken, dusty, glaring." Heat pervades the landscape; it is