Walls: What They Make and What They Break by Maribel Falcon

anger rising, slowly but surely, my reaction every time I go somewhere I don’t belong, where i’m stared at. I wasn’t wearing medias (stockings) and a pleated skirt like the law students and academics sitting in the back. I sat in the front in a hot pink cardigan y con ganas, listening closely to all of what the experts said ….. most of it was words describing words describing Walls.

The issue of walls, when specifically analyzed, reveals much more about the enclosure than what first comes to one’s mind.

How can these people talk about these barriers with such detachment? Giving their theories on abstract ideologies of space and sovereignty with no mention of the communities of people affected by them. That was what most of the Walls Conference at the University of Texas-Austin entailed for me- listening to people talk authoritatively on something they have never had to deal with. Like the concrete Wall down south, or the Wall that I climbed over just to get here, the invisible Wall.

Border walls are both effective and ineffective, the conclusion from all the speakers. National sovereignty, the role of architecture, the contrast of walls in homes, and several examples of historical borders.

Two women who spoke specifically about the south Texas border gave me some hope that some of these academics really do care about people outside of academia. That all of that research and work could be used for something other than personal accomplishment of exaggerated praise, but rather as evidence of an injustice by the government on its citizens with all the consequences that follow.

Margaret Dorsey, a professor of Anthropology from UT-Pan American, began with the history of the region, stating that the town of Granjeno was established in 1767, pre-dating the United States. Yet, the town and its people have been disregarded with their opposition to the Wall. Denise Gilman, a professor with the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas, led the working group that was able to uncover necessary evidence for the opposition. They worked with the families who owned land to argue a number of different cases– from the protection of minority owned land, to the right of preservation for existing indigenous communities, even the violation of international human rights laws. (Yet, somehow the border touching the Riverbend Golf Resort was left untouched.)

Despite all of their efforts and research, the Wall was still built, 18 ft. tall and costing us 2.4 billion tax dollars.

So what do we do now? Some may think the fight is over, the Wall was built without hesitation, and we just have to deal with it. Well I say No, it’s not over. The hard work done by the academic researchers, community activists, indigenous leaders, and pro-immigrant supporters has not gone to waste. People are listening to their stories and joining our efforts, so that another dreadful Wall may never rise again.

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