I knew I was in a new world when I tuned into the local evening news and the announcer said, “And now, from northern Chihuahua, southern New Mexico, and far west Texas, we bring you Channel 8 News.”
The news anchor’s point of reference was the desert Southwest, namely, the tristate borderplex: El Paso, Juarez, and Las Cruces. Belinda and I were living at the intersection of two nations (United States and Mexico), three states (Texas, Chihuahua, and New Mexico), and three cities. We came to understand this intersection as the largest borderplex in the world. Some might argue that San Diego and Tijuana hold this distinction. I beg to differ. The two cities are 45 minutes apart, while El Paso and Juarez are a stone’s throw across the Rio Grande River.
Living in the El Paso borderlands felt different. We were neighbors with Mexico and her sixth largest city: Cuidad Juarez. Living and serving in the borderland felt like neither here nor there. It was nothing like Austin and a far cry from Washington, D.C. It felt different from Chihuahua City and Mexico City. It was the borderland milieu, a distinctly border ethos and binational region.
As I noted in a previous blog post, we were living in the demographic future of Texas with 69% Hispanic; 26.4% Euro-American; 3.4% African American; and 1.2% Asian American. Thirty years later the demographics have shifted to 82.8% Hispanic; 11.8% Euro-American; 3.9% African American, and 1.3% Asian American in what is now the seventh largest city in Texas.
One of the most fascinating resources I came across while serving in El Paso was Oscar Martinez’s, “Border People: Life and Society along the US-Mexico Border.” Dr. Martinez provides a borderlands typology that really helped me grasp where in the world I was living and who I was trying to serve.
He described global borderlands as four types: alienated borderlands, coexistent borderlands, interdependent borderlands, and integrated borderlands. He also parsed out the types of borderlanders in each scenario.
You might be asking, why does the border matter to those of us living in Texas’ major metro areas of Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio? I still believe the El Paso borderplex is a preview of coming attractions. El Paso is about 20 years ahead of the rest of Texas from a demographic perspective.
The Texas borderland population is expected to expand in the coming years as well. The Texas-Mexico border region population grew 70% between 1990 and 2019 and is expected to increase another 19% to 8.76 million people by 2050.
My purpose here is not to debate the current border crisis in Texas and the United States and Mexico borderlands. My point is to navigate to the future headed our way. As El Paso goes, so goes our future, not only for Texas but the entire United States.
Paul Collier, in his book, “Exodus: How Migration is Changing Our World,” contends that migration is a global phenomenon not unique to our Southern border. Collier, an economist, contends that people from all regions of the world are moving to safer, more secure, and stable places where they can thrive. Politicians will have to sort out border policy and national security issues.
How are we to respond to the stranger, the alien, the newcomer in our midst? What is the Kingdom mindset when it comes to new neighbors, whether they arrive with or without documents?
Among Moses’s final instructions to the people of Israel entering the Promised Land are these words: “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan,” – Exodus 22:21-22 NIV.
What does the Kingdom coming near look like for us when we encounter aliens, widows, and orphans from other tribes, nations, and tongues? Would our prayer of “your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” apply to these new neighbors? How does our citizenship in the Kingdom of God relate to national citizenship when priorities and patriotism intersect?
Source: The Texas-Mexico Border Transportation Master Plan 2021, Texas Department of Transportation