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3 years ago

Borderlands Food and Water in the Balance

Borderlands Food and Water in the Balance - The Southwest Center

Hungry for Change:

Hungry for Change: Borderlands Food and Water in the Balance This publication was edited by Regina Fitzsimmons, Gary Paul Nabhan, Jeffrey Banister and Maribel Alvarez of the Southwest Center. Special thanks to Margaret Wilder of Latin American Studies at the University of Arizona for planning assistance. The production of this booklet was funded by the Confluence Center of the University of Arizona and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation Endowed Program in Borderlands Food and Water Security at the Southwest Center, University of Arizona. We are particularly grateful to staff of the La Semilla Food Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico and West Texas, and to our colleagues in Hermosillo, Sonora, including Ernesto Camou Healy and the research faculty of CIAD, for their many contributions. Special thanks to all the photographers and writers contributing to this project, and to our collaborators outside the university who are part of the Sabores Sin Fronteras Foodways Alliance. This publication was designed by Paula Schaper and her staff at WestWordVision and printed by Commercial Printers. Thanks to Tim Tracy for making this publication available for download online at the U of A Southwest Center (www.swc.arizona.edu), Sabores sin Fronteras (www.saboresfronteras.com) and Gary Nabhan’s website (www.garynabhan.com). To receive a hard copy of this booklet, contact the Southwest Center of the University of Arizona, 1052 North Highland Avenue, Tucson, Arizona 85721; donations are requested to cover mailing and reprinting. Please make checks out to the University of Arizona Foundation. Cover Photo: © iStockphoto.com/Steve Burger Introduction Gary Nabhan Maribel Alvarez Jeffrey Banister Regina Fitzsimmons Food grows our future: Child at a Sonoran hot dog cart in Tucson | Photo Michael Jones Welcome to the food system of the U.S.-Mexico border —the geopolitical boundary with the greatest economic disparity in the world. Stories written and spoken about this unnatural rift in the landscape are the stuff of myth, literary leaping or yarn spinning, depending on who tells the tale. The U.S./Mexico border is also, for many, una herida abierta—an open wound. It’s a third country altogether; a ghostly apparition; America’s neglected playground; el Norte—where the grass is always greener (if it is alive at all), and so on. Researchers have gathered data to account for the economic and nutritional schism between the two countries. But the numbers are often imprecise, for Mexico and the United States rarely use the same measuring stick. According to one report, the per capita income of U.S. citizens ($45,989) is 5.6 times greater than that of Mexican citizens ($8,143), with most Americans having at least three times the buying power for food and drink than their neighbors on the other side of the line. And yet, when we look more closely at the border region, we see that national averages hardly apply. In counties immediately adjacent to Mexico, poverty rates are twice as high as the rest of the U.S., while incomes in Mexico’s northern border states are 75 percent greater than in the rest of the Republic. Nevertheless, this still puts the average income in U.S. border counties far above the average income in the Mexican border states. Such stark discrepancies become personal when Mexicans witness the lavish consumption and unbelievable waste of food (40-50 percent) by their neighbors north of the border. On economic grounds alone, it should be no surprise that there are at least five million undocumented Mexican-born residents in the United States, many of whom work in the farm, ranch and food service sectors of the economy. Meanwhile, 60 percent of all fresh winter-spring produce eaten in the U.S. now comes from Mexico. Wal-Mart is the largest single food retailer in Mexico, providing more jobs than any other transnational corporation. Viewed from just about every angle, Mexico is critical to the U.S. food system, while the U.S. food system is increasingly important to Mexico. Given such differences and disparities in access to healthy food, we are surprised by the lack of a transborder food security and agricultural sustainability 3

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