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“El Otro Lado” (The Other Side): Geographies, Boundaries, and Imaginations of Space

The Engineered West

Plexi, wood, graphite, paper. Two-sided sculpture that reads ‘el otro lado’ on each of its sides.

Luis G. Hernandez, artist.
Untitled (el otro lado)
Photo: Devon Tsuno

Two sided sculpture that reads ‘el otro lado’ (the other side) on each of its sides

Graphite, paper, wood, Plexi

12 x 106 x 71 inches

Luis G. Hernandez, artist.
Untitled #12 (fountain), from the series ‘El Santito’
Photo: Joshua White/

Water fountain and pump, tables, bucket, water from Mexico, container, rocks, fan, clamp and electrical chord

Dimensions variable

Luis G. Hernandez is a visual artist, curator and educator who lives and works between Southern California and Mexico. He is co-founder of the MexiCali Biennial. Born in Mexicali, and raised on both sides of the border fence, the experience of the border - the realities, tragedies and absurdities of one place cut in two - is intrinsic to his creative works.

From the Anasazi and Hohokam to the Owens Valley Paiute, native societies remade the landscapes to suit their lifeways. But the engineering projects of western Euro-Americans dramatically reoriented the lands, waters, and people in lasting ways.

John Wesley Powell was a key early agent for and then critic of these transformations. Geological and geographical land surveys were tools in remaking the West/North.

The western landscapes and demographics, allowing people to shrink time and space, though at great human and environmental cost.

U.S. Americans moved vast amounts of water from places it was to places water was not, dramatically altering the ecologies and workscapes of several regions simultaneously.

New ways of “managing” wildfire expanded the geographies of fire.

The maze of freeways that crisscross the West brought some places and peoples closer together while simultaneously building walls dividing the neighborhoods of others.

Explore the resources linked below. What other examples of remaking the landscape can you find?

Land Surveys

John Wesley Powell’s influential report on the Lands of the Arid Regions of the United States (1878) recognized the watersheds of the lands beyond the 100th meridian and questioned the viability of agriculture in the arid lands.


The railroads engineered the opening of The West to development, connecting the borderlands to resources and industries of extraction.

Hydraulic West/North

The engineering of Western water has temporarily transformed the borderlands into the version of the theory Rain Follows the Plow - arid lands capable of supporting large populations, extractive and agricultural industries.


The loss of traditional fire stewardship practiced by indigenous peoples and the changing climate are transforming the Borderlands’ relationships to fire, along with that of the entire American West.


Highway engineering expanded on the work of the railroad, changing the spatial, temporal, and economic relationships of the Borderlands and to each other and the rest of the world.