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.
The western landscapes and demographics, allowing people to shrink time and space, though at great human and environmental cost.
New ways of “managing” wildfire expanded the geographies of fire.
Explore the resources linked below. What other examples of remaking the landscape can you find?
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.
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.