I met someone at work who is friends with David J. Danelo, the author of The Border: Exploring the U.S.-Mexican Divide. My new friend told me that Danelo recently traveled the entire US-Mexico border and had recorded his observations along the way. My friend, a counter-insurgency wonk, said that Danelo was interested in the similarities between the insurgents in Iraq and the narcotraficantes in Mexico; sadly, there is not much in The Border about narcotraficantes as insurgents. In the last chapter, Danelo spends a few pages discussing the hybrid nature of the war being fought amongst the narcotraficantes, DHS, DEA, the U.S. military and the Mexican military; and how hybrid war solutions from other parts of the world may need to be applied to parts of the border. The next time Danelo is in town, I hope we can meet so I can hear more about his counter-insurgency ideas.
That disappointment aside, I really enjoyed the book. For me, it was a great way to compare and contrast the other border towns with Ciudad Juárez. Danelo did a great job of explaining how geography affected and affects politics and economics. He also took a few deep dives into parts of the historical relationship between the two countries. Danelo fleshes out the reason for his sub-title towards the end of the book. He wants to make sure the reader thinks about the difference between the physical U.S.-Mexico border and the cultural American-Mexican border, which runs much farther north and is much more porous than the physical border. The part of the book which struck me the hardest was his detailed description of the May 1997 killing of American citizen Zeke Hernandez by U.S. Marine Cpl. Clemente Banuelos. His recounting of this tragedy and its politico-cultural ramifications is very important to understanding today’s hesitancy to involve the U.S. military in the border problems.
If you live on the border and/or just want to get an up-to-date account of life on the border, this is an easy place to start. Danelo has a very personable writing style, an interesting viewpoint and takes the time to describe his feelings as well as his thoughts.
UPDATE: Here’s a December 2008 article by Danelo about border violence. My mother sent me a clipping of this article in the mail, bless her heart.