Wednesday, April 08, 2009

No Matter, a Border's Still a Border

[Image: U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo).]

I’m not sure what’s exactly going on in this picture but there seems to be a little dispute about the U.S. Embassy’s use of anti-riot fences creeping beyond its allowable territory in Mexico City.
According to this article, the embassy “has illegally occupied the side street,” some say, “with metal barricades and a sheet-metal canopy erected years ago to provide order and shade for an estimated 2,000 Mexicans applying each day for U.S. visas.”
Now, while the U.S. goes on building a heinous border fence, there is concern the U.S. cannot even respect the sovereignty of Mexico within the neighboring country itself. And who wouldn’t look at this and say, I get that. It’s so – grotesquely gringo. To let that fat security guard belly just hang out like that on Mexico’s streets.
But, is this just a politicized issue, something being made into more than it really is? Or, is this another subtle architectural reminder of the U.S.’s colonial legacy in Mexico, like many of the Pentagon’s Embassy Suites we can find all over the world (the biggest obviously in Baghdad today), now, re-imaged down south as some sort of helping hand to the Mexican people – a canopy for it’s southern neighbor’s downtrodden? As if the U.S. feels your pain.
The article goes on to say, “it is hard to find any city residents who care about the leftists' cause. After all, street vendors, restaurants and other businesses routinely take over streets and sidewalks all over the capital, often leaving just a few inches for pedestrians to squeeze past griddles of frying meat or pirated DVDs.” […] "The embassy has become very Mexicanized in that respect," Art gallery operator Antonio Mendez said. "They wouldn't try this in Washington or New York."
That may be true, about the “mexicanization” of the embassy (which is a very interesting notion in itself: mexicanization as representing something ignorant of borders, or as border-infill -- being made to dwell in the border itself; in this case, mexicanization distorted to represent an invitation to somehow undo its own sovereignty, as if Mexico is responsible for American colonialism); but, I can also see how the Mexican who watches her people die every single day trying to get into the U.S., only to be rounded up in chains and into tent city prisons in the middle of the desert, or to see how the day laborers are being violently chased out of American towns after serving the gringo's economy so well now for the last hundred years, the taco trucks being driven from the streets of LA, and so on…how they would look at this and see if for the blatant disregard of Mexican dignity it is, even in this seemingly minor and insignificant of ways.
But, weather Mexican culture pays attention or not (maybe it should) to me seems beside the point. It is the U.S. sense of entitlement that’s worrisome – helping itself to street space without seemingly consulting the Mexican government beforehand. Perhaps it was more of a natural process that led to the semi-permanence of these barricades, without any objection along the way. But, it still just seems so terribly indicative of the American ideal in general, which has gotten them into their global mess in the first place.
Or, maybe it's more innocent than that, and in some respect this image perfectly encapsulates the more profound dualistic and often times self-conflicted nature of the American project that struggles with being both humanitarian and strategic opportunist in its own pursuits.
I wonder, what agenda, or who specifically this image serves the most? A U.S. that wants to be seen again as always trying to accommodate the Mexican community (at a time it needs a reputation boost the most), or, a fed up pro-immigrant agenda that is trying to capitalize off something that may be in reality relatively politically innocuous?
I’m not sure it amounts to anything, but the article caught my attention, nonetheless. Embassy as excuse to disrespect local sovereignty, or, myopic overstepping of borders blown out of proportion? No matter, I suppose a border's still a border and a street's still a street. If I lived there I'd be pissed.


Blogger vanderleun said...

Marine barracks. Lebanon. As fat Rosie might say, "Google it, kid."

2:07 AM  
Anonymous Laleh said...

It is not just in Mexico. Here in London, the Embassy has blast barricades and wire fencing a long way around it as well, shutting off one side entirely and encroaching on two side-streets half-way through those streets.

12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

see this senseless fence in helsinki...

1:11 AM  
Blogger Subtopia said...

thanks for that helsinki link!

10:51 PM  
Anonymous elijah said...

love your blog, but April 8th ain't Wednesday

8:34 PM  
Blogger Mave said...

I can attest that US embasies use the same tactics everywhere, In London, Berlin etc in the name of "better" security.

In the embassy of Athens, Greece, Gropious's original building, a design made to foster openness and accessibility has been walled up behind fences and a security perimeter totally destroying its creator's intentions of depicting the USA as a nation open to all.

10:31 AM  

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