Draw­ing Time: Mak­ing the Rio Mean­der Map

Chris Taylor

Water remembers everything it travels over and through.
If you have been in water, part of you remains there still.
It is a memoir of an indissoluble relationship with the world.
But where is water now? Where is the world?

Some say all of this launched about 4.5 bil­lion years ago when Earth coa­lesced from par­ti­cles, min­er­als and liq­uids2 radi­at­ing from a big event 9.3 bil­lion years pri­or. Oth­ers say some­where between thir­ty-five and twen­ty-eight mil­lion years ago a rift began form­ing in Earth’s stretch­ing lithos­phere open­ing con­di­tions for water to gath­er. Yet, not until eight to six hun­dred-thou­sand years ago did the water­shed form a con­nec­tion to open ocean at what we now call the Gulf of Mex­i­co. Evi­dence of human activ­i­ty along the rio has been not­ed as ear­ly as five thou­sand years ago, while cer­tain­ly peo­ples have lived along and across the rio for per­haps two or three times as long. Rio Bravo/Rio Grande is part of a deep time cycle pre­ced­ing and facil­i­tat­ing bio­mes of plant and animal/human evolution.

In 2016, artist Zoe Leonard began an epic pho­to­graph­ic work focus­ing on Rio Bravo/Rio Grande as it serves as a bor­der between Mex­i­co and the Unit­ed States from Ciu­dad Juarez/El Paso to the Gulf of Mex­i­co. Approach­ing the project as mul­ti­fac­eted leit­mo­tif” Leonard artic­u­lates how the shift­ing nature of a river—which floods peri­od­i­cal­ly, changes course, and carves new channels—is as odds with the polit­i­cal task it is asked to per­form.” The ambi­tion to exam­ine present com­plex­i­ties, exist­ing in plain sight, per­me­ates an effort that stems from the dura­tion of its mak­ing, the den­si­ty of pic­tures made (thou­sands), dis­tances tra­versed, and sit­u­a­tions encoun­tered. A pro­logue, exhib­it­ed in the Carnegie Inter­na­tion­al, 57th Edi­tion, 20183 revealed that the tur­bu­lent forces at work in Leonard’s pho­tographs, how­ev­er, are far more opaque, com­plex, and interbed­ded than any­thing we can see. Col­ored dun by earth and sed­i­ment, the Rio Grande sculpts a shift­ing ter­rain.”4 The cul­mi­na­tion, approx­i­mate­ly five-hun­dred pho­tographs oper­at­ing togeth­er as an art work, will be exhib­it­ed as Al Rio/To The Riv­er in 2021 at MUDAM: The Con­tem­po­rary Art Muse­um of Lux­em­bourg, before trav­el­ing to the Musée d’Art Mod­erne de Paris and on to venues in Mex­i­co, the Unit­ed States, and else­where. A two-vol­ume pub­li­ca­tion will accom­pa­ny the exhibition—edited by Tim John­son, poet, writer, edi­tor and project collaborator—to include the pho­tographs and an assem­blage of essays, con­ver­sa­tions and mate­r­i­al to acti­vate the wide range of his­to­ries and rela­tion­ships immersed with­in the rio.

Geology in Big Bend.

Geology in Big Bend.

Quick question regarding research.
How far back are we looking to go?

From the beginning. And, it would seem the beginning starts with the Big Bang and goes forward.

Andres Armendariz and Chris Taylor, 26 Aug 2020

With­in the Col­lege of Archi­tec­ture at Texas Tech Uni­ver­si­ty in Lub­bock is a trans­dis­ci­pli­nary field pro­gram called Land Arts of the Amer­i­can West ded­i­cat­ed to expand­ing aware­ness of the inter­sec­tion of human con­struc­tion and the evolv­ing nature of our plan­et. Using Land art, or Earth art, gen­er­a­tive­ly as ges­tures emerg­ing from ground and extend­ing through com­plex social and eco­log­i­cal process­es, the pro­gram exam­ines ges­tures small and grand direct­ing atten­tion towards pot­sherds, trash, tracks, set­tle­ments, art­works, and mil­i­tary-indus­tri­al instal­la­tions. Land Arts cre­ates oppor­tu­ni­ties to work in rela­tion to the com­plex forces that shape the Amer­i­can West by sit­u­at­ing this work with­in a con­tin­u­ous tra­di­tion of land-based oper­a­tions that is thou­sands of years old. As a semes­ter long field pro­gram that usu­al­ly camps for over fifty days while trav­el­ing near­ly 9,700 kilo­me­ters (6,000 miles) over land through­out the Amer­i­can West, Land Arts hinges on the pri­ma­cy of first-per­son expe­ri­ence and the real­iza­tion that human/land rela­tion­ships are rarely singular.

The historical narratives we’re taught, like maps and images, are often two-dimensional reflecting the present times’ politics. We have an opportunity and responsibility to adjust scale and attention to possibly affect new narratives about our place in nature.

Caitlin Ford, 31 Aug 2020

In the Spring of 2020, after the Land Arts admis­sion of ten won­der­ful­ly diverse and qual­i­fied par­tic­i­pants, we began ask­ing: How does a field pro­gram adapt to a pan­dem­ic? Sci­ence fic­tion sce­nar­ios came to mind of bio-haz­ard-suit­ed researchers, roam­ing the desert, exam­in­ing the residue of humanity’s engage­ment with the nat­ur­al world. Yet it was emi­nent­ly clear such approach­es would not ade­quate­ly pro­tect par­tic­i­pants from covid-19 uncer­tain­ty, nor would they shield the vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties and lands—disadvantaged by sys­temic eco­nom­ic injus­tice and lim­it­ed health infrastructure—that we rou­tine­ly encounter. Rather than mag­ni­fy the mount­ing risks of trav­el in this time, Land Arts 2020 need­ed to adapt. The oppor­tu­ni­ty for adap­ta­tion arrived through an invi­ta­tion from Zoe Leonard and Tim John­son to con­struct a mean­der map describ­ing the ever-chang­ing tra­jec­to­ries of the rio they were examining.

For a robust and expansive starting point for information about Native Peoples and Lands, see https://native-land.ca.

For a robust and expansive starting point for information about Native Peoples and Lands, see https://native-land.ca.

This story is from a long time ago; when animals could talk.

Juanita Pahdopony-Mithlo (1947–2020) and Harry Mithlo, 16 Apr 2015.

While vig­or­ous debate and research con­tin­ue, it is com­mon­ly under­stood that ances­tral peo­ples inhab­it­ed the Amer­i­c­as as ear­ly as fif­teen-thou­sand years ago. Evi­dence in the Low­er Pecos region mark that activ­i­ty between four and five-thou­sand years ago. Also along the Rio Mean­der Map upriv­er are the ances­tral lands of the Tam­pa­choa (Man­sos), Tigua, Pesca­do, Sumas, Yoli (Con­cho), La Jun­tas, Chisos, Jumanos, East­ern Pueb­los, and the Chir­ic­ahua Apache, Mescalero Apache, and Lipan Apache Nde Nations. Down­riv­er the Kiikaapoi (Kick­apoo), Tap Pil­am Coahuil­te­can Nation, Alaza­pas, Raya­dos (Bor­ra­dos), Somi Se’k (Sto’k Gna) (Carrizo/Comecrudo), and Tamaulipeco. The Numunuu (Comanche Nation) also crossed the rio at sev­er­al points dur­ing their activ­i­ties south into Mex­i­co in the 1800s.5

To have an understanding of history going beyond the immediate frame of content presented in textbooks, when we start to question the authenticity of the information we have been given, we are invited to look beyond the mainstream publications, presented as a way to push ideals justifying progress that only benefits the people with the means to further their own agendas.

Andres Armendariz, 1 Sep 2020

Land Arts 2020 ADAPTATION con­duct­ed a trans­dis­ci­pli­nary deep research, non-trav­el­ing, stu­dio and sem­i­nar to con­struct the Rio Mean­der Map of the Rio Bravo/Rio Grande, as it marks the inter­na­tion­al bor­der from Ciu­dad Juarez/El Paso to the Gulf of Mex­i­co, reveal­ing the undu­lat­ing and shift­ing course of the riv­er over time. Inspired by mean­der maps pro­duced by Harold Fisk and team in the 1930s and 1940s of The Allu­vial Val­ley of the Low­er Mis­sis­sip­pi,6 this map required exten­sive bina­tion­al and mul­ti­lin­gual research into the his­to­ry of riv­er geom­e­try and map­ping as a man­i­fes­ta­tion of dynam­ic ecosys­tems mod­i­fied over time by wide ranges of human and non­hu­man con­struc­tion. To com­plete the rio mean­der map, par­tic­i­pants and affil­i­at­ed guests divid­ed across pri­ma­ry work­ing groups of RESEARCHERS, with sub­groups for Span­ish and Eng­lish lan­guages, and MAPPERS with sub­groups for GeoSpa­tial Syn­the­sis and Graph­ic Pro­duc­tion. The groups facil­i­tat­ed inde­pen­dent research actions and col­lec­tive pro­duc­tion that was aggre­gat­ed and man­aged through dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion and file shar­ing. Week­ly activ­i­ty was logged through pro­duc­tion post­ing and feed­back cycles sup­port­ed by com­mon dis­cus­sion sec­tions. Guest ses­sions with project advi­sors also expand­ed the range of dia­log and production.

Charles Bowden, Killing the Hidden Waters (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003), 7.

Charles Bowden, Killing the Hidden Waters (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003), 7.

Water is energy, and in arid lands it rearranges humans and human ways and human appetites around its flow. Groundwater is a nonrenewable source of such energy. These facts are the core of the impact when groundwater is developed in such places. Humans build their societies around consumption of fossil water long buried in the earth, and these societies, being based on a temporary resource, face the problem of being temporary themselves.7

The Rio Mean­der Map is a liv­ing map of a liv­ing riv­er; a dynam­ic por­trait of per­sis­tent­ly shift­ing geo­graph­ic, social, and polit­i­cal conditions.

The earliest childhood memories that I still hold with me are of water. The first was in the backyard of my childhood home. I had a fascination with it and would turn the faucet on just to watch it wiggle its way down the slope of the yard between the fruit trees and past the outhouse. Eventually, the neighbor downhill would complain and my grandmother would come out chasing after me. On this day however, she wasn’t angry. She had told me over the past year I’d be seeing my parents again soon and my day had finally come. At the time, my parents had already left for Texas. They were both migrant farmers and had been coming back and forth to Mexico since they were 14. They followed certain crops. Sometimes that took them to orange orchards in Florida, tobacco in the Carolinas and once my dad said he got a job planting pines along highway 10 through Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. They left my brother, my two sisters and I in the care of my grandmother while they figured things out here in the states. The intention was never to stay but we were poor and eventually had no choice. That day, she walked me around the neighborhood to say goodbye to my family. I bragged about coming to America and asked them what they wanted once I made it to the north and was swimming in dollars. The adults asked for guitars, a Harley Davidson, a new pick-up and the children asked for toys. I’d be leaving the next day.8

Ciudad Juarez / El Paso
2,028–1,897 kilómetros (1,260–1,179 miles) from and
1,160–1,076 metros (3,807–3,531 feet) above the Gulf of México
Average Rainfall: 24.7cm (9.71in)
Average Temperatures: 34.6C (94.2F) high, 18.1C (64.6F) mean, 1.1C (34F) low

Rio meander detail at Tornilla-Guadalupe International Bridge, Southeast of Ciudad Juarez/El Paso.

Rio meander detail at Tornilla-Guadalupe International Bridge, Southeast of Ciudad Juarez/El Paso.

Cur­rent­ly, as the rio enters Ciu­dad Juarez/El Paso cut­ting between Las Sier­ras de los Man­sos (Franklin Moun­tains) and Cer­ro Bola—the moun­tain pass that El Paso del Norte was named for in 1659—nearly all of its waters are divert­ed. First at the Amer­i­can Diver­sion Dam and then at a bend a few miles on at the Inter­na­tion­al Diver­sion Dam. The water, allo­cat­ed by 1906 treaty, flows from the for­mer into the Amer­i­can Canal and from the lat­er into Ace­quia Madre where it feeds an elab­o­rate mir­rored yet unequal net­work of canals, ditch­es and drains that sup­port the agri­cul­tur­al val­ley run­ning for near­ly 140 kilo­me­ters (90 miles). To com­bat irreg­u­lar flows, silt­ing and flood­ing, caused by upriv­er dams, anoth­er treaty in 1933 laid the legal frame­work for a mas­sive rec­ti­fi­ca­tion project—straightening, short­en­ing, and chan­nel­iz­ing the rio through­out the length of this val­ley. Since 1938 the rio chan­nel has remained most­ly an infre­quent hydro­log­i­cal ghost with­in a near­ly six-hun­dred-foot-wide flood­way con­tain­ing par­al­lel lev­ees and the inter­na­tion­al bor­der run­ning down the cen­ter. With­in the urban heart of the twinned cities the cen­tral chan­nel is lined with con­crete. For the major­i­ty of its dis­tance, it is a colos­sal homog­e­nized earth­work. Walk­ing or trav­el­ing across any of the inter­na­tion­al bridges reveal the bar­ren void rein­forc­ing incom­plete or defec­tive notions about the dry­ness of the region. While it cer­tain­ly is arid, annu­al­ly receiv­ing less than 25 cen­time­ters (10 inch­es) of pre­cip­i­ta­tion, more res­onate sound­ings come from the expan­sive sys­tem of chan­nels that enable an irri­gat­ed green patch­work to run from the pop­u­lat­ed zone below Loma Blanca/San Elizario down to Fort Quit­man and Ban­deras. The por­trait of the rio here is com­plex, inter­wo­ven and co-evolved with­in an irri­gat­ed belt craft­ed by geol­o­gy, hydrog­ra­phy, agriculture.

A map is quasi drawing, quasi political document that is worth the lives of others. In its most purity, it is not the GPS directional quality, but the question at the end of the reading Rabasa has made: what extent can one write about violence without perpetuating it?

Ana Garcia Merino, 21 Sep 2020

Soon after word spread pub­licly of the Land Arts 2020 ADAPTATION, inter­est par­tic­i­pat­ing or con­nect­ing to the project quick­ly mate­ri­al­ized. The oppor­tu­ni­ty struck a chord with peo­ple across a wide dis­ci­pli­nary and geo­graph­ic swath, radi­at­ing through­out Texas, from Lub­bock to the bor­der, then east­ward through New York to Seville, War­saw and Stock­holm, west­ward through Utah and Cal­i­for­nia to Han­no, Japan, and south­ward to Peru and Chile, span­ning an eigh­teen-hour time zone dif­fer­en­tial. In total near­ly fifty peo­ple were involved. Con­tribut­ing par­tic­i­pants con­sist­ed of twen­ty-three enrolled under­grad­u­ate and grad­u­ate stu­dents and inde­pen­dent schol­ars, which were sup­port­ed by a core group of pri­ma­ry pro­duc­tion voic­es, con­tribut­ing advi­sors, and dis­tant wit­ness observers. The com­mit­ment and diver­si­ty of the group was hum­bling and vital for the con­struc­tion of a col­lec­tive por­trait of this liv­ing and dynam­ic line.

When we enter the landscape to learn something, we are obligated, I think, to pay attention rather than constantly to pose questions. To approach the land as we would a person, by opening an intelligent conversation. And to stay in one place, to make of that one, long observation a fully dilated experience. We will always be rewarded if we give the land credit for more than we imagine, and if we imagine it as being more complex even than language.9

Rio Mean­der Map tells time. Embed­ded with­in lay­ered folds and jump cuts of depo­si­tion and ero­sion, time is marked with­in ges­tures pil­ing up and scrap­ing away. Such a map con­sid­ers more than imme­di­ate sur­face con­di­tions and seeks to reveal interbed­ded geo­log­ic structures—the grain of Earth—the rio tra­vers­es or carves through. Time sig­na­tures extend from gun­shot10 imme­di­a­cy to Pre­cam­bri­an11 rock matri­ces. From per­sis­tent present to per­haps half Earth’s age. The con­cen­tra­tion of tem­po­ral diver­si­ty is greater in high­er ele­va­tions near El Paso del Norte evi­denced in a geo­log­ic record that spans from present through the Ceno­zoic, Meso­zoic, Pale­o­zoic to Pre­cam­bri­an Eras. Mov­ing down­riv­er to La Jun­tas de los Rios the record dis­si­pates at the Devon­ian peri­od just over four-hun­dred-mil­lion years ago. At Maderas del Car­men in Big Bend the lim­it is with­in the Ear­ly Cre­ta­ceous peri­od one-hun­dred-forty-five-mil­lion years ago. La Pre­sa Amis­tad mark­ing the edge of canyon coun­try holds steady with that zone, while La Pre­sa Fal­con marks a drop in ele­va­tion and topog­ra­phy dat­ing only to the Eocene epoch of fifty-six-mil­lion years ago. The delta through Matamoros/Brownsville to Boca Chi­ca are made up of sed­i­ments from the Holocene epoch, twelve-thou­sand-years ago to the present Anthro­pocene where rock records are inter­wo­ven with human impact.

The ques­tion of the Anthro­pocene, the aggre­ga­tion of the geo­log­ic record with per­sis­tent human activ­i­ty, is more than sci­en­tif­ic tus­sle.12 For archi­tects it is a stark indi­ca­tor our work is nev­er autonomous. It is always sit­u­at­ed. With­in streams of mate­r­i­al, eco­nom­ic, and social flows. Into expan­sive net­works of resource feeds and waste streams. Exam­i­na­tions of the tra­jec­to­ry of these flows—towards jus­tice13 perhaps—must be inter­twined in all of our work.

We have become so separated from the source of our sustenance that it is sometimes difficult to even imagine the origin of the water that we take in.

Andres Armendariz, 10 Oct 2020

Near­ly half of the ter­ri­to­ry with­in the Rio Mean­der Map exists with­in the Chi­huahuan Desert con­tain­ing xeric shrub­lands with life­forms adapt­ed to extreme con­di­tions of topo­graph­ic and atmos­pher­ic dif­fer­en­tials. After La Pre­sa Amis­tad the land breaks into the arid inte­ri­or plains of Tamauli­pan mezquital with xero­phyt­ic shrub, mesquite and oak forests before giv­ing way to the sub­trop­i­cal grass and shrub­lands of Tamauli­pas pastizal.

From Rediscovering the Endlessness of Time:
“What is overwhelming for you now that wasn’t before?”
“And You?”
This is what we should be asking in every email greeting right now rather than “I hope this finds you well …”

Grace Shanks, 9 Sep 2020

Cen­tral to the pro­duc­tion of the Rio Mean­der Map was devel­op­ing a struc­ture that lever­aged and required a syn­thet­ic non-har­mo­nious voice. While the col­lec­tive effort was deeply inclu­sive, it did not seek uni­ty or equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion. The chal­lenges of oper­at­ing remote­ly dur­ing a glob­al pan­dem­ic adapt­ed the ped­a­gogy of equal weight. We began by antic­i­pat­ing there would be times when group mem­bers were not able to car­ry an equal load. Rather than see­ing that as prob­lem to over­come with pre-pan­dem­ic reme­di­a­tion, here group ener­gy and col­lec­tive voice ral­lied to acti­vate the inher­ent dif­fer­en­tials present. Instead of a gen­er­al­iz­ing approach we sought to open het­eroge­nous man­i­fes­ta­tions of time, nar­ra­tive, and geog­ra­phy. This was built into the com­po­si­tion of the group. In to the con­di­tions of our work. And, into the mul­ti­tudes of voice radi­at­ing from the project, the ter­ri­to­ry, and it’s peo­ple.14

The definition of amateur as the repetition of desire rather than the act of the unskilled. Even through amateur processes include everything and everyone tells their own story with personal curiosities, the stories formed take shape over many lifetimes.

Amber Noyola, 8 Sep 2020

Rio meander detail at La Junta de los Rio near Ojinaga/Presidio.

Rio meander detail at La Junta de los Rio near Ojinaga/Presidio.

After more than a cen­tu­ry of Span­ish colo­nial incur­sion, con­trol, and vio­lent15 sub­ju­ga­tion of indige­nous Pueblo peo­ple in what remains known as New Mex­i­co, pro­found risk of cul­ture loss and sur­vival led to the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The tra­di­tion­al­ly autonomous Pueblo com­mu­ni­ties were unit­ed into simul­ta­ne­ous action by Po’pay of Ohkay Owingeh to dri­ve Span­ish forces and set­tlers from San­ta Fe south along the rio to Paso del Norte. This line of force is wide­ly held as the only suc­cess­ful upris­ing against a col­o­niz­ing pow­er in North Amer­i­ca and cel­e­brat­ed as vital to the preser­va­tion of Native cul­ture, tra­di­tions and lands. It is a line of force and time that con­tin­ues to res­onate, three-hun­dred-forty years lat­er.16

La Junta de los Rios
1,603–1,530 kilómetros (996–951 miles) from and
820–774 metros (2,690–2,538 feet) above the Gulf of México
Average Rainfall: 24.5cm (9.66in)
Average Temperatures: 38.1C (100.5F) high, 21.8C (71.2F) mean, 2.4C (36.3F) low

From Ban­deras the rio extends south­east by south pick­ing its way through remote and rough canyons between the Quit­man Moun­tains and Sier­ra San Mar­tin del Bor­ra­cho. Fed by drainages such as Arroyo Agua las Vacas and Goat Canyon, Arroyo Pare­don and Hog Canyon. Past farms, eji­dos, ran­chos and com­mu­ni­ties with place names Guer­ra, Bram­lett, Pilares, Baeza and San Anto­nio de Bra­vo. Through crossings—mostly informal—called Bob Love, Paso el Cubano, Low­er Los Fres­nos, Come­dor, San Anto­nio, Rui­dosa, Sparks, La Pres­sa, and Vado. Through this sec­tion, present con­di­tions often pull all waters from its chan­nel, leav­ing it a mas­sive dry arroyo hold­ing the mem­o­ry of past water frozen in time. Yet agri­cul­tur­al pres­ence, or its traces, begin to fill the val­ley between Adobes and El Ramireño with most of it occur­ring on the rios right bank, or west­ern side. These fields how­ev­er are not fed by Rio Bravo/Rio Grande. Instead, irri­ga­tion water flows ten miles upstream from the Rio Con­chos in the Canal Prin­ci­pal Mar­gen Izquier­da set into the top edge of the flood­plain. The fer­tile plain expands wide­ly at La Jun­tas de los Rios, the con­flu­ence of Rio Con­chos and Rio Bravo/Rio Grande. For some this is the rebirth of the pri­ma­ry riv­er as often the major­i­ty of down­stream flow emerges from the Con­chos water­shed. Over­lay­ing the tan­gled knots of his­toric mean­ders with­in this sec­tion is an earth­en rec­ti­fi­ca­tion effort com­plet­ed in the 1970s straight­en­ing and pro­vid­ing con­tain­ment vol­ume for flood lev­el flows to course between the linked towns of Oji­na­ga, Chi­huahua and Pre­sidio, Texas. The dynam­ic rio course turns loose again after Fort Leaton and con­tin­ues through Eji­do Monte Mar­queño, Palo­mas, and Red­ford before cut­ting into more remote canyon coun­try. The rich­ness of this val­ley con­flu­ence and its his­to­ry attest to the deep pres­ence of indige­nous pueblo cul­tures thriv­ing here long before first con­tact17 with Europeans.

High resolution digital elevation model of confluence of Rio Conchos and Rio Bravo/Rio Grande near Ojinaga/Presidio.

High resolution digital elevation model of confluence of Rio Conchos and Rio Bravo/Rio Grande near Ojinaga/Presidio.

My second memory is of the river. My dad sent my grandfather money to buy us a bus ticket to Nuevo Laredo. My older brother tagged along. Once in Nuevo Laredo my grandfather handed me off to a group of men who I had never met before and he returned back to my hometown with my brother. It all happened really fast. Before I knew we were at the riverbank. The river was muddy and violent. The men begin to remove their clothes and placed them in trash bags. I was used to seeing my older brother naked when we’d bath together as children but never an adult. This was a first. I was in shock. Once their clothes were in trash bags, they tied a knot at the end and flung them across the river to the other side. I didn’t have any luggage or a trash bag; just the clothes I wore that day. The tallest man picked me up and sat me on his shoulders and we crossed. I don’t know if he stumbled or if he stepped on a soft spot of the riverbed that he submerged lower into the river and dipped my backside into the water. I felt the cold chill crawl up my spine and through the rest of my body as I touched the water. Later, as a kid growing up in Oak Cliff, I would always remember this chill when other children teased me about being a “wet back”. It was a matter of fact; it was all that got wet; nothing to get upset about. Once on the other side, the men opened their bags of clothing and began to dress in their dry clothes before we continued on. Once in the city, they left me in a cheap motel and locked the door behind them. They told me not to open the door for anyone before they left. I cried until I fell asleep. When I woke up my father was there. We checked out and hitchhiked to Dallas to reunite with my mother.18

Is it pos­si­ble to cre­ate a map that avoids, or acknowl­edges, the impe­r­i­al, colo­nial, and mil­i­tary imper­a­tives they emerge from?19 How might its sto­ry devel­op? What time­lines are held? Are cultivated?

Independent Mexico inherited in 1821 a badly fragmented frontier in its far north, and the fledgling nation failed to put it back together. New Mexico continued its drift toward Comanchería, distancing itself from the rest of Mexico, while Texas, in a doomed attempt at self-preservation, opened its borders to U.S. immigration. The founding of the Republic of Texas posed a grave threat to Comanches, but ironically, it also spurred one of the most dramatic extensions of their regime. While struggling to secure their border with the Long Star Republic through war and diplomacy, romances shifted their market-driven raiding operations south of the Rio Grande, turning much of northern Mexico into a vast hinterland of extractive raiding. That subjugated hinterland was what the United States Army invaded and conquered in 1846–48.20

Rio meander detail at Maderas del Carmen/Big Bend.

Rio meander detail at Maderas del Carmen/Big Bend.

Ear­ly on in the process of build­ing the rio mean­der map, ques­tions and meth­ods of telling time proved cen­tral. In addi­tion to syn­the­siz­ing infor­ma­tion geo-spa­tial­ly, aggre­gat­ing research in time was a per­sis­tent objec­tive. What appeared as chrono­log­i­cal time­line, one begin­ning with the ages of rock, min­er­als and Earth itself, tra­versed broad evo­lu­tions and legal treaty minu­ti­ae. It per­sist­ed as provo­ca­tion of nar­ra­tive voice and design lan­guage, as sin­gu­lar pri­ma­ry focus points or mul­ti-scalar, mul­ti-dimen­sion­al index­i­cal reference.

What if our mapping could serve to disorganize and disorient rather than uphold the rigid boundaries established by surveyors at the turn of the century, a sort of beautiful chaos that better reflects the reality of nature (including human intervention)?

Alden Anderson, 13 Sep 2020.

Maderas del Carmen / Big Bend
1,336–1,313 kilómetros (830–816 miles) from and
581–565 meters (1,905–1,855 feet) above the Gulf of México
Average Rainfall: 32.4cm (12.77in)
Average Temperatures: 38.4C (101.1F) high, 21.2C (70.1F) mean, .33C (32.6F) low

With­in the Big Bend the rio’s course gen­er­al­ly cuts its way through tight topo­graph­ic canyons that rise and curl along­side, and across, its tra­jec­to­ry. Moments when bound­aries and slope ease, braid­ing reoc­curs before gath­er­ing. This par­tic­u­lar­ly rugged and harsh ter­ri­to­ry, being remote from both south and north, has remained rel­a­tive­ly iso­lat­ed for cen­turies. Per­haps it was the deft eques­tri­an pow­er of the Comanche that made them the only peo­ples who defined this region as a through­way for larg­er con­ti­nen­tal ambi­tions. Tra­di­tion­al mod­ern ranch­ing and farm­ing in the area has always been stretched thin, fur­ther open­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty for con­ser­va­tion, yet it was not until 1944 that the U.S. estab­lished Big Bend Nation­al Park and 1994 that Mex­i­co cre­at­ed Par­que Nacional Cañon de San­ta Ele­na and Nat­ur­al Pro­te­gi­da Maderas del Car­men. Here the rio is marked by a rib­bon of ripar­i­an veg­e­ta­tion hold­ing to the bot­tom of drainages such as Tornil­lo Creek, Arroyo Tem­po­ral and Arroyo Avis­pas. Archae­o­log­i­cal traces also dot this seg­ment evi­denc­ing zones of dis­tri­b­u­tion and lay­ers of occu­pa­tion inter­weav­ing biologic/human and geo­log­ic time scales.

QGIS rio tracing of USGS East Brownsville Quadrangle, 1930.

QGIS rio tracing of USGS East Brownsville Quadrangle, 1930.

it’s a name you can never change
in a way it’s just as American as yours
you probably don’t even know about
the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
you know, come to think of it
the border crossed me, I didn’t cross it
if you really want to think about it
you’re the wetback
coming across the Atlantic

Spo­ken lan­guage with­in bor­der cul­ture is as inter­wo­ven as rio mean­der­ings. Pre­dom­i­nate­ly Span­ish, yet not sin­gu­lar, switch­ing freely as nec­es­sary. Respond­ing to fric­tions and alliances. Behind each Span­ish or Eng­lish name lies indige­nous under­stand­ings for places, fea­tures and forces that have been over­tak­en, dis­placed, or unseen.22 Giv­en the poly-lin­gual nature of the sub­ject and the group of researchers the emerg­ing lan­guage of the map is voiced in a sim­i­lar­ly fused amalgam.

Our lives are a metamorphosis to understanding our individual relationship with our environment.

Amber Noyola, 19 Sep 2020

To cre­ate the work, the col­lec­tive pro­duc­ers also need­ed to craft the process­es nec­es­sary to bring all the voic­es, con­tent, and mate­r­i­al togeth­er. Con­stant­ly test­ing and refin­ing research and devel­op­ment meth­ods as the rio mean­der map came into view.

We have all started to see how man has shaped the river, but one of the things I often wonder about is how it’s shaped the lives of the plants and animals that have depended on it for so long.

Andres Armendariz,28 Sep 2020

This space is intentionally blank to acknowledge the missing, disappeared, lost to time, weather, violence; what is yet to be known, and/or remembered.

Rio as inter­na­tion­al bound­ary spawned a lega­cy of sur­vey­ing and diplo­mat­ic chal­lenges requir­ing exten­sive agree­ments and adjust­ments over time.

Translation can be a border, since it is a bridge between two languages. Yet, a border also describes opposites such as truth and fiction, since there is a border or huge difference between them. How is it that border can mean a bridge connecting different things, while also meaning a divide between two things that will never be connected?

Daniel Rios, 26 Oct 2020

QGIS rio tracing of USGS Seminole Canyon Quadrangle, 1970.

QGIS rio tracing of USGS Seminole Canyon Quadrangle, 1970.

Cre­at­ing the Rio Mean­der Map required its mak­ers to iden­ti­fy and cre­ate geospa­tial con­ti­nu­ities where frac­tures and dis­con­nec­tion exist­ed before. While the bina­tion­al Inter­na­tion­al Bound­ary and Water Com­mis­sion was cre­at­ed by treaty to adju­di­cate man­age­ment issues through sub­se­quent treaties and agree­ments, their records tend towards res­o­lu­tion of spe­cif­ic incon­sis­ten­cies to bor­der con­fig­u­ra­tions. They seek to sim­pli­fy, cod­i­fy and for­ti­fy a sin­gle line. Records of their actions, in earth­works and legal doc­u­ments, demon­strate their quest for effi­cien­cy. Our charge, to cre­ate a liv­ing por­trait of a liv­ing riv­er, sought to under­stand the com­plex inter­wo­ven con­di­tions of hydrol­o­gy, geol­o­gy, cul­ture, and lan­guage evolv­ing with time. The effort to reveal matri­ces of dynam­ic char­ac­ter was also lim­it­ed by our time with­in an aca­d­e­m­ic semes­ter and our remote mode of oper­at­ing. Through all we sought to com­pli­cate rather than essen­tial­ize. To describe the myr­i­ad man­i­fes­ta­tions of rio mean­der in time as sets of dynam­ic, tran­si­to­ry and evolv­ing con­di­tions. Not a fixed line, or sym­bol, or math­e­mat­i­cal puz­zle to be solved. With­in the lines of this rio, and this land, are interbed­ded his­to­ries knit­ting and stitch­ing togeth­er bor­der cul­ture, bor­der land, bor­der water.23

Mak­ing these efforts pos­si­ble began with geospa­tial­ly dig­i­tiz­ing the rio in over two-hun­dred his­toric maps dat­ing from the 1800s to present. This occurred with­in QGIS, a free and open-source geo­graph­ic infor­ma­tion sys­tem that also allowed for the aggre­ga­tion and syn­the­sis of an abun­dance of oth­er pub­lic source data from a wide spec­trum of archives, orga­ni­za­tions, and agen­cies. This was our pri­ma­ry agent of geospa­tial syn­the­sis.24

The border is a result of the meanders but the meanders are not a result of the border.

Adrian Reyna, 2 Nov 2020

La Presa Amistad
1,038–909 kilómetros (645–565 miles) from and
342–252 metros (1,123–826 feet) above the Gulf of México
Average Rainfall: 47.8cm (18.81in)
Average Temperatures: 35.9C (96.7F) high, 21.2C (70.2F) mean, 5.3C (41.6F) low

Rio meander detail at La Presa Amistad.

Rio meander detail at La Presa Amistad.

Pri­or to exit­ing the deep canyons of Big Bend, the rio enters La Pre­sa Amis­tad, or Amis­tad Reser­voir. Long before the water body is vis­i­ble or leg­i­ble, a slight shift in cur­rent and grow­ing hor­i­zon­tal­i­ty in the sur­face can be reg­is­tered. Instead of con­tin­u­ing down­ward flow, the water’s sur­face lev­els chart­ing a line inde­pen­dent of the ancient tra­jec­to­ry of land below. The datum is con­trolled at the near­ly ten-kilo­me­ter (six mile) embank­ment dam bridg­ing the states of Coahuila and Texas just below the con­flu­ence with the Dev­ils Riv­er and over forty-eight kilo­me­ters (thir­ty miles) down­riv­er. Built and com­mis­sioned between 1963 and 1969 for the con­trol of floods and con­ser­va­tion and reg­u­la­tion of waters.”25

Arche­o­log­i­cal resources with­in the area were known long before the impound­ing of waters in the reser­voir. Exca­va­tions of the Fate Bell Shel­ter in Semi­nole Canyon began in 1932.26 With approval for the dam the Amis­tad Arche­o­log­i­cal Sal­vage Pro­gram evolved between 1958 and 1969 in an attempt to wit­ness and record sites to be impact­ed. Sub­se­quent research has revealed sites with­in the Low­er Pecos region to have pro­found con­ti­nen­tal impor­tance con­tain­ing records of human activ­i­ty dat­ing from four to five-thou­sand years before the com­mon era.27 While pow­er­ful exam­ples remain above the crest of the dam at 351 meters (1,152 feet) above sea lev­el hun­dreds were lost under the water body. Con­trolled release gen­er­ates hydro­elec­tric pow­er for each coun­try, from par­al­lel inde­pen­dent plants, before flow­ing past Arroyo El Buey and McK­ees Creek, under Acuña/Del Rio Inter­na­tion­al Bridge, and fur­ther downriver.

All the people who begin to cross the border and attempt to do so, in a sense, are beginning to create a stitch between two nations.

Adrian Reyna, 26 Oct 2020

What matters is how the gridded Euclidean space of the US military created a new kind of global and installed the new rationality as an intrinsic feature of geographic space. Unlike latitude and longitude, this is a rationality that puts the needs of everyday users above any overarching interest in the earth itself. It is a rationality of calculability, regional consciousness, and a retreat from the cleanly delimited space of the territorial state.28

The advance­ment of map mak­ing is inter­twined with the his­to­ry of mil­i­tary empires, glob­al com­mod­i­ty trade, colo­nial­ism, and human exploita­tion. The map as evi­dence of pow­er, nar­ra­tive­ly and oper­a­tional­ly, extends from the first car­to­graph­ic ges­tures through the evo­lu­tion of the Uni­ver­sal Trans­verse Mer­ca­tor coor­di­nate sys­tem to the World Geo­det­ic Sys­tem (WGS). Cur­rent­ly U.S. Defense Depart­ment cre­at­ed WGS 1984 EPSG:4326 enables every­thing from mobile Glob­al Posi­tion­ing Sys­tems to remote mil­i­tary map fir­ing and drone nav­i­ga­tion. It is a coor­di­nate pro­jec­tion sys­tem of uni­form squares and par­al­lel grids dis­tort­ing Earth geom­e­try to facil­i­tate rapid math­e­mat­i­cal posi­tion cal­cu­la­tions. Ear­li­er pro­jec­tions were based on equal sub­di­vi­sions of lon­gi­tu­di­nal lines at the equa­tor con­verg­ing at the poles. North-south lines in these sys­tems are not par­al­lel and reflect plan­e­tary cur­va­ture. Hence, the coor­di­nate ref­er­ence sys­tem pro­jec­tion for the Rio Mean­der Map is set to Mex­i­co ITRF2008 EPSG:6372 to evi­dence the dynam­ic and rela­tion­al shift­ing of car­to­graph­ic north.

Magnetic declination at map details revealing multiple norths at 7°51’E, 6°47’E, 6°7’E, 5°16’E, 4°17’E, and 3°26’E, changing by 0°7’W per year.

Magnetic declination at map details revealing multiple norths at 7°51’E, 6°47’E, 6°7’E, 5°16’E, 4°17’E, and 3°26’E, changing by 0°7’W per year.

The confidence indicator, how much do we trust the source, not only that the person actually has the information (have they been to the place), but how else could the information be transformed before it gets to the viewer.

Frances Erlandson, 15 Sep 2020.

Ampli­fy­ing the mul­ti­ple geo­graph­ic datasets that were fold­ed into this dynam­ic and liv­ing por­trait, it was also vital for the map to include mul­ti­ple points of view, tem­po­ral­i­ties, and sub­jec­tiv­i­ties in graph­ic and nar­ra­tive form.

My last memory is of rain. By this time, we were all reunited. My parents brought us on by one from youngest to oldest. After they brought me, they saved up for a year to bring my brother and did the same for my sisters until we were all together. I don’t know how long after I arrived but in this memory my sister was carrying me. We were standing in the balcony of a two-story apartment building where my parents found a place they could afford. We lived above a trap house, a one stop shop for hookers and crack. It was the early 90s. I’m sure I must have experience rain before, even back in Mexico, but this felt like a first. I was in awe. To me, at the time, it was inexplicable sorcery.29

“American clean” is as much a cultural construct as our water projects are tools of homogenization and cultural imperialism.

Caitlin Ford, 18 Oct 2020

La Presa Falcón
538–428 kilómetros (334–266 miles) from and
94–49 meters (307–160 feet) above the Gulf of México
Average Rainfall: 52.3cm (20.6in)
Average Temperatures: 37.8C (100.1F) high, 23.8C (74.8F) mean, 9.1C (48.4F) low

Rio meander detail at La Presa Falcon.

Rio meander detail at La Presa Falcon.

From Del Rio and Acuña30 the rio trends heav­i­ly south by slight­ly east as it pass­es through Piedras Negras and Eagle Pass, Lare­do and Nue­vo Lare­do, drop­ping only 158 meters (519 feet) in ele­va­tion in just over 300 kilo­me­ters (under 200 miles) before start­ing to lev­el out again at San Ygna­cio, 60 kilo­me­ters (37 miles) upriv­er from La Pre­sa Fal­cón. The dis­tances of trav­el and impound­ment com­press­ing and expand­ing. Fal­con Dam was autho­rized by Inter­na­tion­al Bound­ary and Water Com­mis­sion treaty in 1944 and was con­struct­ed between 1950 and 1954. Flood con­trol was a cen­tral jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, and cause for sub­se­quent relo­ca­tions, dis­place­ments, and sub­mer­sions.31 As it was com­plet­ed Hur­ri­cane Alice struck cre­at­ing major upriv­er flood­ing that was stopped by the new reser­voir spar­ing down­stream dis­as­ter and prov­ing” its neces­si­ty.32 That event became vital to the plan­ning and autho­riza­tion for La Pre­sa Amis­tad the fol­low­ing decade. Where Amis­tad marks the dis­si­pa­tion of canyon topog­ra­phy and a north-east­ward turn of Bal­cones Fault, Fal­cón is the last ver­ti­cal thresh­old of the rio before the coastal plain. Mean­der impound­ment here is for agri­cul­tur­al con­sis­ten­cy and yet anoth­er attempt of human con­trol over hydro­log­ic sys­tems. Fal­cón also lands just east of the 100th Merid­i­an, the so-called dry line John Wes­ley Pow­ell used to mark the lim­it of arid­i­ty defin­ing the Amer­i­can West.33 It is cli­ma­to­log­i­cal thresh­old reg­is­tered in the abil­i­ty of veg­e­ta­tion to shift the ter­ri­to­r­i­al col­or palette from yel­low-brown towards green.

Hate speech is pervasive, indeed, constitutive of colonial situations, but the implantation of colonial rule and the subordination of colonial subjects cannot be reduced to a modality of hate speech. “Love speech” is as central to colonization as spurting offensive yet injurious stereotypes. The challenge is to understand love speech as a powerful mode of subjection and effective violence. The most evident example is the declaration of love “We bring you the gift of Christ’s blood,” which is bound by the implicit obligation to accept the offering. This interpellation constitutes a form of love speech in which threat on the Indians’ life and freedom (even when not explicit) always remains a possibility within the historical horizon if the summoning is not heeded.34

Rio Meander Cloud detail.

Rio Meander Cloud detail.

Pro­duc­tion of the Rio Mean­der Map grav­i­tat­ed around cen­tral ques­tions of col­or palettes and the leg­i­bil­i­ty to reveal trans­for­ma­tions over time. While this began with the geom­e­try and syn­the­sis of rio chan­nel bound­aries, it grew to include larg­er con­texts. With access to low-and high-res­o­lu­tion dig­i­tal ele­va­tion mod­el (DEM) datasets, a cen­tral ques­tion became how to uti­lize and acti­vate land­form infor­ma­tion with­in the map. When first loaded DEM files appear as deep space weath­er impres­sions, vague and neb­u­lous. Yet, as dis­play set­tings and details are tuned the weight and geo­met­ric speci­fici­ty these raster files con­tain is astound­ing. In addi­tion to topo­graph­ic geom­e­try the data lay­ers have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be col­or cod­ed by ele­va­tion to more strik­ing­ly reveal topo­graph­ic def­i­n­i­tion. This prompt­ed an extend­ed peri­od of explo­ration and test­ing to draw out ques­tions such as, should the map col­or palette approach verisimil­i­tude to respond to the shift­ing ter­res­tri­al hues of reds and yel­lows in the west through browns and grays into green and ulti­mate­ly blue of the sea? While there was didac­tic poten­tial for such dis­tri­b­u­tions, inverse propo­si­tions also opened. Rather than seek to match or emu­late the vis­i­ble spec­trum of true-col­or,” how might pre­sen­ta­tions in false” or pseu­do col­or” enable inten­si­fied focus, leg­i­bil­i­ty, and char­ac­ter? Mov­ing through a wide range of options, the group homed in on a palette of dark to metal­lic cop­per that allows a spec­trum of blue mean­der to pop. The oppor­tu­ni­ty became one of reduc­ing vari­ables to height­en legibility.

Every new creation has a context. To try to erase that context and start over with a blank page is a form of violence.

Alden Anderson, 9 Nov 2020

Through­out the semes­ter, week­ly read­ing respons­es were post­ed asyn­chro­nous­ly to a mes­sage board pro­mot­ing reflec­tion and exchange. This activ­i­ty also had the ben­e­fit of becom­ing tes­ta­ment to the evo­lu­tion of our col­lec­tive under­stand­ings. In the final phas­es of devel­op­ment, a ques­tion reap­peared about the neces­si­ty of not reveal­ing too much, of hold­ing some­thing back, of what is impos­si­ble to know. In ubiq­ui­tous map tech­nolo­gies com­mon in our con­tem­po­rary con­nect­ed world, clouds rarely appear in satel­lite imagery. This is not because there are lucky satel­lite pilots avoid­ing weath­er events. Great labor, and algo­rith­mic pro­cess­ing, con­spire to sub­tract these aque­ous vapor fea­tures from desired, and con­struct­ed, views. What clouds will this map con­tain? Instead of sim­u­lat­ing or car­i­ca­tur­ing weath­er, we were able to access pre-processed image data reveal­ing not only clouds across our study area, but typo­log­i­cal dis­tinc­tions between those in the arid west­ern and coastal east­ern extents of the project. Short­ly there­after, the reflec­tive read­ing respons­es oper­at­ing as jour­nal entries were cast into the clouds to pro­vide a tem­po­ral index of dia­logue around the themes and ques­tions inter­twined with­in the mak­ing of the map.35

Including our experience before we write, our life experience, which is linguistic, which is social, which is....everything we come in contact with, and that influences how we write, or in terms of translation, what choices I make when I choose to translate tierra as ground or earth, or land, or planet, or soil.

Curtis Bauer, 14 Oct 2020

Time isn’t holding us; time isn’t after us36

Matamoros / Brownsville
171–27 kilómetros (106–17 miles) from and
15–2 meters (48–8 feet) above the Gulf of México
Average Rainfall: 69.7cm (27.44in)
Average Temperatures: 34.1C (93.4F) high, 23.6C (74.5F) mean, 11.6C (52.9F) low

After Fal­cón, the rio turns east­ward in its quest to reach the Gulf of Mex­i­co. Snaking through Ciu­dad Miguel Alemán and Roma, through wide fer­tile plains. Past ancient ban­co, or oxbow, for­ma­tions. Many hold­ing ves­ti­gial con­nec­tions to water tables from below, and pat­terns of ancient topo­graph­ic drainage. These dis­con­tigu­ous mean­ders also define lim­its of set­tle­ments, infra­struc­ture and cul­ti­vat­ed fields. The land-water bal­ance shift­ing as the rio pass­es Reynosa and Hidal­go, Pro­gres­so and Nue­vo Pro­gres­so, Eji­do La Briga­da and the Resaca De La Pal­ma World Bird­ing Cen­ter and between Mata­moros and Brownsville. The for­mer appear­ing to hold slight­ly more pur­chase on high­er ground. The lat­er rid­dled with canals, ditch­es and drains that clear­ly ser­vice agri­cul­tur­al lands and attempt dewa­ter­ing stability.

From South­most the rio path winds through increas­ing estu­ar­ies, water-land-scapes that appear as bas relief carved over mil­len­nia. Ter­ra fir­ma gives way to open ocean were con­nec­tiv­i­ty to the plan­e­tary water cycle becomes undeniable.

Maybe we are just creating a chain of love for each to conclude their own truth from our creation because the truth and beauty in the project cannot love us back.

Rio meander detail at Matamoros/Brownsville.

Rio meander detail at Matamoros/Brownsville.

The Rio Mean­der Map remains in devel­op­ment as it moves from stu­dio to post-pro­duc­tion and final coor­di­na­tion for print­ing in the Al Rio/To the Riv­er pub­li­ca­tion in 2021. In addi­tion to that audi­ence and expo­sure, the map will live beyond its mak­ing to two oth­er ways. In the near-term dur­ing Spring 2021 it will be the sub­ject of the 2020 Land Arts ADAPTATION Exhi­bi­tion at the Muse­um of Texas Tech Uni­ver­si­ty. The annu­al Land Arts exhi­bi­tion is designed to bring stu­dent work to larg­er audi­ences and to require syn­the­sis mov­ing from field­work to pub­lic leg­i­bil­i­ty. Giv­en the pan­dem­ic this may well become an online exhi­bi­tion, which will fur­ther facil­i­tate the map’s after­life. Over the long term Rio Mean­der Map will live on at the new Bor­der Con­sor­tium being estab­lished by POST (Project for Oper­a­tive Spa­tial Tech­nolo­gies) at the Texas Tech Col­lege of Archi­tec­ture in El Paso. Giv­en that most of the sources with­in the map come from pub­lic assets, the inten­tion is to pack­age and assem­ble the mate­r­i­al in an online for­mat to fur­ther its devel­op­ment and make the syn­the­sized GIS data avail­able to oth­ers for use in projects and oppor­tu­ni­ties we can­not begin to antic­i­pate. Con­tin­u­ing per­sis­tent evo­lu­tion of the Rio Mean­der Map.

Behind some borders you can hear the earth moving.37

QGIS rio tracing of USGS Barreda Quadrangle, 1930.

QGIS rio tracing of USGS Barreda Quadrangle, 1930.

  1. 1

    Natal­ie Diaz, exhibits from The Amer­i­can Water Muse­um,” in Post­colo­nial Love Poem (Min­neapo­lis: Gray­wolf Press, 2020), 71–72.

  2. 2

    Call­ing forth the DNA of the human being—my bone, flesh, and blood is lit­er­al­ly made up of the met­als, min­er­als, and liq­uids of the Earth. We are lit­er­al­ly shapes and forms of the Earth. That’s who we are. And we have being.” John Trudell, What it Means To Be A Human Being” (spo­ken word event at The Women’s Build­ing, San Fran­cis­co, Cal­i­for­nia, March 15, 2001).

  3. 3

    Ingrid Schaffn­er and Liz Park, Carnegie Inter­na­tion­al: Dis­patch (Pitts­burgh: Carnegie Muse­um of Art and DAP Art­books, 2018).

  4. 4

    Ingrid Schaffn­er, The Guide: Carnegie Inter­na­tion­al, 57th edi­tion (Pitts­burgh: Carnegie Muse­um of Art, 2018), 74.

  5. 5

    For a robust and expan­sive start­ing point for infor­ma­tion about Native Peo­ples and Lands, see https://native-land.ca.

  6. 6

    Harold N. Fisk, Geo­log­i­cal Inves­ti­ga­tions of the Allu­vial Val­ley of the Low­er Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er: Con­duct­ed for the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er Com­mis­sion (Vicks­burg, Miss.: M.R.C., 1945) and http://www.radicalcartography.net/index.html?fisk.

  7. 7

    Charles Bow­den, Killing the Hid­den Waters (Austin: Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas Press, 2003), 7.

  8. 8

    Jose Vil­lanue­va, oral his­to­ry, 2020.

  9. 9

    Bar­ry H. Lopez, The Redis­cov­ery of North Amer­i­ca (New York: Vin­tage Books, 1992), 36–37.

  10. 10

    See shoot­ing death of Ser­gio Adrián Hernán­dez Güere­ca by U.S. Bor­der Patrol agent Jesus Mesa in 2010: https://www.elpasotimes.com/story/news/2019/05/28/border-patrol-shooting-mexican-teen-across-el-paso-border-revisited-us-supreme-court/1258254001/.

  11. 11

    Hen­ry Spall, Pale­o­mag­net­ism of Pre­cam­bri­an rocks from El Paso, Texas,” Physics of the Earth and Plan­e­tary Inte­ri­ors 4, issue 4 (1971), ISSN 0031–9201: 329–346.

  12. 12

    Don­na Har­away, Stay­ing with the Trou­ble: mak­ing kin in the Chthu­lucene (Durham: Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2016).

  13. 13

    Ray Wylie Hub­bard, New Year’s Eve at the Gates of Hell,” in The Grifter’s Hym­nal (Snake Farm Pub­lish­ing, 2012).

  14. 14

    Our work fol­lowed a col­lec­tion of syn­chro­nous and asyn­chro­nous activ­i­ty. Stu­dio ses­sions were held Mon­day, Wednes­day and Fri­days from 1–5pm CST on Zoom. Sem­i­nar met Mon­day and Wednes­day from 1–3pm in the same Zoom to cre­ate logis­ti­cal and con­tent through lines with­in the group. Three par­tic­i­pants with sched­ule con­flicts met ear­ly Wednes­day morn­ing to link Texas, Utah, and Japan time zones. There was also a week­ly coor­di­na­tion meet­ing on Tues­day with the pri­ma­ry pro­duc­tion voic­es. Every­thing was sup­port­ed by a dig­i­tal exchange plat­form on MicroSoft Teams that gath­ered and thread­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tions, con­tained work­ing files, and video record­ings of all ses­sions. Atten­dance was gen­er­al­ly con­sis­tent, how­ev­er the back­up record­ings sup­port­ed con­ti­nu­ity when not pos­si­ble. Miro was also used as a graph­ic pin board to facil­i­tate work­ing process and pre­sen­ta­tion. The dia­log and pro­duc­tion rhythms pulsed from col­lec­tive through focused groups to indi­vid­u­als. All con­tri­bu­tions were held in com­mon with lat­er­al exchange encouraged.

  15. 15

    See Juan de Onate ampu­tat­ing the left foot of every man over 25 after a revolt at Aco­ma ref­er­enced in: Simon Romero, Statues’s Stolen Foot Reflects Divi­sions Over Sym­bols of Con­quest,” The New York Times, Sept. 30, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/30/us/statue-foot-new-mexico.html.

  16. 16

    Simon Romero, Why New Mexico’s 1680 Pueblo Revolt is Echo­ing in 2020 Protests,” The New York Times, Sept. 27, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/27/us/pueblorevolt-native-american-protests.html.

  17. 17

    Alvar Núnez Cabeza De Vaca (Active 16th Cen­tu­ry), Naufra­gios de Alvar Nuńez Cabeza de Vaca, y Rela­cion de la jor­na­da, que hizo a la Flori­da con el ade­lan­ta­do Pan­fi­lo de Nar­vaez [En Madrid, ano, 1749], Pdf. retrieved from the Library of Con­gress, www.loc.gov/item/04008076/.

  18. 18

    Jose Vil­lanue­va, oral his­to­ry, 2020.

  19. 19

    David Turn­bull, Maps are Ter­ri­to­ries: sci­ence is an atlas (Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press, 1989).

  20. 20

    Pekka K. Hämäläinen, The Comanche Empire (New Haven: Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2009), 182.

  21. 21

    Ale­jan­dro Escovedo, Rio Navi­dad,” 2018, on The Cross­ing, Yep Roc Records. See also: Jeff Gage, Ale­jan­dro Escovedo Doc­u­ments the Immi­grant Expe­ri­ence on New Album The Cross­ing,’” Rolling Stone, Oct. 13, 2018, https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/alejandro-escovedo-immigrantexperience-new-album-the-crossing-737341/.

  22. 22

    See Zuni Map Art Project” start­ed by Jim Enote of the A:shiwi A:wan Muse­um and Her­itage Cen­ter at Zuni Pueblo fea­tured in: Counter map­ping, direct­ed by Adam Loften and Emmanuel Vaugh­an-Lee (Go Project Films, 2018), https://aeon.co/videos/nativecartography-a-bold-mapmaking-project-thatchallenges-western-notions-of-place.

  23. 23

    C. J. Alvarez, Bor­der Land, Bor­der Water: A His­to­ry of Con­struc­tion on the U.S.-Mexico Divide (Austin: Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas Press, 2019).

  24. 24

    Patrick O’Shea was vital to devel­op­ing this skillset and workflow.

  25. 25

    Inter­na­tion­al Bound­ary and Water Com­mis­sion, Unit­ed States and Mex­i­co, Minute 207, June 19, 1958, https://www.ibwc.gov/Files/Minutes/Min207.pdf.

  26. 26

    James Edwin Pearce and A. T. Jack­son, A Pre­his­toric Rock­shel­ter in Val Verde Coun­ty, Texas,” Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas Bul­letin 3327, Anthro­po­log­i­cal Papers 1.3, Bureau of Research in the Social Sci­ences, July 15, 1933.

  27. 27

    Car­olyn E. Boyd and Kim Cox, The White Shaman Mur­al: an Endur­ing Cre­ation Nar­ra­tive in the Rock Art of the Low­er Pecos (Austin: Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas Press, 2016).

  28. 28

    William Rankin, After the Map: Car­tog­ra­phy, Nav­i­ga­tion, and the Trans­for­ma­tion of Ter­ri­to­ry in the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry (Chica­go: The Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press, 2018), 166.

  29. 29

    Jose Vil­lanue­va, oral his­to­ry, 2020.

  30. 30

    Where Wolf­man Jack became a sen­sa­tion on the bor­der blaster radio of XERF-AM. Hear: Ter­ry Allen, Wolf­man of Del Rio,” 1979/2016, on Lub­bock (on Every­thing), Fate Records / Par­adise of Bachelors.

  31. 31

    Guer­rero Viejo was aban­doned to the water and moved or recon­sti­tut­ed at Neu­vo Ciu­dad Guer­rero. Recent years of drought have allowed the mem­o­ry of the town to emerge caus­ing it to appear on the ros­ter of the World Mon­u­ments Fund. https://www.wmf.org/project/antigua-ciudad-guerrero-guerrero-viejo.

  32. 32

    Inter­na­tion­al Bound­ary and Water Com­mis­sion, Fal­con Dam Proves Itself,” 1954, https://texasarchive.org/2013_00973.

  33. 33

    John Wes­ley Pow­ell, Report of the Lands of the Arid Region of the Unit­ed States, with a more detailed account of the lands of Utah, with maps (Wash­ing­ton: Gov­ern­ment Print­ing Office, 1879).

  34. 34

    José Rabasa, Writ­ing Vio­lence on the North­ern Fron­tier: The His­to­ri­og­ra­phy of Six­teenth Cen­tu­ry New Mex­i­co and Flori­da and the Lega­cy of Con­quest (Durham: Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2000), 6.

  35. 35

    Those entries also appear in this text as the thread of dat­ed par­tic­i­pant voices.

  36. 36

    Talk­ing Heads, Once in a life­time,” 1980, on Remain in Light, Sire Records.

  37. 37

    Cur­tis Bauer, Amer­i­can Self­ie (New York: Bar­row Street Press, 2019), 38..


Rio Mean­der Map was made by the Land Arts 2020 ADAPTATION from the Col­lege of Archi­tec­ture at Texas Tech University.

Con­tribut­ing Participants/Students

Under­grad­u­ate archi­tec­ture can­di­dates at Texas Tech
Andres Armen­dariz Zaragoza from Chi­huahua, Mex­i­co and El Paso, Haley Coop­er, from Poth, Caris­sa Perez (dou­ble major in art) from nine Texas towns, and Grace Shanks from Amarillo.

Grad­u­ate archi­tec­ture can­di­dates at Texas Tech
Joseph Bon­di from Frisco, Bryan Brum­mett from Ft. Worth, Stephanie Enriquez from El Paso, Ana Gar­cia Meri­no from Mon­ter­rey, Mex­i­co, Rebekah King from San Anto­nio, Jonathan Lalinde from San Anto­nio Amber Noy­ola from Lub­bock, Adri­an Rey­na (Land Arts 2019) alum from Dal­las, Daniel Rios from El Paso, Lan­don Wade from Sil­ver­thorne, Col­orado, and Mia Zaro from Ft. Worth.

Inde­pen­dent schol­ars
Maria Amador archi­tect and artist in Seville, Spain, Alden Ander­son archi­tect in New York, New York, Frances Erland­son poet and design­er based in Green Riv­er, Utah from Los Ange­les, Cal­i­for­nia, Caitlin Ford envi­ron­men­tal design­er based in Japan and from Philadel­phia, Penn­syl­va­nia, Lia Forslund Land Arts 2019 alum, writer and artist from Stock­holm, Swe­den, Alex Lopez-Igle­sias artist and design­er based in Los Ange­les, Cal­i­for­nia, from Ciu­dad Juarez, Adam Neese artist and con­ser­va­tor based in Den­ton, Texas and New York, and Franek Wardyńs­ki, Land Arts 2019 alum, artist and design­er from War­saw, Poland.

Pri­ma­ry Pro­duc­tion Voices

Patrick O’Shea, lead spa­tial syn­the­siz­er, artist and tech­nol­o­gist based in Chica­go, Illi­nois; Cesar Adri­an Lopez, lead graph­ic pro­duc­er and Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Archi­tec­ture, Uni­ver­si­ty of New Mex­i­co; Caleb Light­foot, deputy graph­ic pro­duc­er, Land Arts 2015 alum and design­er based in Berke­ley, Cal­i­for­nia; Rebec­ca Gates, musi­cian, artist, cura­tor, and sound­work­er based in Port­land, Ore­gon; Tim John­son, poet and pub­li­ca­tion edi­tor based in Mar­fa, Texas; and Chris Tay­lor, direc­tor of Land Arts of the Amer­i­can West at Texas Tech University.

Con­tribut­ing Advisors

Cur­tis Bauer, poet­ry and trans­la­tion, Pro­fes­sor of Cre­ative Writ­ing at Texas Tech; Judith Bird­song, geo­log­ic archi­tec­ture, Lec­tur­er in Archi­tec­ture at Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Austin; John Davis, land­scape his­to­ry, Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Land­scape Archi­tec­ture at Ohio State Uni­ver­si­ty; Jen­nifer Ter­rell, inde­pen­dent schol­ar and writer based in El Paso; Jesse Vogler, sur­vey­or, land­scape archi­tect and Head of Archi­tec­ture at Free Uni­ver­si­ty of Tbil­isi; Kevin Chua, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Art His­to­ry at Texas Tech; Nic­hole Wiede­mann, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Archi­tec­ture at Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Austin.

Sources and Inspiration

Allen, Ter­ry. Juarez. Sug­ar Hill Records / Par­adise of Bach­e­lors, 1975 / 2016. Alvarez, C. J. Bor­der land, bor­der water: a his­to­ry of con­struc­tion on the U.S.-Mexico divide. Austin, TX: Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas Press, 2019. Azoulay, Ariel­la Aisha. Unlearn­ing Deci­sive Moments in Pho­tog­ra­phy”, Still Search­ing, 31-Oct-18. Bauer, Cur­tis. Amer­i­can Self­ie. New York: Bar­row Street Press, 2019. Bit­sui, Sher­win. Flood­song. Port Townsend, Wash­ing­ton: Cop­per Canyon Press, 2019. Bow­den, Charles. Killing the hid­den waters. Austin: Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas Press, 1977. Boyd, Car­olyn E., Kim Cox and Project Muse. The White Shaman mur­al an endur­ing cre­ation nar­ra­tive in the rock art of the Low­er Pecos. Austin: Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas Press, 2016. Delo­ria, Philip. What Tecum­seh Fought For” The New York­er, 2 Nov 20. Diaz, Natal­ie. Post­colo­nial love poem. Min­neapo­lis, MN: Gray­wolf Press, 2020. Diaz, Natal­ie. The Pic­ture” Aper­ture 240: Native Amer­i­can, Fall 2020. Dou­glas, Sam Wain­wright (Direc­tor). Through the Repel­lent Fence. Big Beard Films, 2017. Ehren­re­ich, Ben. Lessons From the Desert: Redis­cov­er­ing the End­less­ness of Time” Dolores Dorantes in Con­ver­sa­tion with Ben Ehren­re­ich, Coun­ter­point Press, LIT HUB, 9 Jul 20. Fran­co, Josh T. There Are No Ama­teurs in Far West Texas”. Third Text 34.1, 2020. Hämäläi­nen, Pekka. The Comanche Empire. New Haven: Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2008. Innab, Saba. Let­ter to Male­vich” Poly­cephaly, Sta­tion Point, Berlin, 2018. Jonas, Joan, Karen Kel­ly, Jason Moran and Dia:Beacon. Joan Jonas: the shape, the scent, the feel of things. New York / Paris: Dia Art Foun­da­tion / Yvon Lam­bert, 2006. Kri­pa, Ersela and Stephen Mueller. Fronts: mil­i­tary urbanisms and the devel­op­ing world. San Fran­cis­co: Applied Research + Design Pub­lish­ing, 2020. Leonard, Zoe. I Want a Pres­i­dent: tran­script of a ral­ly. New York: Zoe Leonard, 2017. Leonard, Zoe and Ann Brem­n­er. Ana­logue. Colum­bus, Ohio / Cam­bridge, Mass.; Lon­don: Wexn­er Cen­ter for the Arts / MIT Press, 2007. Leonard, Zoe and Rox­ana Mar­co­ci. Zoe Leonard’s Al Rio / To the Riv­er” Artist Project in the MoMA Mag­a­zine. New York: Muse­um of Mod­ern Art, 26 Oct 20. Lip­pard, Lucy R. Under­min­ing: a wild ride through land use, pol­i­tics, and art in the chang­ing West. New York: The New Press, 2014. Lopez, Bar­ry Hol­stun. Hori­zon. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2019. Lopez, Bar­ry Hol­stun. The redis­cov­ery of North Amer­i­ca. New York: Vin­tage Books, 1992. Mac­far­lane, Robert. Under­land: a deep time jour­ney. New York, Lon­don: Pen­guin Books, 2019. Mas­ters, Ben (Direc­tor). The Riv­er and the Wall. Fin & Fur Films, 2019. McNelis, Ash­ley with con­tri­bu­tions from Mari­na Tyquineg­co and Talia Heiman. Con­fi­dence Indi­ca­tor: Recon­struct­ing Tra­ven and Research for CI57-2018” in Schaffn­er, Ingrid, and Liz Park. Dis­patch: Ci57—2018. Pitts­burgh: Carnegie Muse­um of Art, 2019. Rabasa, José. Writ­ing vio­lence on the north­ern fron­tier: the his­to­ri­og­ra­phy of six­teenth cen­tu­ry New Mex­i­co and Flori­da and the lega­cy of con­quest. Durham: Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2000. Rankin, William. After the Map: Car­tog­ra­phy, Nav­i­ga­tion, and the Trans­for­ma­tion of Ter­ri­to­ry in the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry. Chica­go and Lon­don: Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press, 2016. Reis­ner, Marc. Cadil­lac Desert: the Amer­i­can West and its dis­ap­pear­ing water. New York: Pen­guin Books, 1986. Schaffn­er, Ingrid. Zoe Leonard” in Carnegie Inter­na­tion­al 58th edi­tions, 2018: The Guide. Pitts­burgh: Carnegie Muse­um of Art, 2018. Sil­ver, Marc (Direc­tor). Who is Dayani Crys­tal. Pulse Films, Canana Films, 2013. Tate, Car­olyn. Recon­sid­er­ing Olmec Visu­al Cul­ture, The Unborn, Women, and Cre­ation. Austin: Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas Press, 2014. Tay­lor, Chris and Bill Gilbert. Land Arts of the Amer­i­can West. Austin: Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas Press, 2009. Teja­da, Rober­to. Still Nowhere in an Emp­ty Vast­ness: His­to­ry + Metaphor. Blacks­burgh, VA: Noe­mi Press, 2019. Vogler, Jesse. How the Rio Grande Cre­ates Geographical—and Legal—Loopholes” The Archi­tects News­pa­per, 2 Aug 2018.

Hathi Trust Dig­i­tal Library, Ann Arbor, Michi­gan, U.S.A. Nation­al Insti­tute of Sta­tis­tics, Geog­ra­phy and Infor­mat­ics (INEGI), Aguas­calientes, Mex­i­co. Native Land Dig­i­tal, native-land.ca Cana­da. U.S. Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey, Reston, Vir­ginia, U.S.A. U.S. Library of Con­gress, Wash­ing­ton, D.C, U.S.A. QGIS: Free and Open Source Geo­graph­ic Infor­ma­tion System.