Saturday, 12 January 2008

Tex Mex!

Yesterday, Mark headed down the Rio Grande valley from Las Cruces, crossing the Texan border at the town of Anthony before continuing south to about 15 miles beyond the border city of El Paso.

I find images like the one on the left fascinating - I think they are an amazing testimony to the power of rivers to breathe life into deserts. Of course, it's not for the first time that we have seen this feature along Mark's route. Remember the mighty Indus in Pakistan described in this posting back in October and the Colorado just a week ago in California described here.

Closer in you get an even better impression of just how much land use in the valley south of Las Cruces depends on the presence of the Rio Grande. Without the river, farming and settlement would be impossible on this scale
Here, cultivation is almost a year round activity and so intensive that it is highly productive despite its restricted area. Here, a description of farming in the area.... Part of agriculture's economic stability in the Mesilla Valley comes from a long growing season that's helped by mild winters and low humidity.
"We basically start harvesting in April with lettuce and end in January with pecans. We just go all year long. There's no downtime. We're harvesting hay at least five times a year, sometimes six." The climate helps support a diverse industry that includes a cornucopia of crops, as well as ranches, greenhouses and dairies. "We are by far the most diverse area in the state and we've got to be one of the most diverse in the nation next to the Pacific Coast states." Major crops include alfalfa, chile, cotton, corn silage for dairies and a number of fresh-market vegetables like cabbage, lettuce and onions.

The Texan border is at Anthony, approximately half way between Las Cruces and El Paso. We will have plenty of time to explore Texas over the next few days as Mark travels through the state so we can settle for a map and just a couple of facts in the meantime!

Texas is the largest of the contiguous (joined up) states of the USA i.e. Alaska is larger and it has the second largest population (after California).

The next major settlement along Mark's route yesterday was El Paso which sits right on the Mexican/United States border across the Rio Grande from Juarez. A blog is just not somewhere that you can do justice to cities but the Wikipedia link, as always. provides ample background reading if you feel so inclined. However, we can't pass through El Paso without giving some thought to its role as a border crossing point. The migration of Mexicans to the USA (legal and illegal) is a case study which is often taught in geography classrooms and El Paso is very much a focal point of cross border movement. Here, for example, is one of the border crossings between El Paso and Juarez....

And the bridge over the Rio Grande between the two settlements which is permanently clogged with migrants who cross the border daily to work in higher paid employment in the USA.....

As I was following Mark's route through El Paso yesterday, I 'snapped' the following screenshots - taken just a few hundred metres apart but on different sides of the border. (The vehicles are roughly the same size so the photos are taken from approximately the same elevation) They probably help explain why so many Mexicans want to migrate.....

Here, El Paso...

....and here, Juarez.

Between El Paso and Juarez only a few hundred metres separate a country with a GNI per capita of $7300 from a country with a GNI per capita of $43,360. There cannot be many borders in the world where levels of economic development differ so much on either side. Little wonder that so many people want to cross it!

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