Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Poet Luis Rodriguez Answers Six Questions About Borders

Point of View, PBS

P.O.V.: In your work, you consider the notion of 'borders.' What is a border to you?

Luis: A border to me is a self-indulgent, arrogant, colonial construct that separates people along the most inessential and least vital of interests. Although most schools have "political" maps with lines and colors designating borders and various nations — that some believe is a "God-given" thing — the earth has no such boundaries. In my life, I've seen the images from space of a blue-white-green world — there are no political lines drawn on this planet. Borders, therefore, have nothing to do with biology, geography (even if some borders follow along rivers and mountain ranges) or spirituality. They are political and historically bound creations, seemingly forever, yet transient and ever changing. Robert Frost once wrote that fences make good neighbors. But for countries, these same "fences" tend to disconnect and often enemize (a new word) each other.

P.O.V.: What's an important border that you've crossed in your life?

Luis: I've crossed many borders, but the most significant one was between the United States and Mexico. I was born on the border region that encompasses the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez area between the states of Texas and Chihuahua. I am a product of a border reality, a different reality than exists in other parts of this country. For one thing, the poorest counties are along the border (rivaled only by Indian reservations and the deepest sections of the South). I was two years old when we moved to South Central Los Angeles. There other borders blocked us from the "white" side of town (railroad tracks), gang territories, police imposed lines, and such. When my family moved across the L.A. River to the Eastside of Los Angeles, another border had to be crossed so we could be recognized as a people vital to the city. These borders became entrenched in our psyche — teaching us the limitations that many of us faced because of the "side" of town, country, or culture we happened to be from. Limitations that often translated to unfulfilled lives, fragmented lives, lives governed by limitations.

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