In my work I define a border perspective as one that has these three main characteristics:
- Comfort with ambiguity
- Passion for synergy
- Accepting of multiple worldviews
During a recent interview (link at end of this blog) El Paso Mayor Dee Margo perfectly exemplified the unique border perspective of people who grow up in this Texas region where he has lived for 40 years:
“El Paso is one region of three states (Texas, Chihuahua, New Mexico) and two countries (US and Mexico) and a population of 2.7 million. But we’ve been involved with Mexico for over 400 years. So we’re pretty close and proximate here. We haven’t had – we’re considered the safest city in the United States. We don’t have any real issues. And we already have a fence that was established under the Bush administration that runs through our city, so…”
In this he shows he’s comfortable with the ambiguity that exists in an area where two different countries’ and three different states meet and most people see themselves as part of one region.
This cross ‘borders’ integration is crucial to growing border people who comfortably live and frequent various parts of state and international boundaries. They do it in actuality and mentally as they plan their lives. Many citizens in this region have relatives and friends, special places where they shop, visiting on social occasions and holidays as they cross international and state borders. Many people’s daily lives are carried out in more than one state, more than one country as they travel back and forth for school and for work. Mayor Margo’s words are based on 400 years of cross border history…and of inclusion and neighborliness.
“Well, for instance, we give in-state tuition to Mexican nationals in Texas. It is imperative that we create a middle class in Mexico so we’re not having the migration north on jobs and – that type of situation at all. We’re a trading partner. It’s commerce. It’s family. It’s our entire culture. People don’t understand it until they come here. I can describe it all day long, but until you show up here, it’s hard to fathom.”
The qualities of this kind of borderland living change one forever. An awareness of the other that is not exclusionary develops. There is an acceptance of difference and a wish to make lives better.
“What I would love to see is a better understanding of what truly goes on, on the border. When I hear even in East Texas and things where there are – you know, there are some folks who are quite xenophobic. They don’t understand what’s going on. We understand. Come down here and understand.”
Here he encourages people with other viewpoints by saying that it’s important for them to understand what really goes on at the border. And says even Texans living nearby are unaware of what happens in this border region. He openly invites people to come down to understand.
His passion for synergy in supporting these diverse areas to work, live and progress together is loud and clear. It shows a clear acceptance of more than one valued worldview given the many different traditions and ethnicities represented within the larger community.
It is telling when he says “based on my personal observation of the situation…El Paso is – we’re doing fine”. Mayor Margo is careful to speak of his own observation of this region and how well they are doing, that they seem to have enough security, given El Paso is known as the safest city in the United States.
Listen to the entire interview and/or read the transcript by clicking here.