rather that of ranchers, loggers, miners—rnall those provincial nobodies whose onernclaim to being somebody is to havernearned the right of control by actually livingrnthere, out in the sandstorms and blizzards,rnsurrounded by cattle and mountainrnlions, far, far removed from thernpreppie-yuppie-professional world ofrnbistros, art movies, think tanks, andrnpower lunches. The latest strategy devisedrnby earth muppets from the ForestrnGuardians in Santa Fe and the SouthwestrnCenter for Biological Diversity inrnTucson is to allocate foundation moneyrnand contributed funds to outbid ranchersrnseeking to renew their expiring federalrngrazing leases and then retire the landrnfrom private—or any other—use. Thernmore often the ranchers here in southernrnNew Mexico try to meet and reason withrntheir enemies, the more the enemyrnshows that he is interested in doing neither.rnWhat interests him is winning andrnwinning big, and if the end is that CatronrnCounty, deprived of revenue, may soonrnhave to be supported by the taxpayers ofrnLas Cmces in Doiia Ana County, then arnnew broom sweeps clean and there arernmore ways than one to skin a cat, asrnSancho Panza might have remarked.rnMeanwhile, a fear is growing that thernthreat originates far beyond Tucson,rnSanta Fe, or even Washington, D.C.rnLate in the summer of 1997 a minorrnscandal blew up concerning Border RegionrnXXI (as in 21st century), a programrnof environmental renewal and control inrna swath of land extending 100 miles onrneither side of the American-Mexicanrnborder, apparently agreed upon by thernEnvironmental Protection Agency andrnthe United Nations with or without thernknowledge or connivance of top officialsrnof the state of New Mexico, dependingrnon which of them you ask.rnWhile it is unclear as yet what BorderrnXXI really means, it is reasonable to suspectrnthat the national and internationalrnelites are caught out here in the attemptrnto have things both ways —indulgingrnthree pet projects of theirs, internationalrnmigration, “free trade,” and environments-rnwithout-borders, while using thernthird of these to clean up the mess thernfirst two have made, and whippingrnpollutive Mexico into line as a by-blow.rnMexico operates almost entirely withoutrnbenefit of effective environmental restrictions,rnwhich seems to be the way thernlarge majority of Mexicans want it, includingrnthose who live within the 100-rnmile-wide corridor south of the border.rnNorth of it the same vast body of environmentalrnlaw obtains as it does elsewherernin the United States, while for thernpresent at least development is largelyrnconfined to a few big border towns andrncities —San Ysleta, Nogales, El Paso,rnLaredo, Brownsville. So what makes thernborderlands a special problem? Nothing,rnin all likelihood, beyond the irresistiblerntemptation to meddle that anyrnculturally hybrid part of the world offersrnto the United Nations and also to thernUnited States, its Dr. Frankenstein.rnOne of New Mexico’s more intriguingrnaspects is the way the culture and thernpeople shade south with the land intornOld Mexico. Unlike the other states ofrnthe Southwest it is not a 50th part ofrnAmerica rising from a Mexicanized strip.rnInstead Mexico-in-New-Mexico beginsrnimmediately below the Colorado staternline and makes its deepening presencernfelt as you head southward. The high incidencernof 25 and 30-year-old jalopies onrnthe highways is an early sign, like the gasrnpumps pumping leaded gas. So are therncramped adobe houses, the trailerrnhomes, the chickens roosted on automotivernhulks in the yards, the two or threerngenerations of refrigerators hauled outrnand set against the exterior wall. And so,rnby the way, are the modest homes brightlyrnpainted and charmingly maintainedrnon no money, in poverty-stricken townsrnor neighborhoods or on in-holdings withinrnsome rico’s extensive spread. Residentialrnzoning is haphazard in New as it is inrnOld Mexico, where a block of poor housesrnis typically interrupted by a rich man’srnhandsome and stately residence, beautifullyrntended and locked away betweenrnblack iron gates and grilles. NorthernrnNew Mexico is predominantly OldrnSpanish in its culture. Central NewrnMexico is, to use the convenient butrnwildly inaccurate nomenclature givenrnthe imprimatur of the United Statesrngovernment, Hispanic. Southern NewrnMexico remains essentially a sanitizedrnand regulated extension of the real Mexico,rnfull of Mexicanized towns likernHatch where the dark-skinned men —rnhatted, with red bandannas knottedrnaround their necks —leaning from recessedrnwindows and standing against therndoor posts of century-old adobes, are indistinguishablernfrom the vaqueros yournwill meet down in Janos, ChihuahuarnState, or Buenaventura. When onerncountry annexes territory belonging tornanother country it annexes its people andrnits culture too, and there isn’t a thing itrncan, or should, do about it.rnTwenty miles east of the New Mexicanrnboot heel the American town ofrnColumbus and the Mexican one of Palomasrnface one another at a distance ofrnthree miles or so across the border inrnwhat looks to be a Mexican standoff, followingrnthe publicized dispute that endedrnthe busing of school children from Palomasrnto Columbus. Otherwise the tworncommunities appear to get along allrnright—as they should, being half-sistersrnunder the skin and with a strong familyrnresemblance on the surface. I parked atrnthe border station, activated the truck’srnantitheft device against hijacking byrnMexican car thieves, and walked over intornMexico where a crew was at work givingrnthe four-lane boulevard running uprnto the crossing its first paving job (anticipatingrnbenefits from NAFTA, I presumed).rnThe other streets in town werernall dirt ones. Ancient vehicles jouncingrnin the ruts and potholes raised clouds ofrnpale dust that choked the streets, thenrndrifted away across the crumbling adobernhouses and the plaza with its white-paintedrntrees, its iron benches, and gazebo.rnThe town felt much more alive thanrnColumbus, people selling things in thernstreets, offloading crates of coca, trimmingrnthe dust-laden shrubbery in thernyards, and coming and going around thernaduana and the foreign motor vehiclernregistration office. Now and then Irnwould catch someone’s eye and touchingrnmy hat tell him “Buenas tardes” andrnhe would smile and reply “Buenasrntardes” in return. Gringos going into everydayrnMexico and wanting to feel morernat home there ought to consider shuckingrntheir Nike shoes, short pants, and golfrnshirts and putting on blue jeans, cowboyrnboots, a snaf>-button yoke-back shirt, andrna straw Western hat. This is the dress ofrnthe Mexican male of the agricultural andrnindustrial working classes, and it helps tornbridge the cultural divide between ElrnNorte and El Sur. (In New Mexico alsornWestern dress ingratiates you with thernindigenous population, brown andrnwhite, while inviting the affluent Anglorntransplant class to give you the starethroughrntreatment.)rnAcross the plaza was a simple brickrnchurch. I entered and walked forwardrnto say a prayer before the Blessed Sacrament,rngrateful for the knowledge thatrnI was as welcome here as in San Albinornin Mesilla, or St. Peter’s at Rome.rnHome, as the saying goes, is where yournfind it. -^fcrn50/CHRONICLESrnrnrn