Monthly Archives: August 2016

Changing Boundary Lines and Borders

U.S.-Mexico border to last "forever" by terms of the 1821 Adams-Onís Treaty

U.S.-Mexico border to last “forever” by terms of the 1821 Adams-Onís Treaty


“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.” Psalm 16:6

Celebrating the increasing cultural diversity of our new environment has helped move me to a new reading and new appreciation of my favorite verse in Psalm 16. Gratitude for the opportunities in Kansas City, heartland of the U.S., to relate to people of diverse cultures – from the Middle East, from Congo, from Mexico – leads Kate and me to contemplate again the real, tangible “boundary lines” and borders of our lives. In serving alongside Disciple and UCC church members in Mexico for three years we experienced many ways that extended the “boundary lines” of our lives as we sought to strengthen ties between churches in the U.S. and Mexico.

In reading verse 6 of Psalm 16 today, “the heritage” I embrace is that of being a Christian concerned about the prospects for full and abundant life of all human beings. In reading the Bible I am now guided by the conviction that the Bible testifies repeatedly to God’s love for ALL people and never should be read as favoring one people over another based on national identity. In a nutshell, the Bible, I now believe, aims to shape and strengthen persons whose fundamental loyalty and identity will be to think and act as “global citizens”.

Reflecting on the changes in the “boundary lines” in my own life has heightened my attention to the changes in the borders of my country and especially the changes in the U.S.-Mexico border.
Two artists, a Mexican and a U.S. citizen, have recently called attention to the redrawing of that border in the negotiations with Spain that resulted in the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1821. The Treaty ceded Spain’s claim to Florida as well as much of the Pacific Northwest to the U.S.

U.S.- Mexico border south of Brookings OR with Monument 1 placed by artists Marcos Ramirez ERRE and David Taylor

U.S.- Mexico border south of Brookings OR with Monument 1 placed by artists Marcos Ramirez ERRE and David Taylor

After undertaking a survey of the 1821 border, the first time it had been formally surveyed, the two artists placed 47 steel obelisks along the 726 mile boundary in towns such as Dodge City, Kansas and Medicine Bow, Wyoming. One of the artists, David Taylor, notes that surveyed borders were the outcome of European settlement in North America. Prior to European immigration to the U.S. “There were transition zones. You left one place and it blended into another” Taylor commented.

Although in Article 3 of the 1821 Adams-Onís Treaty the U.S. agreed that it “renounces all claim to the said Territories FOREVER (my emphasis)”, twenty seven years later Mexico lost a half million square miles of its Territory in the Mexican-American War of 1848. The artists’ “DeLIMITations” project thus reminds us in a dramatic way of what Mexico lost. “So that’s the thing for both of us — let’s mark the wound, let’s make the scar” declared¬¬ the artist Marco Ramirez.

The “DeLIMITATIONS” project also reminds us that both the actual borders between nations and the border policies of nations are in flux today in an increasingly interdependent world. In placing the obelisk of the 1821 Mexico-U.S. border in Dodge City, Kansas the artists learned that the town where “Gunsmoke’s” Sheriff Matt Dillon kept the peace is now 60 per cent Latino. And recent travelers in Europe return with accounts of crossing borders on that continent with no visa requirement.

These developments point to the day when the longest border in the world dividing a rich nation and a developing nation will be viewed very differently by the people of the U.S. and Mexico. The rise of the Latino population in “El Norte” and the more permeable borders in Europe today fuel the hope that historic changes are indeed “erasing borders” throughout the globe.