To Sebastian G.
When I was a child, I read an illustrated book titled The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The first chapter was particularly interesting, because you read when Tom tricks a bunch of boys, into thinking that painting a fence, the thing he doesn’t want to do, is fun; so, that he can spend the afternoon goofing off. He even gets the boys to pay for the privilege of painting. He turns punishment, his Aunt Polly gave him, into pleasure, and pleases everybody and himself.
What a clever boy, inspired by him I was, and it felt so real. In my mind there was a firm believe that nothing was fiction. Such a beautiful fence was in my imagination…
Then, I read The Happy Prince, really was a statue of a youngster in a uniform, with a sword, with several jewels adorning him. The statue was situated inside a castle patio surrounded by a brick and mortar barrier. The statue could see far away, from the castle, because his eyes were at higher level than the barrier. Suddenly instead of being happy, he was sad; he realized that behind the full flanked barrier was suffering. He shared his jewels with the people who needed them most, with the help of a bird. So, tender, kind and generous Prince. I learned about Medieval fortifications.
Another beautiful story was about a selfish giant who couldn’t share his beautiful garden with children. Nevertheless, the children climbed the tall, brick and mortar construction that separated them from the garden and played in it for a brief period until the owner of the garden yelled at them. The giant got old, he was dying; finally he opened the garden for the children, specially for the one who helped to change his mind. Children happiness was involved, and the importance to protect their joy.
Then, in elementary school we had contests about who knew all the countries names of the world and its capitals. Such a pleasure to say uncommon names. Also, we learned the major rivers and mountain ranges of the world. We knew that natural boundaries have made different frontiers among civilizations. For example; All the straits were very important, not only because its location and implications of major expeditions, like the ones made at the Gibraltar Strait, Bering Strait, Cape the Horn Strait,… but because they changed the course of mankind history. Geographical formations dividing the world, where a key clue to learn about early settlements and its developments.
When I was in middle school I read the Iliad, a grand book about the city of Troy war. The City of Troy had a great fortification and instead of destroying it, the enemy developed a way to trick the citizens to open the doors, and the whole city was taken. The battles, the gods, and the narrative are epic, and the trick was very clever.
I also read War and Peace, one of its most interesting parts, is when Napoleon try to conquer Russia and got trapped in a capital city with no people or provisions, and his army died of hunger in frozen conditions or returned to France completely devastated. The unnecessary physical separation in both stories gave me the idea, that, there is more, than just a way to fall for the concept of a constructed defense thingy; and, that the lack of provisions, and ignorance of the idiosyncrasy of a nation, make people lose money, resources, and lives.
In the Seventies, I learned about tectonic plates that separate continents underneath; some of them, the famously group called the Circle of Fire, are the main cause of strong earthquakes, with horrendous consequences to big cities. The crust of Earth is not what we see with our naked eye. At the present, scientific advances have shown other plates that are inside the ocean separating big chunks of the upper layer of the Earth, giving us a better understanding of natural separations, that inexorably over millennia, had caused big shifts in continental masses.
I have seen that China has a construction, one of the most important architectural feats in the history of civilization, that took 276 years to be constructed. A comprehensive archaeological survey, using advanced technologies, has concluded that this great barrier built by the Ming dynasty measure 5,500 mi. We know China has ancient constructions, this one is 375 years old since its conclusion. Now is part of a tourist attraction. If you are in the moon, you can’t see it, the farthest you can see it from above Earth is around 1,200 mi.
In my Teen’s, I also knew that many people long wanted to demolish the construction that separated Germany after WWII. It is not there anymore, just pieces. Once, we went to see it, an agonic sensation; and it is the vestigium of a major affliction that you still can perceive. The suffering and misery of the people who was separated is something not good for mankind.
Around the United States, I discovered recently, there are some of the constructed barriers edification built and not in use anymore. For example;
Boston, Massachusetts, maintained a defensive city construction and gate across the Boston Neck, the sole point where the city was connected with the mainland, from 1631 until the end of the 18 century.
Charleston, South Carolina was an enclosed city from the 1690s until the 1720s. A portion of the enclosed fortification, called Half Moon Battery, is still visible in the Provost Dungeon of the Old Exchange Building.
St Augustin, Florida, starting in 1704, the Spanish constructed the Cubo Line – attached to the Castillo de San Marcos and enclosed the city. Eighteenth century maps detail the barriers enclosing all of St. Augustine.
New Orleans, Louisiana was planned in 1718 as a circumscribed city. The built separation existed during the Battle of New Orleans, but later was found to be in such a state of disarray that it could not be used.
During last Fall Session, in my class of Memoirs, I learned, that México made the first man-made separation between US and Mexican land. They organized the flow of entrances and departures of workers, some centuries ago. The two countries have a peculiar history and narrative about the topographical limits between them; in 1848 there was a treaty call Guadalupe-Hidalgo. The treaty added an additional 525,000 square miles to United States territory, including the land that makes up all or parts of present-day Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
With the land gained, the limits between the countries, were adjusted by natural barriers. Several rivers and different natural land demarcations gave not an easy access between the countries. No big cities were there and not too much traffic. Following the landscape as a division was a practical thing to do.
Over the years things changed, several course of actions taken did not comply with a treaty of peace, friendship, limits, and settlement between the United States of America and the United Mexican States. The treaty explicitly guaranteed Mexican Americans, “The right to their property, language, and culture” and has not been honored to the letter.
In the past, there was no need of any kind of safeguard in a passage called The Gate, because Nomadic Native Americans were permitted to use this gate to traverse their land on both sides of the border. In other epoch, circa 1983, the Station of Nogales was closed due to lack of traffic. Although border inspection buildings remain at both sides.
Besides all that had happened around the world and for ages; today, according to some statistics, most people entering in different countries do it by plane with approved documents. The European Union citizens go, back and for, between countries.
Now, some people have learned their history lessons. It is defined that, nations are made by the inhabitants within their surrounded landscapes and terrain constraints.
There are people working for big companies, where time, culture, and dynamics, is all what they need. Knowing that they belong to a vast and important community makes location a little bit less of a prerogative. There is an implicit sense of belonging to a “Brand Nation” for them.
Let’s think about people who belongs to a “Virtual Nation,” or to an “Internet Nation,” where they procure their basic, educational, work, and social needs with the help of the online network. The importance of the fringe conditions change overall.
In our daily life, in some parts of the world, people can acquire different or multiple nationalities if they can afford the fees, and follow the regulations of the countries involved. They enter or go out to their nations via documentation. We are just talking about people, how about goods and money?
The barriers, the fences, the limits, the boundaries, the frontiers,… between groups of people are the reflexion of the infinite power of technology or the lack of it. How nations apply it, is a different story.