Salt of the River, Salt of the Earth. Politics, Science and Ecological Diplomacy in the Mexicali Valley (1961-1965)

Evan Ward

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Resumen

Abstract

This article examines the salinity crisis in Mexicali Valley. National and state officials from both countries saw Mexicali Valley as a ground where their theories on the causation of the crisis would be vindicated by scientific testing of water and land conditions there. Those that viewed Mexicali Valley as an international political landscape did not live there, but recognized the importance of the region in resolving the crisis. Those who lived in Mexicali Valley viewed their home as a local political landscape. For them the salinity crisis was not an abstract issue that could be reduced to statistics or policy positions, but instead represented a profound ecological transformation that affected the taste of drinking water, the fertility of land, and the bounty of the harvest The concerns of local political organizers, such as Alfonzo Garzón, founder of the State Agrarian league of Baja California (LAE), often worked at cross-purposes to those of national officials. In fact, one of the turning points in the salinity crisis occurred around 1964, when the diplomacy-driven perspective subsumed the agenda of many local officials in Mexicali Valley.

 

RESUMEN

En este artículo se examina la crisis de salinidad en el Valle de Mexicali. Las preguntas que hicieron los creadores de políticas y los científicos de cada nación durante la crisis estaban, por lo general, prejuiciadas por sus percepciones de cómo y por qué surgió la crisis. Aquellos que veían al Valle de Mexicali como un terreno de política internacional no vivían ahí, pero reconocían la importancia de la región en la solución de la crisis, y aquellos que vivían en el Valle de Mexicali veían su hogar como un terreno de política local; para ellos la crisis de salinidad no era un problema abstracto que podía ser reducido a estadísticas o posturas políticas: representaba una profunda transformación ecológica que afectaba el sabor del agua potable, la fertilidad de la tierra y la generosidad de la cosecha. Las preocupaciones de organizadores políticos locales, tales como Alfonso Garzón, fundador de la liga Agraria Estatal (LAE), con frecuencia trabajaban con propósitos contrarios a aquellos de los funcionaros federales. De hecho, uno de los momentos cruciales en la crisis de salinidad ocurrió por 1964, cuando la perspectiva motivada por la diplomacia se incluyó en la agenda de funcionarios locales del Valle de Mexicali.

Keywords: Environment; Binational Relations; Salinity; Borderlands; Mexicali


Texto completo:

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Referencias

Historians on both sides of the border have analyzed and recounted the development of the Delta prior to 1940. María Eugenia Anguiano Téllez's Agricultura y migración en el valle de Mexicali (Tijuana, El Colef, 1995), offers the most conclusive study of the growth of agribusiness in Mexicali Valley and its strong ties to American capital. Other studies that discuss the development of Mexicali Valley include Adalberto Walther Meade, El valle de Mexicali (Mexicali, B. C., Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, 1996); Pablo Herrera Carrillo, Colonización del valle de Mexicali (Mexicali, B.C., Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, 1976); Pablo L. Martínez, Historia de hoja California (México, Consejo Editorial del Gobierno del Estado de B. C. S., 1991); Fernando Jordan, El otro México: biografía de Baja California (México, Secretaría de Educación Pública, Frontera, 1976); Mexicali: una historia, tomos 1-2 (Mexicali, B. C., Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, 1991); Donald Worster discusses developments in the Imperial Valley, California, in Donald Worster, Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West (New York, Pantheon, 1985), pp. 194-212; Norris Hundley, also traces the development of the Imperial Valley within the context of California water issues in Great Thirst: Californias and Water, 1770s-1990s (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1992); The creation of water policy and the growth of agribusiness in Yuma County, Arizona, are treated in Evan Ward, "Crossroads on the Periphery: Yuma County Water Relations, 1922-1928", unpublished MA. thesis, University of Georgia, Athens, 1997; The U.S. origins of the salinity crisis arc discussed in Evan Ward, "Saline Solutions: Arizona Water Politics, Mexican-American Relations, and the Wellton-Mohawk Valley", Autumn 1999, pp. 267-292.

Letter from Antonio Carrillo to Dean Rusk, November 9, 1961, National Archives at College Park, Maryland (hereafter cited as NACP), RG 59, Decimal File (hereafter cited as DF 1960-1963), 611. 12322/ 11-961.

Memo from Coerr to Vallon, "Delivery of Colorado River Water to Mexico", NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-1963, 611.12322/3-2361; Letter from Thomas Mann to Stewart Udall, March 23, 1961, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-1963, 611.12322/3-2361.

Memo from Woodward to Chayes, "Delivery of Colorado River Water to Mexico", November 14, 1961, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-1963, 611.12322/11-1461.

Letter from Woodward to Udall, November 17,1961, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-63, 611. 12322/11-1761.

Idem.

Idem.

Idem.

Letter from Carrillo to Rusk, November 9, 1961, NACP, RG 59, 1960-63, DF, 611.12322/11-961.

Letter from Carr to Rusk, December 11, 1961, NACP, RG 59, 1960-63, DF, 611.12322/12-1161.

Discussion, Woodward to Acting Secretary, December 14,1961, NACP, RG 59, Box 1199, 1960-1963, DF, 611.12322/12-1461.

Note, Rusk to Carrillo, December 20,1961, NACP, RG 59, 1960-1963, DF, 611.12322/11-961.

Memorandum of Conversation, USDS, "Salinity of Colorado River Water", December 20, 1961, NACP, RG 59,1960-63, DF, 611.12322/12-2061.

Note from Rusk to Carrillo, January 16, 1962, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-1963, 611.12322/11-961.

Memorandum of Conversation, "Salinity of Water in the Colorado", December 22, 1961, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-63,611.12322/12-2261.

Letter from Kenneth Hale, Assistant Secretary of the Interior, to Woodward, February 8, 1962, NACP, RG 59, DF, 611.12322/2-862.

USDS, "Joint Action Being Considered to Alleviate Salinity on Lower Colorado River", February 9, 1962, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-63, 611.12322/2-962.

Dispatch from Boyd to USDS, February 13, 1962, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-1963, 611.12322/2-1362.

Letter from Gulick to Rusk, March 6, 1962, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-1963, 611.12322/3-662.

Memorandum of Conversation, "Colorado River Salinity Problem", March 9, 1962, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-1963, 611.12322/3-962.

Leon Bernstein and Joseph Friedkin, "Salinity of Colorado River Waters", November 21, 1961, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-63, 611.12322.

Mexican Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, "The Salt Water Problem of the Mexicali and San Luis Valleys", in Letter from Julián Rodriguez Adame to Mann, February 12, 1962, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-63,611.12322.

Bill Blackledge, Report, February 1962, contained in Letter from J.F Friedkin, to Robert M. Sayre, March 6, 1962, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-63, 611.12322/3-662.

Letter from Martin to McGhee, "Study of Colorado River Salinity Problem", NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-63,611.12322/4-2562.

A draft of the study is included in "Joint Report of United States and Mexican Expert Panels on Colorado River Salinity Problems", May 8, 1962, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-1963, 611.12322/5-2862; /Also see Letter from Martin to Rusk, "Letter to Foreign Minister Tello of Mexico on Salinity Problem", June 8, 1962, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-63, 611.12322/6-862.

Letter from Goodwin to Rusk, May 28, 1962, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-63, 611.12322/5-2862.

Letter from McGhee to Martin, "Mexican Program for Rehabilitation of Mexicali Valley", June 5, 1962, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-63, 611.12322/6-562.

Memo from John Hugh Crimmins to Martin, "Colorado River Salinity Problem", July 19, 1962, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-63, 611.12322/7-1962.

Memo from Martin to Cnmmins, "Winter Deliveries of Water to Mexico", RG 59, October 18, 1962, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-63, 611.19-1862.

"Comments of Department of Health, Education, and Welfare on Report of United States Advisory Panel International Boundary and Water Commission," in Letter from Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare to Rusk, October 30,1962, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-63, 611.12322/10-2462.

DOI/USBR, Special Studies: Delivery of Water to Mexico, February 1963, Natural Resources Library, DOI, Washington D. C., vii.

Ibid., p. 3.

Ibid., p. 77.

Letter from Carrillo to Rusk, May 17, 1963, NACP, RG 59, POL 33-1, MEX-US., 1963.

Telegram from Mann to Rusk, August 21, 1963, NACP, RG 59, POL 33-1, MUX-US, 1963.

Memorandum of Conversation, "Colorado River Salinity Problem", Carrillo and Sayre, January 6, 1964, NACP, RG 59, POL 33-1, MEX-US, Folder 1-1-64.

Memo from Sayre to Mann, "Salinity Problem on Lower Colorado", March 13,1964, NACP, RG 59, POL 33-1, MEX-US, Folder 3-1-64.

Memo of Conversation, "Joint Communique on Meeting of Presidents of United States and México", February 21, 1964, NACP, RG 59, POL 33-1, MEX-US, Folder 1-1-64.

Memo from Sayre to Mann, "Salinity Problem on Lower Colorado", March 13,1964, NACP, RG 59, POL 33-1, MEX-US, Folder 3-1-64.

Letter from Friedkin to Sayre, April 18, 1964, NACP, RG 59, POL 33-1, MEX-US, Folder 4-1-64.

Letter from Blackledge to Robert Allen, February 7,1964, enclosed with telegram from Allen to USDS, "Evidence of Effects Suffered Due to Increase in Salinity Colorado River Waters Delivered to Mexico", February 13, 1964, NACP, RG 59, POL 33-1, MEX-US, Folder 1-1-64.

Karl Wittfogel, Oriental Despotism (New York, Penguin, 1981); Donald Worster, Rivers of Empire, (New York, Pantheon, 1985).

"Report by Committee of 14 on Mexican Salinity Problem", May 9,1963, NACP, RG 59, POL 33-1, US-MEX, 1963.

James Boyd, Dispatch, "Salinity of Colorado River Waters-Mexicali Reaction", NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-1963, 611.12322/12-761.

Journalist Lenora Werley estimated that there were as many as 35 000 protestors on December 14, 1961.

Telegram from Mann to Secretary of State, December 15, 1961, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-1963, 611.12322/12-1561.

Dispatch from Boyd to USDS, December 15,1961, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-63,611.12322/12-1561.

Celso Aguirre Bernal, Compendio Histórico-biográfico de Mexicali, 1539-1966, sixth edition (Mexicali, publisher unnamed, 1989), pp. 382-385.

Telegram from Boyd to Rusk, January 29, 1962, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-1963, 611.12322/1-2962.

Idem.

Telegram from Mann to Rusk, December 18, 1961, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-1963, 611.12322/ 12-1861; Telegram from Boyd to Rusk, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-63, 611.12322/12-1861.

Memorandum of Conversation, "Salinity of Colorado River Water", Mann and Sayre, December 20, 1961, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-1963, 611.12322/12-2061.

Telegram from Boyd to USDS, December 31,1961, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-1963,611.12322/12- 3161.

Foreign Post Dispatch, Boyd to USDS, "Salinity of Colorado River Water-Mexicali Reaction", NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-1963, 611.12322/12-2861.

Telegram from Boyd to USDS, December 20, 1961, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-1963, 611.12322/122061.

Dispatch from Boyd to USDS, February 6, 1962, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-1963, 611.12322/2-662.

Telegram from Mann to USDS, "Salinity of Colorado River Waters", February 16, 1962, NACP, RG 59,1960-1963, 611.12322/2-1662.

Telegram from American Embassy, Mexico, D. F, to USDS, "President López Comments on Colorado River Salinity Problem", February 16, 1962, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-63, 611.12322/2-1662.

Telegram from Mann to USDS, "Salinity of Colorado River Waters", February 21,1962, NACP, RG 59, DF, 1960-1963, 611.12322/2-2-2162.

Foreign Post Dispatch, Robert W Adams to USDS, "Ejido Leader Garzón of Mexicali Approaches Embassy on Claim Against the U.S.", June 6,1962, NACP, RG 59, DF, 611.12322/6-662.

Memorandum, Liga Agraria Estatal de Baja California, March 6,1962, Archivo Histórico del Estado, Mexicali, Baja California (hereafter cited as AHE), Fondo Territorio Norte, Sección Agricultura y Fomento, Serie Agricultura y Ganadería, Box 368; Moisés Maislin Leal, "Informa situación prevalenciente en el Distrito de Riego", March 8,1962, AHE, Fondo Territorio Norte, Sección Agricultura y Fomento, Serie Agricultura y Ganadería, Box 368; Memorandum, no date, AHE, Fondo Territorio Norte, Sección Agricultura y Fomento, Serie Agricultura y Ganadería, Box 368; Dirección de Agricultura y Ganadería del Estado, "Informes de labores correspondiente a los meses de marzo y abril de 1962", AHE.

Letter from Alfonso Garzón to Óscar González Lugo, December 13,1962, AHE, Fondo Territorio Norte, Sección Agricultura y Fomento, Serie Agricultura y Ganadería, Box 368.

Letter from Garzón to Eligió Esquivel Méndez, February 13, 1963, AHE, Fondo Territorio Norte, Sección Agricultura y Fomento, Serie Agricultura y Ganadería, Box 366; Letter from Comisionado Ejidal del Ejido Xochimilco, Municipio de Mexicali, Estado de Baja California, to Alfredo del Mazo, February 18, 1963, AHE, Fondo Territorio Norte, Sección Agricultura y Fomento, Serie Agricultura y Ganadería, Box 366; Garzón to Adolfo López Mateos, no date, AHE, Fondo Territorio Norte, Sección Agricultura y Fomento, Serie Agricultura y Ganadería, Box 366.

Minutes, March 9, 1963, AHE, Fondo Territorio Norte, Sección Agricultura y Fomento, Serie Agricultura y Ganadería, Box 366.

Letter from Garzón to Juan Muñoz Martínez, March 23, 1963, 671.12/571, AHE, Fondo Territorio Norte, Sección Agricultura y Fomento, Serie Agricultura y Ganadería, Box 366.

Rubén Salazar, "River Water Prices, Salt Content Protested by Mexico's Peasants", contained in letter from Sayre to Spence Mclntyre, April 1, 1963, NACP, RG 59, POL 33-1, MEX-US, 1963.

Salazar, "River Row Makes Reds Flood Baja California, Unrest Among Peasants and anti-American Feeling are Fertile Ground for Propaganda", Los Angeles Times, March 17, 1963, in letter from Sayre to McIntyre, April 1, 1963, NACP, RG 59, POL 33-1, MEX-US, 1963.

Telegram from Mann to Rusk, March 14,1963, NACP, RG 59, POL 33-1, MEX-US, 1963; Emilio López Zamora's , "La contaminación de las aguas del río Colorado: un conflicto internacional", Política, March 1, 1963, 3-13, is included with the telegram. A compilation of Lopez's writings, including several articles on water issues and development in the delta can be found in El agua, la tierra: los hombres de México (México, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1977).

Telegram from Freeman to Rusk, May 21, 1964, NACP, RG 59, POL 33-1, MEX-US, Folder 5-1-64.

Letter from Federación Estatal Campesina de Sonora to President Johnson, November 7,1964, AHE.

Telegram from Boyd to USDS, "Salinity of the Colorado River Waters: Committee for Defense of Mexicali Valley Reactivated", March 17, 1964, NACP, RG 59, POL 33-1, MEX-US, Folder 3-1-64.

The Mexican Chief of Immigration in Mexicali, for example, reported to the American Consulate that "the protest demonstrations... where interfering with the current political contest [in reference to the presidential election]". See Telegram from Boyd to USDS, May 15, 1964, "Salinity of Colorado River Waters - Demonstrations Against", May 15, 1964, NACP, RG 59, POL 33-1, MEX-US, Folder 5-1-64. An example of Mexican officials using radical protest (something they generally detested) to their advantage can be seen in an exchange between Mexican Senator Vildosola and Ambassador Freeman. Vildosola warned Freeman of an upcoming "mammoth" demonstration on July 12,1964, and suggested that the United States find a resolution to the problem before then. As Freeman explained the complications of finding a resolution because of domestic concerns with the Colorado River Basin states in the United States, Vildosola warned that he might not be able to guarantee that these demonstrations would be peaceful like those in the past. "He expressed his full understanding of the dangers of communists and other extremists in seeking to turn the demonstrations to their own ends", Freeman noted, "but he in no way accepted the inference of the desirability of postponing the scheduled nation-wide demonstrations on July 12". Telegram from Freeman to Rusk, June 19, 1964, NACP, RG 59, POL 33-1, MEX-US, Folder 6-6-64.

Telegram from Boyd to USDS, "Salinity of Colorado River Waters - Demonstrations Against", May 15, 1964, NACP, RG 59, POL 33-1, MEX-US, Folder 5-1-64.

Telegram from Freeman to Rusk, August 6,1964, NACP, RG 59, POL 33-1, MEX-US, Folder 8-1-64, Also see Comité de Defensa del Valle de Mexicali Letter to Centrales Obreras y Campesinas, Organizaciones de la Iniciativa Privada, y la Opinión Pública Nacional", August 5,1964, AHE, Fondo Territorio Norte, Sección Agricultura y Fomento, Serie Agricultura y Ganadería, Box 368.

Letter from Garzón to Aurelio Flores Valenzuela, August 9, 1964, AHE, Fondo Territorio Norte, Sección Agricultura y Fomento, Serie Agricultura y Ganadería, Box 368.

Telegram from Feldman to USDS, November 19,1964, "Salinity Demonstration Postponed", NACP, RG 59, POL 33-1, MEX-US, Folder 10-1-64.

Telegram from Feldman to USDS, "Round-up of Mexicali Reaction to the solution of the salinity problem", April 5, 1965, NACP, RG 59, POL 33-1, MEX-US, Folder 4-1-65.

Letter from Humberto Hernández to J. William Fulbright, May 23, 1964, Archives, Museo Universitario, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, Mexicali, Baja California, Rafael Martínez Retes Papers, Folder 10 (1964).

Alan P. Kleinman and F. Bruce Brown, Colorado River Salinity: Economic Impacts on Agricultural, Municipal, and Industrial Users, U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Colorado River Water Quality Office, Engineering and Research Division (Government Printing Office, 1980), 8.

B. Delworth Gardner and Clyde E. Stewart, "Agriculture and Salinity Control in the Colorado River Basin", Natural Resources Journal, volume 15, January 1975, 65.

John M. Bernal, A Report on Salinity Operations on the Colorado River under Minute No. 242, Januray 1-December 31, 1997, International Boundary and Water Commission, United States Section; For other helpful references on water quality see L. A. Richards, editor, Diagnosis and Improvement of Saline and Alkali Soils, L1SDA (Washington, GPO, 1954) for conversion formulas for computing salt tonnage from ppm salt, 157; I. Shainberg and J. D. Oster, Quality of Irrigation Water (Bet Dagan, Israel, International Irrigation Information Center, 1978), pp. 31 -43; Ranbir Chhabra, Soil Salinity and Water Quality (Rotterdam, A. A. Balkema, 1996); Alexandra Poljakoff-Mayber, Plants in Saline Environemnts Environments, Ecological Studies, volume 15 (New York, Springer-Verlag, 1975).





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