The Mesquite Economy in the Mexican-American Borderlands

Scrubby mesquite trees infest large regions of the Mexican-American borderland. In this same area, demand for mesquite wood and charcoal places pressure on mature trees. This paper examines consumption of this biomass fuel on both sides of the Sonora-Arizona border and the demands that consumption places on the environment in Northern Sonora. In Sonora multi-stemmed trees provide wood for heating homes and cooking stoves upon which coffee pots bubble and large, flat tortillas cook to perfection. At the opposite extreme, large, mature trees fall to the chainsaw and charcoal pits to provide North American restaurants and backyard cooks with a chic and flavorful grilling fuel. This research in northern Sonora reveals details of this hidden industry. This study provides important information and discussion about biomass use in a dry region. Studies like this, which consider direct use of biomass resources, are important, especially in light of present and future industrial, population, and urban growth along the border, which all place additional pressure on natural resources.