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  • Territories of Latin American Geography
  • Joel E. Correia

nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Sonora, are a city divided. The Mexico–United States border bisects what was once a unified community into twin cities. Each is located in purportedly different Americas: one North, the other Latin (see Figure 1). When I worked for the University of Arizona Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology on projects in Nogales, Sonora, I would cross this border once a week. Upon crossing there are immediate differences between the two cities. Near la linea (the border) in Sonora, the street is alive with vendors selling goods, from tostilocos and frozen fruit pops to statues of Jesus and Santa Muerte. In the colonias, where I worked with community partners to develop just housing alternatives, existing housing infrastructure was often precariously constructed on hills where the border wall rises and falls as it traverses the undulating hills (see Figure 2). On the northern side of la linea, green and white U.S Customs and Border Patrol vehicles roam the streets, signs written in Spanish and English advertise shuttle services to Tucson and Phoenix, and fast food restaurants like McDonald's and Burger King, stalwart symbols of U.S. consumerism, are close walking distance to the main crossing. The Trump administration's recent addition of concertina wire to the northern side of the border wall makes the structure more menacing, thwarting any notions of connectivity between ambos (both) Nogales. The bifurcation of Nogales has significant political economic, social, environmental, and material effects that echo what De Genova (2017, p. 21) calls the "Latin/America partition."

Despite the border, shared practices, traditions, languages, and kinship ties challenge the neat bifurcation of North/Latin America through connectivity, conviviality, and relationality that blur la linea, calling into question the territories of Latin American geography. There are many spaces, such as my birthplace in California, my old home in Arizona, and my new home in Florida, that also blur the boundaries of where Latin America begins or ends. Given the history of Spanish colonization and control over what is now Florida, and Mexico's control until the mid-1800s of the territories that [End Page 132]

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Figure 1.

La linea cuts horizontally through the image and ambos Nogales (screenshot from Google Earth).

now comprise the U.S. Southwest, at what point, exactly, did Latin and North America split? Was it merely the imposition of the U.S. southern border and territorial imaginary now materially reinforced by steel, concrete, and barbed wire barriers, militarized border patrol forces, and a weaponized physical geography that achieved this end? What of the fact that the United States Census Bureau (2018) reported that at least 58.9 million people—1 percent of the total U.S. population—identified as Hispanic or Latinx in 2017, or that by 2060 this population is projected to reach 111 million, 28 percent of the country's total? These questions do not suggest that the idea of Latin America is relative, but that critically evaluating the territorializing processes that maintain the North/Latin America bifurcation draws attention to the work of geopolitical imaginaries and their lasting effects—particularly their role in constructing notions of racialized "others" and enabling dangerous nativist tendencies. This is to say nothing of the fact that the North/Latin America bifurcation is a product of settler colonialism with radical effects on Indigenous peoples across the border lands and beyond (Gentry, Boyce, Garcia, & Chambers, 2019).

Critical scholars must actively dismantle the discursive fortifications constructed through virulent populist and racist rhetoric that intend to neatly demarcate where Latin America begins or ends for the purpose of promoting nationalism. That is not to say that cultural and social differences should be ignored, but to suggest that shared connections should be celebrated, and that the territories of Latin American geography must be understood beyond the idea of a North/Latin America binary. [End Page 133]

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Figure 2.

Looking north toward Nogales, Arizona, from barrio Colonia Del Rosario in Nogales, Sonora (photo by the author).

the idea of latin america

As a geographer working in a center for Latin American...