16 Jun Chamizal National Memorial: History of Peace in a Borderland
I embarked on this journey to El Paso, Texas to be part of Chamizal National Memorial one week after graduating from college. I did not know what to expect but knew a little bit of the history about the park from reading online. I was very surprised to arrived in El Paso in nearly 100 degree weather, much different than the Central California area where average temperatures are in the mid 70’s. However, I took it upon myself to enjoy every second of it. A very kind man, Saul Sustaita, greeted me who I later found out has deep roots within the community. He is an active volunteer, and has been working his whole entire life for the youth of El Paso. I heard the stories about how he would volunteer his time and take local kids who came from underprivileged backgrounds on expeditions all over the United States to visit National Parks. Everything he did was to encourage youth to go way beyond their perceived limitations and to explore the world.
I have now been at Chamizal National Memorial for two weeks and my time here has been nothing more than amazing. I have learned about the history of this amazing memorial and cherish the peace that was established between the country of Mexico and the United States. You see, there was a century long dilemma happening in the borderlands of Ciudad Juarez and El Paso. The river that was supposed to be the “border” between the two countries was slowly shifting due to natural environmental changes and people were slowly being displaced out of their homes. There were debates as to who lands belonged to, and to solve this predicament, in 1962 John F. Kennedy and President Lopez Mateos, met to resolve the dispute. They came to an agreement and signed the Chamizal Convention to construct a concrete channel to serve as the permanent border and eliminate the problem on the river changing its course. Many people, schools, and businesses were displaced out of their homes but reimbursed by the government. It was very difficult for people to find a new beginning however; we commemorate the consensus between the two countries rather than establishing war. Now Chamizal National Memorial is home to this historic treaty of peace and honors it through catalysts of theater, art, and history.