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Fronteras: Anthropologist argues against the ‘us versus them’ narrative around the Rio Grande Valley

The U.S.-Mexico border has long been seen as a dividing line.

Amid the midterm elections, politicians across the country have used charged rhetoric about the migration crisis at the southern border to further their political agendas.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced a record-high of 2.7 million total migrant encounters at the border at the end of the 2022 Fiscal Year.

News coverage often includes images of migrants knee-deep in water while they attempt to cross the Rio Grande or of a group of migrants huddled together, surrounded by Border Patrol agents.

If you have lived on or near the border, you probably don’t recognize what you see on screen or read about in the news.

These depictions — both in right-wing and in progressive media — paint incomplete and inaccurate pictures of life on the border.

K. Jill Fleuriet, a professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at San Antonio, is the author of “Rhetoric and Reality on the U.S.-Mexico Border: Place Politics, Home.

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Jill Fleuriet
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Jill Fleuriet is a professor of anthropolgy at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She is also author of "Rhetoric and Reality on the U.S.-Mexico Border: Place, Politics, Home."

Fleuriet, a native of the Valley, conducted four years of research and analysis about how mass media portrays border communities.

“[They] reinforce the story of the border as far away, as dangerous, as corrupt, as porous,” she said. “I looked at 780 articles, and it was such a small fraction that were consistently positive … about the Valley, that it is overwhelming.”

Fleuriet also spoke about why it's important to shed light to what real life on the border looks like.

“I think everybody participates in the borderlands fiction,” she said. “And I think that it is imperative for people who are engaged in the Valley, that we don’t reproduce those stories and those narratives.”

Listen to the second part of the conversation with Fleuriet on Nov. 4.

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Marian Navarro produces for Texas Public Radio's Morning Edition and Fronteras.