A trip to Santa Fe, Nuevo México

It’s a shame that a land once open to free movement among dozens of different tribes and nations is now divided by increasingly rigid borders. Long distance trade in ancient America was a massive part of Peubloan life and indeed civilizations across mesoamerica. Evidence of cacao, a tropical tree that gives us chocolate, has been found at Bandelier, Pueblo Bonito at Chaco, and Hohokam communities in desertous Arizona. Turquoise from Puebloan communities has been found throughout Mexico, including at Chichen Itza, almost 2500 miles away. Given the humanitarian crisis at the US-Mexico border, and talks from our president to shut the border down completely, the free movement of people and good across these regions sometimes feels like a relic of history.

We have a common heritage as white Americans. It’s one of destruction, genocide, and displacement of the indigenous communities that preceded us, and enslavement of Africans to prop up the civilization and economy that replaced them. But those indigenous communities shaped the culture and landscape of our land long before any outside settlers showed up and asserted power over them. A lot has been lost as a result, but if we can align ourselves with those who came before us, we might learn how to better co-inhabit this region and bring our borders down, rather than further destroy the land to reinforce them. If we think about people crossing borders not as migrants, smugglers, or invaders, but as pilgrims seeking homeland, we can begin to make public policy that lifts people up instead of oppressing the other. We can see our neighbor states not as enemies seeking to undermine our borders, rather as Americans seeking to restore a harmonious paradise lost to centuries of wars, coups, and subterfuge.

Of course, it’s not that simple. It’s an idealistic future far preferable to our current status quo.