Tag Archives: border

Identifying The Nameless: Advancing The Science Of Human Decomposition To Identify Deceased Migrants

Forensic anthropologist Kate Spradley holds the shirt of a deceased Salvadoran migrant. The shirt's discovery set off a chain of events that ended with the successful but rare DNA confirmation of a migrant who perished in Texas after crossing the U.S.- Mexico border. (Lorne Matalon)

Forensic anthropologist Kate Spradley holds the shirt of a deceased Salvadoran migrant. The shirt’s discovery set off a chain of events that ended with the successful but rare DNA confirmation of a migrant who perished in Texas after crossing the U.S.- Mexico border. (Lorne Matalon)

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A version of this two-part story aired on the Texas Standard, KUT Austin

Part One

Part Two

SAN MARCOS, Texas — Brooks County, Texas, — 70 miles north of the United States-Mexico border — has seen at least 365 migrant deaths since 2011.

Forensic anthropologists in Texas and Arizona are working to identify these migrants and repatriate their remains.

Behind an electronic gate accessed by a key card on a bucolic farm in central Texas, 100 cadavers donated for research by U.S. citizens lie on the ground in different stages of decomposition.

Forensic anthropologist Kate Spradley heads a relatively new project called Operation ID at Texas State University’s Forensic Anthropology Center.

Markers once tied to deceased migrants' bodies form a makeshift graveyard. The markers note what clues were gleaned after the bodies were discovered. (Kate Spradley)

Markers once tied to deceased migrants’ bodies form a makeshift graveyard. The markers note what clues were gleaned after the bodies were discovered. (Kate Spradley)

“When someone dies on U.S. soil, it is our responsibility to identify that person,” she said while walking in the shade where cadavers lay on the ground, protected by metal screens.

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Health Risks Of Living In US Border Colonias Prompt Funding Increase Proposal

A water storage bucket near Presidio, Texas. The Texas Secretary of State said 38,000 Texans living in border settlements known as colonias have no running water. The Obama administration proposes that the four border states receiving federal funding for low income housing increase the amount those states spend for colonia improvement. (Lorne Matalon)

A water storage bucket near Presidio, Texas. The Texas Secretary of State said 38,000 Texans living in border settlements known as colonias have no running water. The Obama administration proposes that the four border states receiving federal funding for low income housing increase the amount those states spend for colonia improvement. (Lorne Matalon)

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A version of this story also aired on the Texas Standard from KUT Austin

Thousands of mostly poor Hispanic people live in border communities called colonias with no access to running water or electricity.

Now, the Obama administration wants the four border states that receive federal funds for colonia improvement to increase spending there by 50 percent.

The announcement comes as scientists say potential health consequences of living in colonias are too severe to ignore.

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Boquillas Two Years Later: Economy Rebuild Garners Binational Support

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell signs an update to the 1999 U.S.-Mexico Wildfire Protection Agreement with her Mexican counterpart, Juan José Guerra Abud, Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) on her left. (Lorne Matalon)

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell signs an update to the 1999 U.S.-Mexico Wildfire Protection Agreement with her Mexican counterpart, Juan José Guerra Abud, Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) on her left. (Lorne Matalon)

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fronteras_logoA version of this story aired on Texas Standard from KUT Austin.

BOQUILLAS, Coahuila — A border crossing that’s seen as part of a template to rescue damaged, rural economies along the Rio Grande has marked its second anniversary.

The symbolic importance of the crossing that links Big Bend National Park in Texas to Boquillas del Carmen, Coahuila, was heralded by a visit from cabinet secretaries from the United States and Mexico. The United States ambassador to Mexico was also on hand.

After 9/11, security concerns translated into enforcement of laws that had rarely been largely overlooked before. That meant the age-old practice of walking across this sinewy slice of the Rio Grande was banned.

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BBC World Service Interview: Riding La Bestia

bbc_world_service_logo Many Central American migrants looking to cross into the United States transit Mexico on a network of cargo trains collectively known as La Bestia, which means “the beats” in Spanish. The migrants choose this option over walking overland but La Bestia is a risky trip too. Marauding gangs extract extortion fees, woman are routinely abused and raped and many people have been tossed from the train for refusing to comply with demands, losing limbs or their life.

Shadows move across the tracks as La Bestia, a cargo train known as The Beast, approaches from the southern Mexican state of Chiapas into the state of Veracruz.(Lorne Matalon)

Shadows move across the tracks as La Bestia, a cargo train known as The Beast, approaches from the southern Mexican state of Chiapas into the state of Veracruz. (Lorne Matalon)

BBC World Service anchor Julian Worricker interviewed Lorne Matalon live from London about Matalon’s experience reporting on La Bestia. You can also find Matalon’s photographs from his coverage here.

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Fracking On The Border: NY Court Ruling May Affect Outcome

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This story was also featured by Inside Energy, a public radio collaboration at Rocky Mountain PBS in Denver.

 

The Big Bend of Texas, so named for the way the region hugs a massive bend in the Rio Grande, is renown for its desert landscapes, open spaces and tranquility. But parts of it lie within the oil-rich Permian Basin, the nation’s highest producing oil field thanks to fracking technology.

Mexico is drilling at least 29 exploratory wells across the border from the Big Bend and saying it wants to jumpstart fracking operations there.

Dawn in the Big Bend of Texas; it shares some tectonic and geographic characteristics with the Permian Basin, home of the country's highest-producing oil field. (Jim White III)

Dawn in the Big Bend of Texas; it shares some tectonic and geographic characteristics with the Permian Basin, home of the country’s highest-producing oil field. (Jim White III)

Fracking requires massive amounts of water. And a NY State Court of Appeals ruling may be of comfort to citizens in Texas concerned about the possibility of fracking in the Big Bend.

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Dark Energy And The Expansion Of The Universe: New McDonald Observatory Director Leads Experiment For Answers

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The new director of one of the nation’s leading astronomy research centers is quarterbacking a project that will significantly expand our understanding of the evolution of the universe.

In a broadcast recorded live at the McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis, Texas, Fronteras Desk reporter Lorne Matalon and West Texas Public Radio/Marfa Public Radio Morning Edition anchor Travis Bubenik spoke with Dr. Taft Armandroff, the recently appointed director of the observatory.

Taft Armandroff, recently appointed as new director of the McDonald Observatory in Texas, has studied both astronomy and philosophy. He says both play a role in his research. (Lorne Matalon)

Taft Armandroff, recently appointed as new director of the McDonald Observatory in Texas, has studied both astronomy and philosophy. He says both play a role in his research. (Lorne Matalon)

The three met at the observatory’s 82-inch Otto Struve Telescope, a historic instrument that nonetheless remains on the front line of modern day astronomical research.

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Making Deals With Informants: US Visas And The Juárez War

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In this Fronteras Desk web exclusive, Lorne Matalon speaks with Jason McGahan, the author of a report for The Daily Beast news site entitled, “U.S. Visas Helped Fuel The Juárez Drug Wars.”

Matalon also speaks with College of William & Mary Professor George Grayson, the co-author with Sam Logan of “The Executioner’s Men: Los Zetas, Rogue Soldiers, Criminal Entrepreneurs and the Shadow State They Created.”

A Mexican Federal Police officer stands guard in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Juárez. Residents said some of their neighbors had left when the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels fought during some of the worst years of the violence. March 15, 2009 (Lorne Matalon)

A Mexican Federal Police officer stands guard in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Juárez. Residents said some of their neighbors had left when the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels fought during some of the worst years of the violence. March 15, 2009 (Lorne Matalon)

Grayson has chronicled other examples of U.S. authorities paying informants inside the Mexican underworld.

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Story originally published at The United States Department of Agriculture has rescinded a 2012 ban on inspectors working at what was until two years ago the largest single point of entry for Mexican cattle into the United States. The lifting of the … Continue reading

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Juarez Cartel On Trial In El Paso: A Conversation With Jason McGahan

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A recently concluded trial in El Paso, Texas, has revealed the inner workings of how the Juarez Cartel used sophisticated communication technology to orchestrate murders, while United States law enforcement and intelligence operatives eavesdropped on calls between the killers. This came out while the prosecution was making its case against Arturo “Benny” Gallegos.

On Tuesday investigative reporter Jason McGahan was interviewed by Marfa Public Radio/West Texas Public Radio Fronteras Desk reporter Lorne Matalon about his work on this case.

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The Tarahumara: Challenge in the Sierra

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Drug cartels that threaten border security in the southwest US are active in Tarahumara territory, the Sierra Madre of the Mexican State of Chihuahua. They are alleged to be stealing arable land and trees from Tarahumara homelands. Trees are both cultural icons, said to link earth to the heavens, & environmentally critical to the maintenance of a stable water table in the Sierra.

In a separate but related development, the Mexican equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency in the state of Chihuahua has rejected a court ruling banning illegal logging on ancestral Tarahumara land.


Photos by Lorne Matalon. Multimedia produced by Sarah Vasquez.

These images were taken during research for our series on two severe challenges facing the Tarahumara indigenous people of northern Mexico.

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Americans, Mexicans Helping Indigenous Tarahumara

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Private Mexican & American citizens are in the Sierra with the Tarahumara now as the planting season begins. Famed for their prowess at ultra long distance running, the Tarahumara are losing arable land & the capacity to grow their own food. Outsiders are supplying the Tarahumara with protection, food and & high quality seeds for next year.

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Tarahumara Governor Pal Ma in a cornfield beside her home, Talpa, Chihuahua, Mexico. (Lorne Matalon)

SIERRA MADRE, Chihuahua, Mexico — As the summer planting season begins, American and Mexican citizens are helping one of Mexico’s most isolated indigenous groups — the Tarahumara of Chihuahua. They face the twin challenges of poverty and corruption; illegal loggers and violent criminal organizations steal their arable land and plunder the mountains.

A tractor donated by a family from Texas tills a field that is 10 hours by road from the U.S.-Mexico border. Corn planting season has started in the Sierra.
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Brothers’ Murder and Border Violence

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In El Porvenir, Mexico across from Fort Hancock, Texas, drug cartel battles for control of the long-established smuggling route have triggered multiple killings on the Mexican side, most recently the murder of two brothers. The violence rarely spills across the border, but the psychological impact does. Lorne Matalon reports for Fronteras.

In El Porvenir, Mexico across from Fort Hancock, Texas, drug cartel battles for control of the long-established smuggling route have triggered multiple killings on the Mexican side, most recently the murder of two brothers.

Gap in the border wall at El Porvenir, Chihuahua, Mexico and Fort Hancock, Texas.

Gap in the border wall at El Porvenir, Chihuahua, Mexico and Fort Hancock, Texas.

The violence rarely spills across the border, but the psychological impact does.

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The Personal Cost of Extortion in Mexico

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Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has shifted the national conversation away from an intractable drug war and towards the economy. Despite Mexico’s insecurity, its economy is still a major player in Latin America. But some business owners working on the border are finding it increasingly difficult to avoid the cartels.

OJINAGA, MEXICO – There has been a major increase in the number of businesses reporting extortion attempts in Mexico, according to a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico (PDF).

The Chamber’s new survey says the number of its member businesses reporting extortion is already twice this year what it was in 2012.

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Building A Tourism Cooperative In Northern Mexico

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This live-to-tape interview broadcast from Boquillas, Coahuila, Mexico looks at the challenges faced by outsiders who say they are here—funded by tax money of the US, Canada & Mexico—to improve life in the village.

In April, we reported on a formal border crossing re-opening in West Texas. For years, thousands of tourists flocked to the tiny village of Boquillas Mexico, propping up their local economy.

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Workers gather straw and foliage beside a casita under renovation. The United States looms in the background across the Rio Grande. (Lorne Matalon)

Then, Sept. 11, 2001 happened. The border was unmanned, and in the name of national security it was sealed. The closed border was a crippling blow to Boquillas’ economy.

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Long Awaited Border Crossing with Mexico Opens

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On this program, we catch up with Ernesto Hernandez of the Washington DC based Solimar International. That company was awarded a $100,000 contract last year to help Boquillas Mexico prepare for the border reopening. Hernandez discusses the challenge faced by outsiders who are trying to establish a community-owned tourism cooperative.

Candelario Valdez tends bar, Boquillas, Mexico (Photo: Lorne Matalon).

Candelario Valdez tends bar, Boquillas, Mexico. (Lorne Matalon)

On this program, we catch up with Ernesto Hernandez of the Washington DC based Solimar International. That company was awarded a $100,000 contract last year to help Boquillas Mexico prepare for the border reopening. Hernandez discusses the challenge faced by outsiders who are trying to establish a community-owned tourism cooperative.

Hear the effect outsiders coming is having on Boquillas and learn how Solimar views the villagers it is trying to help.

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A Texas-Mexico Border Crossing Opens

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Catarino Oreste Vasquez, 70, says residents of Boquillas, Mexico, yearn for visitors now that the border crossing has reopened.

Catarino Oreste Vasquez, 70, says residents of Boquillas, Mexico, yearn for visitors now that the border crossing has reopened. (Lorne Matalon)

Boquillas, Mexico, a riverside hamlet of 90 people, sits a minute by foot across the Rio Grande from Big Bend National Park in Texas, a boundless tapestry of rock and high desert. Mexicans used to cross to work, buy supplies in the park or visit family. Americans would wade across the river to savor Mexico for a few hours. The border, at least here, was an abstract one that people on either side ignored. But that was before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Afterward, this part of the border was sealed.

The only thing entering the U.S. along this emerald sliver of the Rio Grande was the sound of 62-year-old Victor Valdez singing. His voice echoed across the canyon, his corridos telling stories of lost love and the fight to survive in a harsh, beautiful land.

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KRTS Crosses into Mexico at Boquillas, and then Back Into Texas…Legally

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013: This morning, Marfa Public Radio news reporter Lorne Matalon was among the first to cross at the new international port of entry between Big Bend National Park, Texas, and Boquillas, Mexico.

After more than a year of wrangling, between officials in the United States and Mexico, this pedestrian crossing has now opened officially. KRTS spoke to residents of Boquillas, Mexico, about their joy and relief for the port opening.

On this day, in which this new border crossing opened, there was a immigration rally in Washington D.C. in a gathering called “All-In For Citizenship.”Previous KRTS News reports on the border opening were filed in March 2013, November 2012, and even back in January 2011. Lorne Matalon also filed a Fronteras news report in January 2013.

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