This course is aimed at building a substantial body of knowledge about the built environment history and cultural landscapes of an extended U.S. – Mexico border region, with a focus on the corridor between Monterrey, Mexico and San Antonio, Texas. Students will be active curators of this history. A cultural landscape approach to the history of the U.S. is one that utilizes the built environment as a primary source of evidence of American culture and life. Cultural landscape scholars have typically focused on the built environment and history of the U.S., and this scholarly tradition has its origins in U.S. academic institutions. This course expands the scope of Cultural Landscape Studies and Built Environment History, turning its attention to Mexico, as well as the border region that is directly impacted by its proximity to Mexico.
We will structure our investigation into the cultural landscapes of Mexico and the border region through an engagement with the historic railroad routes that connected Mexico City with Nogales, Arizona, El Paso, Texas, and Laredo, Texas starting in 1882 and completed by 1910. In the Spring of 2018 we will focus on the Mexican Eastern Line (1880-1883), which connected Mexico City to the border at Nuevo Laredo, and continued to St. Louis, MO. In subsequent years we will shift our attention to other railroad routes. National focus on the U.S.-Mexico border often runs along an east-west axis that connects the Gulf of Mexico with the Pacific Ocean. Our class thus cuts “la linea” north-south along these three key locations.
This investigation will aim to compile two bodies of evidence: One is how the transportation of materials, architectural expertise, and ideas about architecture and urban form, shaped the development of places. Secondly, we will identify important historic building types and land uses in and around the Monterrey region. Sites of interest include: old agricultural fields, industrial sites, flea markets, check points, points of entry, border patrol stations, colonias, layout of small towns in Mexico, Mexican revolutionary staging grounds, prisons, storage facilities, maquiladoras (start to date them), and more.