UNESCO IN NO-MAN'S LAND: DESIGNATING THE US-MEXICO BOUNDARY MONUMENTS AS WORLD HERITAGE SITES.

AuthorZaragoza, Barbara

ABSTRACT

This article argues that the original 258 Monuments erected from El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua to San Diego, California and Tijuana, Baja California should be designated as one contiguous UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not only do the Monuments demonstrate a cultural property of outstanding universal value, but a lack of treaty compliance and the Department of Homeland Security's border construction have led many of these cultural properties to fall into a state of disrepair, neglect and potential future destruction. Generally, when groups in the United States want to advocate for a World Heritage listing, the Department of Interior submits such requests to UNESCO. However, this article analyses why a nomination of the Monuments as a World Heritage site by the United States is inappropriate. Furthermore, a listing on the United States National Register of Historic Places is also inappropriate, even though three Monuments are already listed as such. Instead, this cultural property is not owned exclusively by the United States or Mexico, but is shared between the two countries. The Monuments, therefore, exist in 'no-man's land'. Consequently, the IBWC and CILA should submit such a request together and, thereafter, ask UNESCO to place the Monuments on their list of sites in danger.

INTRODUCTION

Monuments were set in places, which seemed impossible. It mattered not whether the proper point fell on the side of a bristling cliff or upon a dizzy mountain peak, the monument was placed exactly there. (1)

The top of Lesna's crest was about the width of a man's two hands spread side by side. (2) Located in Southern Arizona, the crest rose steeply for 400 feet (122 metres) before turning into a perpendicular cliff. (3) Joe H. Wheeler, originally from Tennessee, volunteered to scale this vertical precipice. (4) After a group of engineers determined a monument needed to be placed upon this narrow summit, a crew first blasted the peak to secure more width. (5) Then, using ropes and sheer muscle, a crew pulled each of three sections, weighing altogether 700 pounds (318 kilos), to the top. (6) Wheeler set the blocks together and lodged it on a firm base. (7) Monument 153, as it is now known, still stands at Lesna's crest, bolted to solid rock. (8)

The United States-Mexico boundary stretches for 1,954 miles (3,144 km). (9) The Rio Grande provides a natural boundary line for the first 1,255 miles (2,020 km) from the Gulf of Mexico to El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. (10) Thereafter, the border becomes a land boundary through deserts and rugged mountains. (11) During the nineteenth century, the concept of nation-states swept through Europe and North America, and surveyors provided the essential work of drawing maps and erecting boundary markers to establish this sovereign territory. (12) From 1846 to 1848 the United States and Mexico waged war over their territorial borders. Afterwards, peace treaties mandated that engineers with a party of men should survey the new boundary and place obelisk monuments along this line to demarcate the two separate countries. (13)

After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, the first International Boundary Commission erected 52 Boundary Monuments ('Monuments'). (14) Four decades later, settlements had exploded along the boundary line as did surveillance in the form of customs inspectors, border patrols and law enforcement. (15) Consequently, the United States and Mexican Governments decided the boundary line needed to be resurveyed. (16) At that time, a new Boundary Commission set out to erect 258 Monuments across the land boundary between the two countries. (17)

The Bianco-Barlow Commission--as it became known--suffered extraordinary hardships. They weathered a lack of drinking water, extreme desert heat, sand storms and the threat of Native American raids. (18) The party of approximately 60 men included labourers, cooks, stonemasons and engineers. (19) They necessitated military escort because the Native Americans did not necessarily accept their presence, in particular the Apaches. (20) The military escort included the Twenty-Fourth Infantry, today known as the Buffalo Soldiers or the African-American division of the United States Anny, who helped protect the party and their work. (21)

These original Monuments still exist, as does the International Boundary Commission, whose name was changed in 1945 to the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC). (22) Its Mexican counterpart became known as Comision Internacional De Limites y Aguas Entre Mexico y Estados Unidos, Gobierno de Mexico (CILA) (23) In accordance with treaty provisions, these two regulatory agencies maintain the boundary line cooperatively. (24) Today, the land boundary between the United States and Mexico extends for a length of over 677 miles (1,090 km) and is marked by a total of 276 international Monuments, numbered from 1 to 258, including eighteen newer Monuments identified with both a number and a letter. (25) The Monuments have been placed at intervals that vary from 0.14 miles (225 metres) up to 4.91 miles (7.9 km). (26)

This article argues that the original 258 Monuments erected from El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua to San Diego, California and Tijuana, Baja California should be designated as one contiguous UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not only do these Monuments demonstrate a cultural property (27) of outstanding universal value, but a lack of treaty compliance and the Department of Homeland Security's border construction has led many of these cultural properties to exist in a state of disrepair, neglect and potential future destruction.

Generally, when groups in the United States want to advocate for a World Heritage listing, the Department of Interior submits such requests to UNESCO. (28) However, this article analyses why a nomination of the Monuments as a World Heritage site by the United States is inappropriate. Furthermore, a listing on the US National Register of Historic Places is also inappropriate, even though three Monuments are already listed as such. (29) Instead, this cultural property is not owned exclusively by the United States or Mexico, but is shared between the countries. The Monuments, therefore, exist in 'no-man's land'. Consequently, the IBWC and CILA should submit such a request together and, thereafter, ask UNESCO to place the Monuments on their list of sites in danger.

Part I describes the history of the Monuments and how they meet several UNESCO World Heritage Site criteria, by reason of their extraordinary technology, architecture and cartography. Part II describes the state of disrepair and lack of proper maintenance of the Monuments as a result of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) border construction, which in part has caused a lack of treaty compliance for the maintenance of the Monuments. Part III then analyses the mechanisms UNESCO could use in order to preserve this historical treasure, a cultural property for mankind. It is argued that UNESCO should recommend a land buffer zone at the Monuments and this territory should be similar to the designation of 'Area Law' bestowed upon certain ocean areas not under the jurisdiction of any individual nation.

  1. THE 258 BOUNDARY MONUMENTS QUALIFY FOR UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE DESIGNATION

    When UNESCO designates cultural property as a World Heritage Site, the international community takes notice of the property's contribution to the history of mankind. This should then lead to a stronger public desire to preserve it. The United Nations established the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) shortly after World War II when European countries had experienced vast destruction of their cultural properties. (30) An increasing interest in worldwide preservation then led to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which emphasised that damage to any cultural property is damage to the cultural heritage of mankind. (31) Although the Hague Convention focused on the preservation of cultural property during armed conflict, the document provided a precursor to protecting valuable cultural treasures in times of peace as well. (32)

    The international obligation towards preservation of cultural properties during times of peace accelerated further in the late 1950s when the Egyptian Government proposed the construction of the Aswan High Dam, which envisaged flooding a valley containing the ancient Abu Simbel temples. (33) More than 50 nations came together and contributed approximately $80 million to provide relocation of the threatened temples. (34) Thereafter, the international community mobilised and by 1972, UNESCO created the 'World Heritage List', a designation for locations worldwide that are of value to humanity. (35) The list was determined at a General Conference in Paris where signatories adopted the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. (36) The Convention consists of 38 articles and emphasises the need to safeguard irreplaceable properties that were becoming increasingly threatened with destruction due to social and economic conditions. (37) Article 1 of the 1972 UNESCO Convention specifies "cultural heritage" as including monuments, groups of buildings, and larger sites that combine the works of nature and man. (38)

    Today, an inscription on the World Heritage List raises public awareness of the cultural property in question and often results in financial assistance for maintenance and repair from a variety of international sources. (39) To be included on the World Heritage List, a site must meet at least one out of ten selection criteria, which are divided into six cultural criteria and four natural environment criteria that display "outstanding universal value". (40) Furthermore, UNESCO requires a secondary consideration that each potential site...

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