Eloisa Tamez, who you may remember from the Current's border series, is headed back to South Texas today.
She had been presenting at a conference in Albuquerque about the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border when she got word that back at home a federal judge had ruled that U.S. Homeland Security has the right to take a quarter-acre of her South Texas border land. This is land in her family inhabited before Spanish colonization, she has argued, and was deeded to her relatives through a Spanish Land Grant.
It's been a year since Tamaz walked with me atop the earthen levy on the back side of her property. For the university professor, it's been a year of going in and out of court fighting Homeland Security.
While I couldn't reach Eloisa this morning, her daughter Margo returned by call, sharing how distraught she and her mother were on hearing the news yesterday.
Margo said compounding the shock was the fact that her mother had approached no fewer than six different appraisal companies trying to get a good appraisal on her land with no luck.
One finally agreed, Margo Tamez said, but then “fell off the face of the earth.”
The ramifications of the ruling for more than a dozen other landowners that had joined her mother's lawsuit is unclear, she added.
Prominent and sustained violence in several Northern Mexico border towns appears to have provided the government justification to continue forward with nearly 700 miles of border wall construction ordered by Congress, in spite of the hope many had held out that Obama's new administration could force a policy reversal.
However, when President Obama met with fellow Harvard alum President Felipe Calderon yesterday in Mexico City, individual liberty and indigenous land rights weren't on the agenda.
From CNN, we read:
Individual liberty and indigenous land rights have received little mention in the court of U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen. (For more on human rights and the Wall, check out the analysis of this University of Texas-based group.)
To visit, it seems bizarre to think seizing property in out-of-the-way El Calaboz could have any impact on guns heading south or drugs coming north. If that's the point.
The New Mexico Independent caught up with Tamez, adding to the discussion:
The massive wall being constructed along the U.S./Mexico border does not sit on the actual border, which in Texas is the Rio Grande.
Tamez's land was once part of the San Pedro de Carricitos Land Grant, created by the King of Spain in 1767. While it was handed down to Tamez through many generations, her heritage on the land actually predates even the land grant, she explained. Tamez's ancestors include tribal members of the indigenous Lipan Apache.
In recent months, El Calaboz, a small community outside Brownsville, has been overrun by Homeland contractors in burst of a sort of “mili-tourism,” Margo Tamez told me.
Nebraska plates are in abundance, thanks to Halliburton subsidiary Kiewit, she said. “They've just been overrun by Nebraska license plates."