Lines On the Map: The Human Geography of the US’s Southern Border


(Map 1: US Borders Prior to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo*)

With all the discussion, both in the current election cycle and year in and year out, about immigration to the US, as well as how to secure the US’s southern border, what often gets ignored is how the US got its southern border. Specifically the human geography of the southwestern US and their relationship to its border. After the conclusion of the Mexican War, in February 1848, the US and Mexico completed the negotiation of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo did several things, but among them it moved the US’s southern and western borders to roughly where they are now. Basically we moved the line on the map. As was, and still is, the case when borders are drawn the people living on either side of the old and/or new borders do not always pay a lot of attention to that border in their daily lives. This can be seen in kinship maps of various parts of the world where borders were drawn, often by people far from where the borders were or would be, that subdivided or bisected members of kinship groups into separate states regardless of the reality on the ground. You can see this on ethnic maps throughout Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and other parts of the world.

This is also the reality with the US’s southern border. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo officially moved the lines on the map, but the day to day experience – the pattern of human settlement and the human geography of the region did not really change. Sure, more of what we now call non-Hispanic whites moved into New Mexico and west Texas and Arizona and Southern California, but the overall human geography – the people, places, and things that make up that pattern of human settlement didn’t change all that much. If you look at the pattern of settlement, based on 2010 Census data, you’ll see that where Hispanics and Latinos were living in the southern US hasn’t changed a lot. The highest density areas are still in the southwest.


(Map 2: Hispanic or Latino Population of the US**)

You’ll notice that on both the map prepared for the negotiations of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Rural Health Information’s map of Hispanic or Latino population of the US based on the 2010 Census that the area that the US would get from Mexico in 1848 is still where the largest percentage of the Hispanic or Latino population of the US live. This doesn’t count south Florida, which has a different historic pattern of Hispanic settlement. What the patterns of settlement shown on the maps show us is that the border was moved on the map, but the pattern of settlement remained largely unchanged.

And off and on for almost a hundred years that border was open. People went back and forth for familial reasons, for economic reasons, for social reasons, and for political reasons (don’t forget the Mormon exodus to Mexico in the late 19th Century and their return to the US in the early 20th Century). At different times throughout the 20th Century there have been attempts to seal the southern border for security reasons, which were sometimes/often conflated with xenophobia and anti-immigration sentiment. There were also attempts by the Mexican government to police their northern border to prevent (accused) criminals from crossing into the US illegally to escape justice. And all of these, over the course of a decade in the 1940s into the 1950s culminated with Operation Wetback – the last, named operation to deal with the issue at that point in time. These efforts to regulate the southern border also included guest worker programs, like the early 1940s Bracero Program. In the 1980s the Reagan Administration pushed the Immigration and Reform Act of 1986 that included a pathway to citizenship. Later, in the 1990s, there was Operation Gatekeeper, the Clinton Administration attempt to secure the southern border. And there was also the disastrous impact of NAFTA and the war on drugs on Mexico’s economy, driving millions north in search of work to support themselves and their relatives at home. And through it all the pattern of settlement in the southwestern US has not changed very much. Until this reality – that the border may have been moved in 1848, but not the demographics of the population – is acknowledged in the debate on what to do with the migration across the US’s southern border, then it will not be possible to formulate feasible, acceptable, and suitable policies for immigration into the US across the southern border and how to best regulate and regularize it.

* Map found here.

** Map found here.

131 replies
  1. 1
    HinTN says:

    Adam, Adam, Adam… Bringing reasoned discourse to bear on an emotionally charged (for the gullible and morans in general) issue is hardly the way to win friends and influence people. /le sigh

  2. 2
    Big Ole Hound says:

    Light blue is 16 to 49%…really. That’s a huge spread, from minority to near majority. Useless statistic.

  3. 3
    scav says:

    I forget the exact details of the question he used, but I TAed for a Geog prof in Santa Barbara who every year could ding the class with a question about the average number of generations the Hispanic population in CA had in state. Somehow the missions scattered about, the place names, the ranchos none of that had raised the slightest whiff of a suspicion in the former Iowans or children of former Iowans that not everyone that spoke Spanish hadn’t arrived the week before.

  4. 4
    shomi says:

    Texas should be blue by now with all those Latinos. If you don’t vote you get the gov’t you deserve.

    The Latino community should get more organized to get people to vote more. Just bitching about lack of immigration reform is not going to do anything.

  5. 5
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    What strikes me right away is seeing the places on the (second) map with the smallest Latino-Hispanic population, 0.0%-2.4%. These are the places where Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric seems to find its most receptive audiences — great swaths of PA, OH, WV, KY, and the upper Midwest.

    Now why would that be, do you suppose?? Hmm, hmm, scratching my head….

  6. 6
    jacy says:

    Looking at that map, the one thing that surprised me was the higher pop in Idaho. I guess I just assumed that Idaho was lily white. I’d be curious to know how the Hispanic/Latino population has changed across the South since 2010. From personal observation, it seems that there’s been a huge uptick in Louisiana over the last couple of years, but I don’t know how accurate that is statistically.

  7. 7
    jeffreyw says:

    I’ve been listening to Cormac McCarthy”s Border Trilogy on Audible. I suspect many of the themes encompassed by the notion of human geography are illustrated in those books. As an aside, I would note that one of the protagonists is named John G Cole.

  8. 8
    sigaba says:

    There’s a reason Los Angeles is called Los Angeles, and nobody even considered renaming it “Angelburg,” notwithstanding LA is where Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed.

  9. 9
    hovercraft says:

    Texas actually has a large republican Hispanic vote, and there is also a huge untapped swath of Latinos who are not registered. Like most other states though the youth are a lot more liberal than their parents. It will turn blue, it’s just gonna take a while.

  10. 10
    Punchy says:

    By using this map alone, I can identify where the meat-packing plants in KS and NE are!

  11. 11
    sigaba says:

    @Big Ole Hound: 16.3% is the national average, so yellow counties have an Hispanic density less than the mean, light blue ones have a density greater than the mean. That’s why the colors break at that number.

  12. 12
    Emma says:

    Fun and weird fact of the day: Los Angeles’ original name was El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula.

  13. 13

    Trump is not the only anti-immigrant pol in the GOP. He is just the loudest and the crudest. Mark Krikorian, he blogs at the Corner and Chris Kobach are well respected in GOP circles and they are as bigoted as can be about immigrants but they are well respected and even get called on the Snooze Hour as experts.

  14. 14

    @jeffreyw: Does Tunch appear in the novel too?

  15. 15
    Nick says:

    Eastern Washington (Yakima, Walla Walla, etc.) also has a large Latino population — there are communities there that might be termed ‘historically Latino’, I don’t know if they formed because of positive affinity or a reaction to prejudice elsewhere — and the original reason for migration was working in the fruit picking industry. I’m sure Idaho is the same, though probably smaller because of a larger reliance on the (whiter) forestry industry.

    As for the larger issue, there are a number of traits that tend to cluster — a high value for in-group affinity, authoritarianism, and a tendency to see laws as absolute — and the people who have them see the border as a living representation of how all three of these should manifest in the world. Think of it as the immigration-law version of the ‘dark Triad’ (though much more common, sadly).

  16. 16
  17. 17
    Bobby_D says:

    I love old maps. They used to have a lot more artistic flair.
    On the Hispanic population map, those two little blue dots in north-central Georgia? Chicken farming, mostly. I’ve got family roots in the next county to the east, and sometime around the early 00s, the Hispanic population exploded around Hall County/Gainseville area. Which was cool, because the big local flea market in this big old barn structure in Pendergrass, that was all about the redneck white trash hillbilly crap, turned into a flea market that would be at home in Merced, CA or some other central valley farm town. Injected some culture into the tired old redneck enclave.

  18. 18
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    Josie says:

    I lived most of my 70 plus years on the Texas Mexico border, actually within 30 miles of it. This is a great post, Adam. When I was growing up, people went back and forth across the border with no problems. Several towns have bridges over the Rio Grande and people walked and drove across every day to work, go to school, visit relatives, etc. There was even a ferry that was pulled back and forth by a man with a rope. It was a very relaxed atmosphere on both sides. It is so sad that the drug trade and the immigration rules have destroyed that special feeling of the meeting and mingling of the two cultures. Some of it still survives, but it is not the same as it was.

  20. 20
    Cermet says:

    Come on, we stole that fair and square … that is, we murdered, terrorized and overwhelmed the people living there; and even the Mexican’s, as well. The scale of native American deaths/land lost pales in comparison for what the Mexicans lost; Hispanic people were late arrivals and murdered and raped their way creating a mix that became those people we call Mexicans who, in turn, controlled/took the lands from the native tribes.

  21. 21
    Bruce Webb says:

    “in February 1842, the US and Mexico completed the negotiation of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo”

    Per your link, my memory and the timeline presented in the post this should be “February 1848”

    And those areas in SW Idaho and SE Oregon that show substantial Latino populations are Potato country (remember the ‘Ore-Ido’ potatoes stands for exactly that)

  22. 22
    jeffreyw says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: He visits with a fellow that has several cats about but provides no description that would point Tunch-ward. In one of the books the boys are served an unidentified meat that one of them says must be from a cat, explaining to his brother that he hasn’t seen any since they got to town.

  23. 23
    cmorenc says:

    I used to referee some adult Hispanic soccer games, which could be sometimes be quite a challenge to manage (but so could the predominately WASP / AA league games). A key cultural difference that took me awhile to recognize is that when the WASP/AA players got pissly with me in dissenting from calls, the tone was one of disrespect against my authority – but though the Hispanic players could sometimes get equally irritated in their dissent, the nature of their comments was an appeal to my authority, to exercise it on their behalf somehow in some way they thought I wasn’t adequately doing. It was a subtle, but profound difference, and it sunk into me after awhile that although it could sometimes be a nerve-wracking hassle to stay on top of the Hispanic games, especially since I don’t speak fluent Spanish, I never felt personally threatened by hostility in a way I did from some players of British ancestry. BTW: the fluency Hispanic players expected of me was fluency in soccer more than language, although it was necessary to learn which Spanish cuss words one should never tolerate, e.g. puente.

  24. 24
    Comrade Scrutinizer says:

    @Josie: I remember back 50+ years ago in elementary school, when the US open borders were touted as another example of America’s greatness, especially compared with the USSR, or Pre-EU Europe.

  25. 25
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    J R in WV says:

    Thanks for this Adam.

    I wasn’t surprised to find so many people with Hispanic names in SE Arizona when we first stated visiting there in winter.

    It took me a while, and many trips around both Arizona and New Mexico (NEW Mexico, get it? haha People from there still get stopped and asked for their Mexican papers!) those New Mexico state license plates!) to figure out something else.

    Most of those folks still in the border country are Hispanic in name only – they are Apache or Pueblo, mostly, with names given their families by Spanish monks traveling with the Military explorers – the ones who were a little literate, and could write a log of the expedicion.

    Being from Hillbilly country, it took a while for me to figure all this out. The tall skinny guys had been/are Apache, and the rounder guys were/are Pueblo, Hopi, Zuni, etc. The Navajo avoided more of that than the others did.

    There are cultural markers too, the shorter, rounder folks don’t mind working a National Park job even if there are ruins where people dies. Navajo, who are otherwise similar to Pueblo won’t go near ruins, and don’t talk about them.

    Hopi and Zuni used to talk about heritage stories, but not too long ago they quit, officially, and now the cultural anthropologists have what they have, with no way to tell how much they were told was real and how much was just story tellers having fun.

    Interesting story. Back around the turn of the century (the next to last one, not the one 15 years ago) a group of senior Navajo people, mostly men, were encouraged to attend a world exposition. Now I forget if it was in St Louis or Chicago, doesn’t matter. At that giant ceremonial fair they met some more northern native people from Canada, who spoke Athabascan.

    They talked together in the afternoon, and later that night, the Navajo packed up and left. In the morning, with no word left, they were just gone. Some have the opinion that the Navajo had stories about leaving others behind and leaving for some very significant reason, and traveling from British Columbia as far away as they could get, into a high rocky desert, very unlike their former home.

    When they realized that these people at the World’s Fair were those people in those very old stories, they got the hell out of Dodge, or St Louis, actually. And they have never talked to anyone about that trip to the big city fair. Or why they left.

    Some really interesting stories there. A fly on the wall of the hotel room where that discussion happened that night would have the real story, if it spoke an Athabascan-based language!

    The ruins in Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Canyon de Shea, Navajo National Park, non-Navajo only allowed in with an approved native guide) are extensive stone buildings back against the Canyon wall under overhangs, much like bigger settlements at Mesa Verde. But they have nice tight woven wire fences a hundred yards out in front, or more.

    No one is allowed around them, since ancient bodies were found there. Navajo cultural reasons, they do not like bodies, never speak about them or go around places where they are or have been. No words for funeral, even. Which made it interesting when we were in Navajo Nation and a famous elderly Code Talker with a Medal of Honor died.

    The Navajo nation radio station, which broadcasts 90% in Navajo, the news readers had to break into English to talk about the funeral, which was going to take place for the English people who have strange customs about death. Sort of like the commercials for truck dealers, some of that has to be in English too.

    The Southwest is interesting, like visiting another country interposed between slices of America. Utah is like that too, better camouflaged as the LDS speak English and look, well ordinary.

    But they aren’t ordinary. That takes quite a while to pick up on. You are a foreigner, treated politely, but not gonna be part of the local culture, ever, and many visitors never notice. They build schools up to the edge of the lot, and the ward house is also built up to the edge of the lot, right against the school. So kids can go from school to the ward house (which is somewhat like a church in another place) and back, whenever necessary. Privately.

    Just my $0.02. I like it out there, very different from West Virginia, the Appalachian country. Like going abroad, only the money is the same. Most people speak some English. About as many as do in Spain. For example.

  27. 27
    mali muso says:

    As one of my Latino friends from TX says, “We didn’t cross the border; the border crossed us.”

  28. 28

    @jeffreyw: Oh noes! Please no eating kittehs, kittehs are friends not food.

  29. 29
    Joel says:

    @Big Ole Hound: the ranges were probably chosen by sigma (SD estimates). Just a guess.

  30. 30
    Tim C. says:

    Bookmarked for the AP Human Geography class I teach. Thanks!

  31. 31
    Bruce Webb says:

    Speaking of lines on the map. Looks like the portion of Southern New Mexico I live in today (Las Cruces) was actually just within Texas even as our older sister city Mesilla was in Mexico with the border being the Rio Grande as it turns North. Interesting because while Las Cruces is today a majority Chicano and Mexican population the portion of New Mexico on the east side of the mountains shown as being in Texas (Franklins, Sacramento Mts, Organs etc) are culturally pretty much identical to West Texas today: redneck oil towns.

    But I would have bet big money that the dirt on which Las Cruces was built had never been part of Texas. Who knew? (Which is why I love old maps)

  32. 32
    ShadeTail says:

    I recently got into an argument with someone who took an absolutist view that theft is always wrong. One of my points was how the entire state of California has been stolen at least three times (by Spain, then by Mexico, then by USA), and that he tacitly either supported that or didn’t care about it. His response was to insist that Mexico “gave” us California, which literally had me facepalming at him.

    Not really connected to this topic, but it does go to show that people often are completely ignorant of the history of all this.

  33. 33
    jacy says:

    @J R in WV:

    I grew up in Colorado, and where I was there was a large Latino heritage population. My schools were probably 40% Latino, but these were all kids whose families had been in the area for generations. (A lot of farmers and ranchers from the San Luis Valley area). I don’t remember there being a huge population who were first or second generation immigrants. By the time my older kids were in school, that had changes and there lots of kids in their classes who had to translate for their parents.

    My grandmother was black Irish — she had very black hair into her 70s and was very dark-skinned. My grandparents lived in Wyoming, but wintered in Arizona, and would often drive down into Mexico. It was a running joke that my grandmother was always asked for her identification when they drove back across the border.

    My adopted son is of Salvadoran extraction (he came to us at 14, but his mother had lived in the States his entire life.) I don’t know if it ever bothered him that everybody assumed he was “Mexican” as that’s the generic term around here for anyone who looks at all Latino/Hispanic. But even though he’s in the Marines (and I’ve found that the military often makes young men more conservative, for whatever reason. My brother was in the Navy for 8 years and came back a Republican, much to my mother’s astonishment and chagrin), he’s very much a Democrat, mainly because of the racism he’s been exposed to.

  34. 34
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Comrade Scrutinizer: I can’t help but think that our fortified borders are eventually going to be used to keep us in.

  35. 35
    J R in WV says:


    So he’s only really against theft from HIS pocket, and doesn’t care about theft on a grand scale. Like Trump.

  36. 36
    Bobby_D says:

    @raven: Raven, doesn’t ring a bell off hand. I’ve not lived in GA since 1997 when I graduated GaTech. Still have property in Jefferson, and family in Jefferson, Gainesville, Ellijay, Dawsonville, and Maysville.

    Peaked at the maps, those are really neat. When I get some time, I’m going to check out Gainesville before the tornadoes of ’23? Year might not be right, have to look. My grandpa lived there the time, as a little boy, and that storm killed his mom and a lot of relatives. I’ve seen newspapers from then, it was two tornadoes that converged on the town. Total devastation.

  37. 37
    scav says:

    @J R in WV: Thing is, same thing about feeling foreign can also apply in Appalachia or in upstate Maine or Cajun country, mid-state Iowa or downtown NYC, all depending on where you’re from originally. Doesn’t mean any of these places aren’t American or aren’t ordinary. They’re perfectly ordinary for where they are. I’ve found that people from out of town are usually treated as such for years in small towns no matter the language, and even in Chicago there’s the secret nod between people around long enough to use the old names for the ‘L lines and Interstates.

  38. 38
    Chris says:

    With all the discussion, both in the current election cycle and year in and year out, about immigration to the US, as well as how to secure the US’s southern border, what often gets ignored is how the US got its southern border.

    Although I do find it vaguely amusing that a common conspiracy theory among gun nuts and anti immigration types is that the Mexicans in Texas and California and the southwest are organizing into violent militias that one day are going to throw a revolution and try to break off those territories from the United States.

    So basically, exactly what the Anglos actually did do almost 200 years ago in Texas and California.

  39. 39
    Chris says:


    I forget the exact details of the question he used, but I TAed for a Geog prof in Santa Barbara who every year could ding the class with a question about the average number of generations the Hispanic population in CA had in state.

    I was going to ask what that exact number was, but then it occurred to me that that number would probably be a very rough guesstimate, given that as AS points out, families have been going back and forth over the border for generations. It’s quite possible that the guy illegally crossing the border from Mexico today had grandparents who lived in the United States in their time.

  40. 40
    Miss Bianca says:

    What I wonder is whether we can ever get back to a more open border. Rather than all this talk of walls. But I’m probably a mad dreamer.

    (remembering when you didn’t need a passport to cross into Canada or Mexico, and feeling snippy about it).

  41. 41
    scav says:

    @Chris: It would vary by time and area too — any number I would remember would be for either SB co, CA or possibly southern CA for the 1980s. (Not that I remember the exact number). For some families and areas, there are certainly records for both people and property that go back a good long way. They certainly pulled out data for the Lin-Manuel Miranda family’s adventures in TX.

  42. 42
    Chris says:

    @Comrade Scrutinizer:

    I remember back 50+ years ago in elementary school, when the US open borders were touted as another example of America’s greatness, especially compared with the USSR, or Pre-EU Europe.

    Heh. And I remember (well not really, but I read history books) when not only was immigration from enemy countries held up as proof of our awesomeness, but when hard right wing Republicans would make serious efforts to reach out to and partner with members of those communities who shared their anticommunist bent – the Cubans, the Chinese, the Vietnamese, and every kind of East European.

    Right now Arab, Persian, Afghan communities in the U.S. are full of people who came here fleeing from some enemy of the United States or other – the Ba’ath, the jihadists, the Ayatollahs, Hezbollah, even the Soviets if you go back far enough. It really would not be hard for the modern right wing to make friends in those communities if they made the slightest effort. Alas…

  43. 43
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    There are also treaty rights with Native American tribes like the Tohono O’odham that span the southern border, and which have been trampled by border enforcement, and really deserve their day in court. First Nations tribes spanning the US/Canada border tend to be granted the right to free passage or even dual citizenship, but even that has run into the WHTI.

  44. 44
    Bostonian says:

    @cmorenc: You might be interested to learn that puente means “bridge” in English. Perhaps you were thinking of puto instead. Or maybe your friends are having you on.

    I will never forget the day that one of my in-laws sat at my dining room table and told me the only problem with San Antonio was that there were too many Mexicans.

  45. 45
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations episode on the border was pretty insightful, too: he was looking at the origins of many of his own kitchen staff (and the people working in kitchens up and down the scale all across America).

    Americans in search of cheap leather, booze, dentistry, medication treat the border as open for them.

  46. 46
    Felixmoronia says:

    @raven: Raven, you may be thinking of Dayton Duncan. he has been a collaborator with Burns on several projects. Read a book written by him 15+ years ago titled: “Miles From Nowhere” about the opening of the west. Fascinating book.

  47. 47
    Chris says:


    Thing is, same thing about feeling foreign can also apply in Appalachia or in upstate Maine or Cajun country, mid-state Iowa or downtown NYC, all depending on where you’re from originally. Doesn’t mean any of these places aren’t American or aren’t ordinary. They’re perfectly ordinary for where they are. I’ve found that people from out of town are usually treated as such for years in small towns no matter the language, and even in Chicago there’s the secret nod between people around long enough to use the old names for the ‘L lines and Interstates.

    Yeah, this. It’s true in every country, but especially in a country with the size and diversity of origin that the United States has, there’s really no such thing as “normal.”

  48. 48

    @Chris: The people who have the most anxiety about immigration are the one who think they will be at receiving end of what their ancestors did to the Native Americans and other indigenous people. Always is projection with conservatives.

  49. 49
    Fair Economist says:


    So basically, exactly what the Anglos actually did do almost 200 years ago in Texas and California.

    Projection. It’s always about projection with the right. See the Clinton Foundation “corruption” (when it’s Trump’s foundations that are really corrupt), Clinton’s “health issues” (when Trump is the one canceling rallies), claims that Democrats are trying to “steal” elections, and on and on and on…

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    Nom de Plume says:

    @Emma: Another fun fact is that The Los Angeles Angels literally means “The The Angels Angels”.

  52. 52
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @J R in WV:

    (NEW Mexico, get it? haha People from there still get stopped and asked for their Mexican papers!)

    Oh yes. Back in 1996, we in Atlanta were embarrassed on behalf of the people taking ticket orders over the phone who didn’t have a clue. This while all the organizers and pillars of the community were bragging on how we were a “world-class” “international” city.

  53. 53
    piratedan says:

    @pseudonymous in nc: that’s why many Arizona old hands understand that a fence is asinine. Unlike the folks in Phoenix who believe that people are crossing in multitudes. If you’ve ever seen the country out there, you know just how incredibly naive that is. Rough country, cold as hell in the winter, hot as hell in the summer. Very little water, not much in the way of roads or people other than the tribes and a few old mining towns. Not to say that Brewer deserves any credit, yeah, there are corpses out in the desert, headless is pretty much a lie though. The tribe that has been living out here for generations use the few remote crossings (Sasabe and Naco) that exist, but prefer to take the most direct routes if they can, that means overland.

  54. 54
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    @raven: I’m old enough that one of my first summer jobs included taking the regular updates we received from Sanborn, cutting them out along the property lines, tracing the gas lines and services from the original page onto the revisions, and pasting them into the book.

    Those books fascinated me.

  55. 55
    Peale says:

    @shomi: Yeah, umm, dork. Being hispanic and being eligible to vote are not exactly the same things. Absent a large percentage of the population from another democratic leaning constituency, Hispanics are rarely able to swing districts blue on their own. It looks like, all things being equal, when Hispanics make up 40% of the eligible voting population, a congressional district is likely to be blue (outside of Florida), but that means the district itself needs to have a majority hispanic origin. There are lots of places where that isn’t the case. The participation rate is low, but that is probably a function of being in districts surrounded by adults who aren’t eligible to vote.

  56. 56
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    Usually I have no trouble editing my own comments but for some reason it wouldn’t let me this time. Sad!

    Anyhow, that was in reference to phone orders for tickets to Olympics events. I forgot to mention the “Olympics” part.

  57. 57
    nominus says:

    Here in north Texas we’ve been pushing back at more and more “conservatives” who don’t like the Republicans any more. One thing we’re struck by in our talks is that most conservatives here actually don’t care about immigration from a security or jobs standpoint. It’s the benefits they care about.

    Every one of them we’ve talked to is convinced that illegals cross the border, some to Texas, and instantly get handed a fortune in food stamps, health care, gets enrolled in school, their kids are handed a college scholarship or work internship, etc. They don’t care that they’re here, it’s that they just show up and get all this stuff for nothing. Like the recent MJ article, they think all these illegals are cutting in line to get what they’re working for and don’t have. They’ve seen it with their own eyes. Well, not actually seen it, but their sister’s husband was doing some project work down in the valley and he talked to someone who was doing some work for the border patrol and they……

    We’re trying to patiently tell the stories and break through the dumbshit barrier, but it is so fucking difficult and exhausting sometimes. We’ve barely convinced our own parents that the bullshit they want to believe just isn’t true, it’s a lot harder for the non-family members that you can’t insult as easily. It’s hard to convince them that this bullshit narrative of government handouts to illegals just isn’t true.

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  59. 59
    NorthLeft12 says:

    then it will not be possible to formulate feasible, acceptable, and suitable policies for immigration into the US across the southern border

    Adam, I think I found your problem right here. The Republicans are not interested in formulating feasible, acceptable, and suitable policies with respect to immigration. They like it fine the way it is now; chaotic. Allows them the cheap, undocumented labour force their paymasters want and need, as well as providing a handy source of fear and loathing to rile up the base. Win win.

  60. 60
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    As an actual geographer (well, I got my MA init), this is a great post.

    Regarding the various “countries” that exist in ‘Murka, I can attest to that. I moved to central Misery (just outside the state capital in Jeff City) 20 years ago from northern VA. I’m an east coast guy and I’ve always said that I moved to a foreign country. We nominally speak the same language but it’s a far, far different place.

  61. 61
    Jado says:


    That’s the nature of projection – OF COURSE they are going to do that; we did it. Hell, we did it twice, we did it by surprise, we did it when we swore we wouldn’t do it. And, well, if WE did it, they HAVE to do it, otherwise we’d be considered monsters. So OF COURSE they are going to do it. We are not monsters…

  62. 62
    Chris says:


    That’s true, I do think that’s the biggest reason for people like this to project: it gives them a license to be awful themselves.

  63. 63
    🐾BillinGlendaleCA says:


    LA is where Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed.

    Nope. The “Capitulation Agreement”(the surrender of Mexican forces) was signed at “Campo de Cahuenga”(right next to the Universal City subway stop). The terms of surrender were negotiated here in Glendale under the “Oak of Peace” at the Catalina Verdugo adobe.

  64. 64
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Bruce Webb: Typo. Corrected. Thanks.

  65. 65
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Cermet: Actually, if I’m recalling the treaty correctly we paid for it.

  66. 66
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @jacy: Some of that are Hispanics who are Mormon. Some of it was movement up there as a result of work opportunities.

  67. 67
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Emma: You’d need a really big envelope to address your mail…

  68. 68
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @cmorenc: Sociology of Law (aka Pure Sociology aka Black’s Sociology): the ability based on status to direct law (rules and regulations too) and its agents in the direction you want versus the need based on lack of status to appeal to the law and its agents.

  69. 69
    Davebo says:

    Western Washington State was a surprise to me, I’m guessing agriculture.

  70. 70
    Origuy says:

    @Davebo: Walla-Walla onions, it looks like.

  71. 71
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @J R in WV: The Dine (Navajo) know they are of Athabascan descent. My guess, and its only a guess, is that one of two things happened: 1) they, as you indicated, discovered an ancestral and now likely mythological dispute, and decided they need to remove themselves to avoid conflict or 2) they discovered something taboo. The Dine have very interesting socio-cultural taboos. Several commenters have mentioned the ones around/pertaining to the dead, but there are others including an elaborate set pertaining to relations, consanguinity, and incest. I think it is possible that the Athabascans that the Dine encountered were among the Dine’s ancestral clans that their history tells died on the route south. So meeting the supposed dead would be a tremendous issue. Or they determined there was a consanguinity concern. Its a shame no records of what was discussed were made and if there is an oral history, the Dine will not tell non Dine what happened.

  72. 72
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @mali muso: And they are correct.

  73. 73
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Tim C.: Let me know offline if you want a facetime guest lecture on human geography and conflict, war, development, the military, some from column A, some from column B…

  74. 74
    jacy says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Interesting! I guess I didn’t realize there was a sizable population of Mormon Hispanics. (I went to the University of Wyoming, so I knew a few Mormons who went there instead of going to a “Mormon” college for whatever reason, but otherwise don’t know a lot of Mormons. For one year I did have a Mormon roommate who was relatively flamboyantly gay for the time. That was the obvious reason he chose UW over BYU. )

  75. 75
    Bobby_D says:

    I’ve lived in just about every region of the country, and walked the east (Appalachian trail, end to end). Grew up in SE, went to Boston, then DC, then FL, Chicago, then rural Illinois, SLC, then rural southern Utah, CO, OR, WA, Alaska, NorCal, SoCal, now central coast CA.

    The only place I truly felt like an outsider, well two actually. Rural Utah, and in parts of AK. At least in Utah they were very polite, but standoffish and it was clear you would NEVER be accepted as a legitimate part of the community. In AK, I thought I was going to get stabbed just by stepping into the wrong bar. SoCal, total melting pot in the best sense. First place I’d lived that was majority minority. I’ll retire down there eventually. I mostly found that people are the same, just the food and accents change. And they all call soda something different. Growing in ATL, everything is “coke” . Waitress: What to drink? Customer: Coke. Waitress: What kind? Customer: Sprite. Then I get out of the south and it’s soda, move again its pop, lived with brits and it was fizzy drinks, somewhere else soda pop (pronounced so-dee pop),

    Reminds me of something my sister said when I was leaving the south for good due to the politics down there. “There’s rednecks everywhere you go, the accent just changes”

  76. 76
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @ShadeTail: Look up the accounts of the Republican administration of California just before and during the Civil War. Basically the Republican governor and legislature instituted slavery for a number of the Californian Native American tribes. It was horrible. And something not much discussed in the US.

  77. 77
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Matt McIrvin: If you read the link to the scholarly article on Operation Wetback and its predecessors, you’ll find that the Mexican government was trying to seal their side of the border – largely for internal law enforcement purposes. So its always a possibility.

  78. 78
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @pseudonymous in nc: Yep, that’s a related, but different subject.

  79. 79
    jl says:

    @Adam L Silverman: The CA governors before the US Civil War were mostly Democrats. The territory, and then state was almost split in half between Confederate and Union sympathizers. I think the CA genocide against natives was a bipartisan effort.

    The genocide against Native Americans in CA started with the Gold Rush. Marching off a couple of hundred men from some villages at gun point and working them to death and keeping whatever gold was found, that was a popular business strategy. Often only a dozen or natives would be left alive to wander back home a few years later.

    Edit: a kind of slavery was legal in CA for decades. IIRC correctly, one trick was to murder the parents of a family and then take the kids. Could also have a local magistrate declare some local people not usefully employed, and then the nice white man could direct them, at gun point, towards some productive activity and then keep all the money.

    Edit2: Wiki list says that CA gub office did not become captured by GOP until 1899. Lasted ’till Great Depression

  80. 80
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Bobby_D: I moved the opposite direction: I was born in St. Louis, lived near KC and Cleveland until I was almost 4, then my family moved to Northern VA where I grew up.

    Some researchers at Harvard some time back took an online dialect survey, and after the research was done, they kept the questionnaire up and let you compare your results to the maps of their results. There were a number of cases where my answer was “well, when I was a little kid I said this, but now I say that.” I’d thought language fashions had just changed over time, but, as it turned out, usually the first usage was Cleveland-area and the other was Mid-Atlantic States.

    (And now I live in Massachusetts, but the effect has been mostly confined to some obvious terms such as “rotary”.)

  81. 81
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @comrade scott’s agenda of rage: Thank you very much. I often described the cultural ops and analysis work I’ve done for the military as human geography: explaining people, places, things, and how they interact in time and space.

  82. 82
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @jl: Given that some of the worst of it occurred under and was sanctioned by Republican Governor Leland Stanford, elected in 1861, I stand by the comment.

  83. 83
    cmorenc says:


    @cmorenc: You might be interested to learn that puente means “bridge” in English. Perhaps you were thinking of puto instead. Or maybe your friends are having you on.

    Yes, but in actual pronouncement, ‘puto” usually came out sounding more like “puente” – and though referees refer to one particular variety of foul as “bridging” (where a player moves underneath an already jumping opponent undercutting them, often in an attempt to artificially manufacture or simulate a “crashing over the back” type foul against an opponent) – nevertheless players almost *never* use that term themselves during games. And so, one of the core pieces of folk wisdom for non-Hispanic soccer refs doing Hispanic games is that your ears had better prick up whenever you hear a player say anything that sounds like “puente” or “puto” – cause it indicates that some player is either getting dangerously provoked with another player, or else with you as the referee, and you better try to figure out *real quick* what’s coming down and get on top of it before the shit hits the fan.

    As an interesting aside, in one of the Hispanic leagues I used to work, instead of the usual practice of collecting referee fees from the teams up front, this league wanted us to wait until halftime – because that way, late-arriving players (chronic in Hispanic leagues) couldn’t so easily chisel out of chipping in their fair contribution. (I’m stating a practical fact here raised by the Hispanics themselves, rather than an ethnic stereotype generated in our Anglo minds). Anyhow, the teams would typically huddle together somewhere in the shade at halftime, with team captains organizing the collection of each players’ aliquot share – and from a distance, the scene resembled the building of a poker or dice game pot; players would throw small bills (ones, fives, tens, twenties) on the ground – the total tab needed was $240 (half for the refs, half to the league coordinator for the field rental). But often, when the captain approached us with payment, what he’d hand us would be two $100 bills, with the balance in smaller bills – even though it would be lots more convenient for us to divide it up among ourselves in smaller bills – because giving us $100s demonstrated that these guys were mano enough to carry hundred dollar bills around, not because they were trying to petty-harass us. Most of these guys were manual tradesmen or laborers, and so being able to come up with $100 bills was their way of showing that they were economically respectable people we were dealing with.

  84. 84
    Chris says:


    There may have been an ideological divide between Unionists and Confederates when it came to the treatment of black slaves, but I don’t believe there was one when it came to American Indians. IIRC, both sides of the Civil War had a few tribes allied with them. And of course, the last chapter in the Indian Wars happened after the Civil War, mostly under Republican presidents.

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Completely irrelevant to anything being discussed here, but if I may ask: do you happen to be based in the Washington DC area?

  85. 85
    jl says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Well, I stand by mine too. We are even. Semi-legal slavery, bounty hunting that resulted in massacres of whole peoples, lasted into the 1870s.

    And please remember that we all have fancy names out here. UC Merced should be UC de Ciudad del Rio de Nuestra Senora de la Merced.
    We shorten the names so the snoots back East don’t get all bent of shape at their relatively lowbrow geographic signifiers.

  86. 86
    Trollhattan says:

    You should march right down there and tell them in person. Straighten them out, hombre!

  87. 87
    scav says:

    Geography gets everywhere and into everything. Combining behavioral geography, archaeology and spatial modeling, plus the standard geog/anthro classes is a license to be perpetually distracted.

  88. 88
    Lizzy L says:

    @nominus: This. Not just in Texas. I live in blue blue SF Bay Area, and I know people who are SURE that illegal immigrants get all kinds of free stuff from the government, including medical care. I have had discussions with people who were sure that illegal immigrants could sign up for Medicare and MediCal (California Medicaid), and when I showed them the regulations where it’s clear this is not so, started telling stories of “illegals” encountered in the ER. By “illegals” they meant dark-skinned people who speak Spanish as well as English, which is 80% of my neighbors. They insist that “illegals” are buying houses funded by the government. When I point out that in order to buy a house and get an FHA loan you need a valid Social Security number, they get quietly angry and the conversation ends. They don’t want to hear it.

  89. 89
    jl says:

    @Chris: I don’t think things changed until Modoc War showed that some of the remaining nations could cause very serious trouble militarily, and could not be shipped, used, abused and slaughtered like animals.

  90. 90
    🐾BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @jl: I still think UCLA works better than UCEPdNSlRdlÁdRdP.

  91. 91
    Trollhattan says:

    Ditto Iowa. Check out the blue counties: both in Rep. Steve “cantaloupe-calves” King’s district. In fact, Steve’s home town, Storm Lake, features these two plants where I guarantee no honkies work on the killing floor. When Tyson execs talk to Steve, what’s their message WRT immigrant labor? Something’s amiss with the power of the marketplace.

  92. 92
    jl says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Well, I always insisted on calling it UCEPdNSlRdlÁdRdP.

    . I like the old ways, whatever they are.

  93. 93
    James E Powell says:

    @Nom de Plume:

    Another fun fact is that The Los Angeles Angels literally means “The The Angels Angels”.

    Similarly, the La Brea tar pits means “The the tar tar pits”

  94. 94
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    A real problem with this issue is that the Drumpfenproles want a “resettlement” program for all those brown-skinned mud people. Many of whom can trace their ancestry in the regions outlined to back before any of the 13 colonies of England were founded.

  95. 95
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Trollhattan: The “undocumented”/”illegal” issue always has to do with these groups being drawn here by employment opportunities. The failure to go after the demand side never seems to rise on the radar of the bigots who don’t want brown pollution of their precious white demographics.

  96. 96
    Trollhattan says:

    @Lizzy L:
    The Bay Area’s small-l libertarian undercurrent is robust and concentrated among many of the more wealthy. Lovely people, especially when they decamp for the burbs with their giant equity bag and buy 5k sq ft mcmansions, ready to lecture as to how it was “hard work” that earned that big sack o’ cash, not dumb luck.

  97. 97
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Chris: Not right now. Why do you ask?

  98. 98
    Raven says:

    @Lizzy L: and they are takin over La Mission

  99. 99
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @jl: I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m saying I’m not wrong as well! Sorry if the nuance got lost.

    And frankly the snooty easterners can go snoot something.

  100. 100
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @scav: And no matter what cleaning agent you use, you just can’t get the geography out of all those little nooks and crannies.

  101. 101
    Ella in New Mexico says:

    @Bruce Webb:

    New Mexico on the east side of the mountains shown as being in Texas (Franklins, Sacramento Mts, Organs etc) are culturally pretty much identical to West Texas today: redneck oil towns.

    Hi there homie! :-D
    I like to call Eastern NM “New Texico” for that reason. And thanks to us being gerrymandered into it’s Congressional District, those jerks will keep us with the horrible Steve Pearce until he croaks.

    Love this post from Adam. I have to say I’m pretty lucky to live in a place that doesn’t have the awful homogenization that seems to go along with rampant racist nutjobs, too.

  102. 102
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The original sin continues to haunt us in new ways. Anyone with brown skin and who speaks Spanish must be an “illegal”, even if their great-great-great grandparents were born here, just as anyone with black skin prior to 1865 must be an escaped slave, even if their great-grandparents were born free in New England.

    White people suck. What else can you possibly generalize from these known phenomena?

  103. 103
    scav says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Nope. And all those nooks and crannies, are they distributed in the same manner in the front and back seats? What about on bucket seats? Is a Walter-distribution pattern the same as one we create ourselves? Is a raster- or vector-based model best for representing same and let’s not even get into the question of projections. I’m in favor of Equal Area myself but compromise and interrupted ones have their backers.

  104. 104
    cmorenc says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    @cmorenc: Sociology of Law (aka Pure Sociology aka Black’s Sociology): the ability based on status to direct law (rules and regulations too) and its agents in the direction you want versus the need based on lack of status to appeal to the law and its agents.

    As one advances into refereeing Hispanic or more skilled, intensely competitive levels of soccer (Hispanic games are decidedly not for beginners) – an increasing proportion of the necessary skill is in learning how to *manage* players and maintain sufficient respect for your authority to maintain control of the game, i.e. it’s a rather intensive real-time field course in the sociology and psychology of law, and how to read and maintain decisive control of the game while not overly intruding on its flow and enjoyment by the players. If you fail to stay on top of these things during such a game, you *will* lose control of it, which can get not just ugly but dangerous to the players themselves, and you don’t have any backup to fall on if that happens – it’s just YOU, figuratively naked out there surrounded by hostiles. The analogies of being a lion-tamer in a cage with the animals, or of being a sheriff in a town just barely settled down from “wild west” frontier conditions are very apt. It’s interesting to note that two of the best referees ever are Harold Webb (who had a career as a British policeman before advancing to the penultimate level of refereeing, being assigned to referee the 2010 Spain vs Netherlands World Cup final) and Pierluigi Collina, an Italian customs officer, who refereed the 2002 Brazil v Germany World Cup final.

    I say this as someone who practiced law myself for many years before voluntarily moving on to other endeavors in the computer field, but now in my 20th year refereeing soccer.

  105. 105
    James E Powell says:


    The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in Villa de Guadalupe Hidalgo (Mexico City), thus the name. Cf. Treaty of Versailles.

  106. 106

    @Adam L Silverman: OT but somewhat related. What do you think of the Radcliffe line, another contentious line on the map.

  107. 107
    bystander says:

    This article in Huffington Post about the “underground” Trump voters who are not getting counted in these polls that show Clinton ahead by 12 points makes me worry about the article on Rude Pundit about the possibility of Trump’s friends in Moscow arranging some vote rigging.

  108. 108
    nominus says:

    @Trollhattan: the only thing worse than talking to conservatives in Texas is talking to liberals in Texas who think Texas is going to turn blue any minute now. Everyone seems to be taking it as an article of faith that just having an Anglo minority is going to turn us blue, but there seems to be very little effort spent trying to make that happen. The numbers seem to be there already, but turnout among Hispanics is worse than awful, registration is still primitive, and there is already a large urban/rural divide that will get more acrimonious as time goes by.

    Ironically enough, it was people like Rick Perry who were helping that along the best due to trying to diversify Texas industries and get us off our economic dependence on the price of oil. Now that he’s gone and we have a governor who reads Breitbart and Daily Caller, we’re getting more slack-jawed by the second.

  109. 109
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @cmorenc: None of this surprises me at all.

  110. 110
    Chris says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Answered via PM.

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    I used to wonder whether the country’s true original sin was slavery or genocide. Till I realized the best term for the sin is probably “white supremacy,” which covers both.

  111. 111
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @bystander: That would be very hard. Each state manages the election for that state. And within each state it is farmed out to each county. Not every state, nor every county within a state, uses the same type of machine. And the vast majority of them aren’t networked. So you’d have to physically hack each individual machine manually. This is very, very difficult. What would be more likely would be trying to breach the voter registration databases, which would allow someone to exclude a whole lot of people from one party versus another.

  112. 112
    Ian says:

    Texas also has the highest rate of republican voting Latinos. Maybe you should research things before blindly accusing a widely diverse demographic of being disorganized.

  113. 113
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Chris: Just got it. Since that email is only set up on my iPad. Give me a few minutes to fat finger typo a response.

  114. 114
    shomi says:

    @Trollhattan: Why? Immigration reform is not an issue I care about.

    If Latinos don’t vote or vote republican I have no sympathy for their bitching about immigration reform and stupid Arizona laws.

  115. 115
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Its like every one of these lines in the former colonial areas: artificial. Or mostly artificial. When the Pakistani Civil War and the Bangla Massacre occurred it became clear just how artificial the line was when the East Bangla that could fled west for safety into India with their relations among the West Bangla.

  116. 116
    Chris says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Ah, ok. Thanks! No hurries on the response.

  117. 117
    Steeplejack (phone) says:


    If a World Cup final is the “penultimate level of refereeing,” what’s the ultimate, for heaven’s sake?

  118. 118
    Trollhattan says:


    Immigration reform is not an issue I care about.

    Color me unsurprised. Your interests seem to end at the basement door.

  119. 119
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Chris: Just sent it.

  120. 120
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Steeplejack (phone): Probably the Olympics.

  121. 121
    Gelfling 545 says:

    @Lizzy L: after I retired I worked on a project for VISTA for a couple of years and met a few people who were doing refugee resettlement work through our mutual interest in housing issues. One of their big issues was people assuming that the refugee population were illegal immigrants. Even after they explained the situation, they weren’t necessarily believed.

  122. 122

    @Adam L Silverman: White man’s burden is indeed burdensome, for those who have to actually bear it.

  123. 123
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Apparently. Have you read The Blood Telegram?

  124. 124
    Chris says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Thanks! Received and answered.

  125. 125

    @Adam L Silverman: No, I haven’t. I think you have mentioned it before. It is on my to read list.

  126. 126
    bystander says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Thanks. I’ll come in off the ledge, but I’m not promising I won’t crawl back out here before November.

  127. 127
    Nick says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    Personally, I think that this is highly unlikely. ‘Athabascan’ (or Dene, sorry for the lack of accents) is a language family, and the divisions within it are deep. Navajo speakers who encounter Dene speakers from California or the remote north are not going to be able to communicate, and even being able to notice some affinity is highly unlikely. When a random Faeroese-speaker encounters an Albanian when vacationing in China, do you think they identify some affinity based on their Indo-European tongues?

    Even within the Southern Athabascan languages there is not a great deal of mutual intelligibility.

  128. 128
    Nick says:

    @Steeplejack (phone):


    If a World Cup final is the “penultimate level of refereeing, what’s the ultimate, for heaven’s sake?”

    Uruguay – Brazil friendly

  129. 129
    Steeplejack (phone) says:



  130. 130
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Nick: I’m not saying they had the conversation in Dine or Athabascan, they may have been comparing notes in English. Since this over a 100 years ago its all speculation.

  131. 131
    Bill_D says:

    California *was* overwhelmed by Anglo immigrants for a long time after the treaty and that’s only changed in recent decades. Check out the graph here: <a href="; . Some other locations like northern New Mexico have been far more stable in ethnicity since the treaty. It really depends on where you are.

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