Historical Social Research

Robert Fischer: Mobility and Morality at the Border A Lefebvrian Spatio-Temporal Analysis in Early Twentieth-Century Ciudad Juárez and El Paso[Abstract]

In the late nineteenth century the U.S.-Mexico border region of Ciudad Juárez and El Paso experienced the capitalization of the economy and an unprecedented population growth. The gateway-cities were dependent on each other – El Paso was in need of labor supply and Ciudad Juárez was desperate for investment capital. With the intensification of the Mexican Revolution during the 1910s, the threat of violence and epidemics in the region disturbed this symbiotic relationship. The following consolidation of the border, the regulation of Mexican South El Paso, and finally the Prohibition movement were expressions of an asymmetrical moralization at the border. Using the Lefebvrian trialectic approach, I describe the daily experiences of commuters and entertainment seekers. On a second level, I investigate the conception of the self and the other as well as the establishment of a spatio-temporal order in the cities resulting in the carnivalesque use of Ciudad Juárez as a tourist attraction/“vice zone”. The third level will explore various appropriations of spaces and times that, as expressions of resistance, subverted the border regime. I will analyze the bath riot as a response to the border quarantine in 1917 and the development of nearby Cordova Island as an irregular “vice zone” during Prohibition due to the federal limitation of the bridge hours.

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