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Note to the reader: the following document is an excellent history of development and water politics of the delta. It is a draft manuscript based on the doctoral research of Mr. Evan Ward at the University of Georgia. Persons wishing to offer suggestions on the manuscript may contact him at erward@arches.uga.edu. - S.Hurlbert, SDSU

DRAFT VERSION: Please do not cite without permission of author. Mr. Ward would like to thank Dr. Stuart Hurlbert for his encouragement and helpful editorial comments on the present manuscript .
  

Two Rivers, Two Nations, One History:
The Transformation of the Colorado River Delta
*

Evan R. Ward  

Table of Contents

Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6
Section 7
Section 8
Section 9

Introduction
Wozencraft's Vision: An American Economic Revolution in the Delta
Lazaro Cardenas and the "Mexicanizacion" of Baja California
"Seeking Southern Help" [45]: Immigration and Ecological Change
The Colorado River, Nationalism, and Water Shortage
Saline Solutions and Political Nationalism
The New River, Maquiladoras, and the Imperial Valley
Conclusion: Economic Nationalism and Ecology in the Delta
Footnotes


. . . It is evident that the ecological problem [of the borderlands region] is a question that involves a great diversity of sources of tension, but is also a subject that, for the interest and the convenience of [the] two communities that share in great measure the same habitat, should hope for a growing sense of collaboration and understanding. [1]

During the past decade, a growing stream of magazine and newspaper articles has drawn attention to severe ecological problems that threaten the well-being of flora, fauna, and humans in the Colorado River Delta. Two rivers, the New and the Colorado, flow in opposite directions, yet reveal equally disturbing transformations in the region's ecosystem. One journalist lamented that the once vibrant Delta was now "a barren wedge of desert and salt flats where, some days, the only people to be seen for miles are military patrols on the lookout for drug smugglers." [2] Most of the authors assigned blame for the problem to U.S. interests located upstream. Cut off from the river's replenishing waters by the grasp of large Western cities, power companies, and agricultural interests, the Delta's biologically rich wetlands quickly deteriorated. Fifty-dams upriver not only endangered 102 plant and animal species, but also threatened the existence of the Cocopah Indians who have relied on the Colorado River for sustenance and as a foundation for their cultural and religious traditions [3]. One journalist succinctly noted that the river's water was "diverted to leaky irrigation channels, pipelines, swimming pools in Los Angeles, golf courses in Palm Springs; to cities like Denver, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, San Diego, Tucson, Phoenix, and Las Vegas." Similarly, a Mexican author lamented, "In exchange for all these swimming pools, dams, and lakes, the Cocopa people are dying." [4]

Ninety miles to the northwest of the confluence of the Colorado River and the Sea of Cortez, the New River dumps "a swirling, olive green soup of chemicals and bacteria, . . . dead animals, industrial waste, and human excrement" into the Salton Sea. The New River and the Salton Sea were created in 1905 when engineers attempted to open a new intake from the Colorado River to transport water to the fledgling Imperial Valley. Enticed by gravity, the entire course of the Colorado River raged through Northern Baja California and then returned to the United States at Calexico, California, eventually filling the ancient Cauhilla Basin, now known as the Salton Sea. Intensive farming, maquiladora factories, and inadequate sewage systems served as the "source" for the river following the 1920s. By the 1990s, the New River was considered to be the most polluted river in the United States. Americans of all ideological stripes (farmers, environmentalists, and residents in the Imperial Valley), pushed for the clean-up of the New River, beginning with a call for greater regulation of Mexicali's sewage system[5].

The outpouring of attention by the public and press over these problems has raised regional awareness of the linkages that exist between intensive development and the ecological transformation of arid landscapes. Unfortunately, the plight of the New River and the lower Colorado River have largely been treated as separate problems. There are several factors that account for this reductionist tendency. First, there are few geographic connections, excepting the All-American Canal (which transports water from the Colorado River to the Imperial Valley), that link the Colorado and New Rivers. However, unless the two rivers are understood as part of a unified ecological system, there is little reason to link the various forms of degradation to a common historical source. Second, special interest groups and local residents are more likely to focus on the river that affects their own well-being. Those interested in solving the plight of the Salton Sea, for example, generally are not the same people that are fighting to preserve the Cienega de Santa Clara in the Colorado River Delta. Press coverage of the two disasters has largely mimicked this compartmentalization of private, political, and diplomatic interests.

In academic circles, particularly in the discipline of history, the Colorado River Delta has suffered from distortions due to the broader geographical interests of scholars that have included the region in their analyses of environmental issues in the Western United States. The attention that historians have given to the salinity crisis in the Wellton-Mohawk Valley is the best example. In 1961 the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) constructed a pipeline that dumped saline water from poorly drained lands in the Wellton-Mohawk Valley into the Colorado River at a point near the Mexican-American border. The contaminated water immediately threatened cotton crops in Mexicali Valley, which received water from a dam (Morelos Dam) below the border. Historians, journalists, and engineers on both sides of the river have condemned the unwillingness of the United States to remedy the problem, which dragged out over fourteen years. Much of the writing reflects a desire to challenge and curb the power of the USBR. These representations of American dominance have a good deal of merit. Unfortunately, some scholars have unintentionally masked the agency of Mexican and American residents in the Delta who also played a critical role in bringing about these ecological strains through intensive regional development [6].

Logic dictates that once the historical lens is focused primarily -- and not peripherally -- on the Colorado River Delta and the people that live there, a clearer picture of how regional development contributed to ecological degradation will emerge. History and ecology find their confluence in their search for meaningful solutions to diverse, yet inter-related, problems. As mentioned above, the division between the Colorado and New Rivers contradicts the inter-related nature of the Delta's ecosystem. The Delta extends from the Cauhilla Mountains south to the Sea of Cortez, and west from the edge of Imperial and Mexicali Valley to the Wellton-Mohawk Valley. The region's ecosystem is not only affected by adjacent geographic regions (such as the Upper and Lower Basins of the Colorado River), but also by dynamic political, social and economic developments within and outside of the area [7].

A more temporally inclusive model of the Colorado River Delta -- one that examines current problems within the context of the entire twentieth -century -- also sheds light on the integrated nature of regional development and environmental distress in the Delta. From a presentist perspective, sewage and refuse from Mexicali have been the most immediate source of pollution to humans in the New River. Similarly, American interests bear most of the burden for over-exploitation of the Colorado River. Therefore, journalists and scholars writing about the immediate cause of salinity problems in the Delta during the 1960s and 1970s are correct in pointing to the Wellton-Mohawk Valley as the offending party.[8] Within a broader temporal framework, however, all of these problems share a common source rooted in long-term competition between the United States and Mexico for scarce natural resources, namely water.

In this paper, I contend that Mexican and American efforts (both national and local) to develop the Delta during the twentieth century encouraged a frenzied frontier mentality on both sides of the border that not only created a climate of guarded mistrust, but also inadvertently set in motion demographic, economic, and social patterns that strained the ecosystem. United States development of the region began around the turn of the century as private interests and governmental agencies linked the Imperial Valley and Yuma Valley to global markets and federal assistance. U.S. economic hegemony in Mexicali Valley encouraged Lazaro Cardenas to implement a plan of his own to integrate Baja California to the national economy and polity. Agribusiness interests on both sides of the border encouraged immigration, especially from Mexico. The Bracero program (1942-1964) created a second incentive for Mexicans to migrate to Mexicali. With the program's demise in the 1960s, the rise of the maquiladora program was intended to further fuel regional development and curb agricultural unemployment. Ultimately, overemphasis on development in both nations led to an ecological breaking point, beginning in the 1960s, as salinity, pollution, and water shortages strained current levels of agricultural and industrial growth. With a vastly depleted supply of natural resources left to sustain high levels of development, both nations appealed to nationalistic rhetoric in an effort to maintain the status quo. Over time, however, the reality that two nations and two rivers share one habitat has encouraged "good neighbors" to talk to one another about resolving water quality and allocation issues.

* * *

Wozencraft's Vision: An American Economic Revolution in the Delta

Historian W. Dirk Raat observes that "the Mexican War marked the transition of the economy of the conquered provinces from subsistence cultivation to market production." [9] For Southwestern Arizona and Southeastern California this transformation was set in motion when the U.S. Army of the West (informally known as the Mormon Battalion) marched from Fort Leavenworth to San Diego in 1847. Army forces encountered little resistance and successfully marked the Southern Route that would link the Colorado River Delta region to California's economic florescence during the Gold Rush and throughout the second half of the nineteenth century. Due to the absence of Mexican forces, the Battalion's greatest challenge from Tucson to San Diego was the formidable Sonoran Desert. Daniel Tyler, a member of the Battalion, remarked: "Language fails to provide adjectives strong enough to describe our situation; it must be left to the imagination of the reader to picture it." [10] Lack of water and unreliable wells had plagued travelers in the desert region for centuries. Large sand dunes, deposited over time by the Colorado River, dominated the horizon west of Yuma. Oceans of alkali-green creosote bushes, accented by intermittent clusters of saguaro cacti, covered the plateaus east of Yuma County. An erratic climate compounded the displeasure inflicted by the lack of water. Colonel Cooke's troops made no efforts to improve the Delta region, yet the trail they forged between Santa Fe and San Diego led future visionaries to the region who recognized the agricultural possibilities of its rich alluvial soils.

During his travels through the region in the 1860s, journalist J. Ross Brown recognized the potential for agricultural endeavors in the Delta area. "[S]trictly speaking," he observed, "[T]he Colorado is scarcely a desert. Extensive belts of rich soil, that irrigation would render productive, occupy a large portion of the country. In these are seen the evidences of sudden and extraordinary vegetable growth in seasons of abundant rain, or when the Colorado River overflows its banks." The most famous of these agricultural schemers was an eccentric Nebraska doctor, Oliver M. Wozencraft, who traveled to the Colorado River Delta on account of his declining health. He eventually lobbied the California legislature for the exclusive rights to develop present-day Imperial Valley. While his petitions were unsuccessful, his vision inspired the next generation of farmers and politicians.[11]

By 1901 the California Development Company (CDC) constructed a series of canals and ditches from the Colorado River near Yuma to the Imperial Valley. Hoping to irrigate 500,000 acres there, the CDC used an ancient desert channel, renamed the Alamo Canal, to transport water to the Imperial Valley. While gravity guided water to the valley, its course entered Mexico, near Mexicali, and reentered the United States at Calexico. Because the Alamo Canal crossed the international boundary, the federal government hesitated to buy out the company. The USBR finally agreed to underwrite irrigation facilities in the Imperial Valley in 1928, when members of the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) agreed to pay for a canal, the All-American Canal, that carried water from the Colorado River to the valley without leaving the United States. Mexicali and Imperial Valley cotton enterprises were both fed by water from the Alamo Canal [12]. The Mexican government stipulated that the CDC allow Mexican interests to take 50% of the water that traveled through it.

Despite its distance from Mexico's political and economic center, the liberal policies of Mexican president Porfirio Diaz left the indelible impression of American economic influences on the Mexican Delta during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (1876-1910). Diaz's willingness to grant land to foreigners and encourage linkages with the North American economy seemed more benign than imperialistic military assaults from the north that frequently occurred during the nineteenth century, but portended even stronger connections to the U.S. economy. As one historian has noted, "Exports from the mines, forests, ranches, and farms of Mexico went to the United States. From the United States came finished goods such as chemicals, . . . machine belts and tools, electrical machinery, motors, railway stock, and equipment for mining, agriculture, and local factories."[13]

Mexicali Valley and San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, epitomized these developments as well as any other region along the border. By 1910 a railroad extension linked Mexicali to the Southern Pacific line that ran between Los Angeles, El Paso, and New Orleans. The Alamo Canal linked the region's water supply and the CDC, through a local representative, administered the sale of water in Mexicali Valley. American banks supplied capital for Baja California farmers. And, while Mexicali farmers sent their cotton to Los Angeles and New Orleans for sale, American corporations supplied Mexican consumers, farmers, and industries with the finished goods they needed. Finally, during Prohibition, American capital poured into Mexicali, stimulating a notorious tradition of casinos and bars just across the border from Calexico.[14] As one historian has aptly noted, "Mexicali had become so Americanized as to be the equivalent of United States-South." [15]

Ironically, it would be willing Mexican nationals, like Porfirio Diaz and not gun-brandishing American filibusters, who facilitated the rise of an American agricultural empire in Mexicali Valley during the first third of the twentieth century. During the 1880s, Guillermo Andrade, an ambitious Mexican rancher, obtained massive land grants in Baja California, including Mexicali Valley, from the Porfirian government. Originally Andrade raised cattle on the land, but irrigated agribusiness also attracted his interest. In order to operate its irrigation canal in Mexico, the CDC needed to organize a receivership in Mexicali. Andrade served as the intermediary, as he was name the "president" of the Sociedad de Terrenos y Irrigacion de la Baja California. In that capacity he purchased water rights from the CDC and then sold them to farmers in Mexicali.

After a series of floods during the first decade of the twentieth century, the Southern Pacific Railroad took over the CDC in exchange for $200,000 and efforts to save the Colorado River Delta from floods caused by poor engineering decisions.[16] The company's water rights were sold soon after to the Imperial Irrigation District, which maintained control over Mexicali's water rights until the early 1960s. Edward Harriman, president of the Southern Pacific, arranged a deal between Los Angeles Times owner, Harrison Gray Otis, and his son-in-law Harry Chandler, to purchase 832,000 acres of land from Andrade in Mexicali Valley. Chandler and Otis took capital integration to a new level in Mexicali Valley. Through their new companies, the Colorado River and Land Company (CRLC) in the United States and the California-Mexico Land and Cattle Company in Mexicali, the Los Angeles magnates soon controlled almost every facet of agri-business in Mexicali Valley. Chandler and Otis subleased land to Mexican brokers, who in turn rented land to tenant farmers for a period of ten years. They preferred that Chinese and Japanese immigrants -- rather than native Mexicans -- receive contracts, since the Asians were supposedly less inclined to demand outright ownership of the land. Contracts included a clause that required each farmer to give fifty percent of each crop to the CRLC. Farmers also agreed to ship and process cotton at CRLC-controlled subsidiaries. While this process greatly enriched Chandler and his associates, it raised questions among Mexican leaders regarding the degree of American influence in Mexicali. Ironically, the Pax Porfiriana and Baja California's remoteness from Mexico City shielded the valley from the turmoil that rent most of the nation during the Mexican Revolution. That peace only strengthened ties between Mexicali Valley and the United States. By 1935, 45,200 hectacres were under cultivation, and of those very few were owned or worked by Mexicans.[17]

Due to the failure of several far-flung private ventures in Yuma Valley, farmers on the banks of the Colorado River in southern Arizona looked to the abundant resources and financing abilities of the federal government to underwrite their irrigation projects. Around the turn of the century, The USDA constructed an experiment station for the development of crops that could be grown for profit in the Nile-like Delta.[18] Fortuitously, at the same time that the Bureau of Plant Industry made its initial cotton tests in Yuma (1902), the Newlands Reclamation Act was approved. On June 27, 1902, only ten days after the bill's approval, all the public lands in Yuma Valley and the Bard Region (on the opposing bank of the Colorado River in California) were withdrawn from public entry. Surveys were made by United States Reclamation Service (USRS) engineer, J. B. Lippincott. Subsequently, the Reclamation Service approved construction of Laguna Dam and canal systems to distribute water from the Colorado River to farmers in western Imperial County and Yuma Valley.[19] Local farmers entered into a contract with the USRS to pay for the project over a period of twenty years. The USRS awarded the contract for construction of the project to a private company and after its completion operated the Yuma Project for a yearly fee which farmers paid through the local water user's association.

Yuma Valley farmers also took the initiative in winning governmental assistance for the project. Historian Donald J. Pisani observed:

  • Residents along the river seemed eager to cooperate with the Reclamation Service, whose officials hoped that a new mining boom in Arizona would create ready markets for farm products raised on a federal project. J. B. Lippincott crowed: "here is an opportunity to Build the State. Here is a sleeping empire at our doors awaiting the touch of some Siegfried to awaken it." [20]
  • Mulford Winsor, Sr., a transplanted farmer and newspaper editor from Missouri, organized valley farmers into the Yuma County Water User's Association (YCWUA). Because of Yuma County's economic reliance on irrigated agriculture, it is little surprise that the YCWUA became one of the most powerful organizations in the entire Delta. Even in its nascent state, federal officials recognized the swift organizational abilities of Yuma Valley farmers. USRS officials bypassed construction of two projects in Central and Northern California because of "the ease with which agreement could be entered into with [Yuma Valley] irrigators in dealing with land and water questions."[21] The Yuma Project, made possible by recent technological advances and governmental largesse, served as the foundation on top of which farmers were able to create an extensive and lucrative agricultural oasis unlike any other in the United States.

    By 1930, farmers, businessmen, and politicians in all three valleys contributed to the rise of an agribusiness empire in the Colorado River Delta. USDA assistance and World War I greatly stimulated the cultivation of cotton throughout the region. By 1925 cotton production peaked in the Imperial Valley and Yuma Valley for several reasons. First, a glut of cotton on the world market following World War I depressed prices. Furthermore, farmers in California's Central Valley developed a more expansive cotton kingdom to the north of the Imperial Valley. They quickly supplanted Imperial Valley growers as the state's top producers of cotton. Subsequently, American farmers in the Delta turned their "Cotton Kingdom" into a "Cantaloupe Capital." By the Great Depression, production of cantaloupe, lettuce, citrus, and watermelon accounted for a substantial portion of the region's wealth.[22]

    In Mexicali Valley farmers continued to grow cotton because their United States creditors felt that cotton provided the most secure return on their investments. Ultimately, American interests in the Delta region, which had been encouraged by the laissez-faire attitudes of the Porfirio Diaz regime, easily crossed the international boundary and created a unified economic region connected by waterways, financial institutions, and ambitions for profit. It was in that climate that Mexican officials grappled with the task of reuniting Baja California with the rest of Mexico after the onset of the Great Depression.

    Lazaro Cardenas and the "Mexicanizacion" of Baja California

    American hegemony in Mexicali Valley was a well-known problem among Mexico's presidents. As early as 1911, provisional president de la Barra recognized that Baja California needed to undergo the process of "Mexicanizacion." Beset by the Mexican Revolution, de la Barra was unable to investigate or propose solutions to the disproportionate influence of American interests in the Delta.[23] "Revolutionary leaders," Esteban Cantu and General Abelardo Rodriguez, embraced the benefits of private enterprise in the region, while only making minor demands of the CRLC to sell land to Mexicans. This only tended to strengthen linkages to the U.S. economy, as the price for preserving economic stability was increased alienation from the economic ideals of the Revolution. On the other hand, Cantu and Rodriguez instigated policies that favored an influx of Mexican, as opposed to Asian, workers in the Valley.

    The idea of integrating Mexicali Valley into the nation's political and economic structure continued to languish after the violent phase of the Revolution had ended around 1920. President Alvaro Obregon, who sent General Rodriguez to depose of Cantu in the early twenties, proposed a railroad line that would link Baja California to the interior of Mexico. The onset of the Great Depression dashed those plans for integration, but not for long.[24] Fearing that rumors of American attempts to purchase the peninsula were more fact than fiction, Secretary of Communications Juan Andreu Almazan suggested that "all lands held by non-Mexicans should be retaken." Almazan's plan was not put in place, but it increased demands for economic nationalization of the Mexican Delta.[25]

    In 1934, Lazaro Cardenas became the Mexican president. Just as FDR served as a paragon of optimism for a depressed United States, Cardenas rekindled the flames of the Mexican Revolution and brought hope to a highly stratified Mexican society that continued to be dominated by foreign capital. Cardenas also proposed the most ambitious plan to date in order to nationalize Mexicali Valley.

    Cardenas's close associates apprised him of the potential for development in Mexicali and the domination of the Delta by U.S. enterprises. On November 3, 1935, General Ernesto Aguirre Colorado, expressed the need for immediate action to counteract American influences. Baja California, he announced, was in a "grandiose dilemma." He enjoined Cardenas, "either attend to that piece of your country's land immediately, or before ten years the nation will have lost it." He contrasted well-designed American roads to the north with the lack of Mexican roads leading to the region. Aguirre noted that for Mexican immigrants, "the sacrifices are so enormous on these trips -- many Mexican lives have been lost while crossing the desert and many vehicles have never arrived at their destination." Isolation from Mexico's center also meant that the region would continue to rely on American markets for consumer products.

    Aguirre also focused on the potential for agricultural development in the region. He noted, however, that American interests were fast exhausting water resources from the Colorado River. The USBR was diverting water to Los Angeles "to irrigate lands that today are unproductive, converting them later on into fecund lands." If Cardenas did not act quickly, Aguirre calculated, "a problem will present itself for the very fecund cotton lands of the Mexicali region." Aguirre informed Cardenas that now was the time to act. He recommended a railway to Sonora from Baja California, highways, federal promotion of state development, recovery of CRLC lands, and increased irrigation from the Colorado River. Whether his letter compelled Cardenas to act is not known, yet Aguirre's suggestions are nearly identical to the foundation of the plan that the president subsequently announced to the nation.[26]

    In 1936, Cardenas unveiled a sweeping plan for the integration of Baja California and Quintana Roo, two peripheral federal territories, to the Mexican interior. The president emphasized the importance of racial, ethnic, and cultural unity in those two regions.[27] Cardenas also stressed the need to develop the resources of Baja California. Central to this was the exploitation of water from the Colorado River. Finally, Cardenas wanted to increase the population in Baja California and construct highways and railways between the peninsula and central Mexico as a defense against American economic and political hegemony. Cardenas also hoped to attract many Mexicans to Baja California that were working in the United States with the promise of free land.[28] A memo circulating through the Executive office at the time stated the objectives of the plan even more succinctly: "to achieve re-population and integral resurgence of these zones are three necessary factors: cheap land, cheap water, and cheap labor."[29] The unparalleled success of these objectives contributed to the rapid depletion of water resources in the Mexican Delta and the concomitant decline of ecological conditions in the region.[30]

    Implementation of Cardenas' plan occurred through federal and local initiatives. As early as 1936, the Mexican government signed an agreement with the CRLC, requiring them to gradually liquidate their lands to Mexican nationals.[31] On January 27, 1937 (now a state holiday in Baja California), a ground-swell of local dissatisfaction with the CRLC's unwillingness to execute that accord compelled numerous factions to take over leased land from the company. Shortly thereafter President Cardenas authorized the expropriation of lands from the CRLC. Initially, fields were broken up into 20 hectare plots of land, known as ejidos. Ejidatarios, or Mexicans who received ejido lands, were granted usufructary rights to the land, but not outright ownership of the plots. Better quality lands were slowly broken up and sold as private property in areas known as colonias. Owners of these plots were known as colonos. By 1956, 157, 781 hectares of land had been sold to colonos and 116,546 had been distributed among ejidatarios.[32] The rapid growth that occurred between 1937 and 1956 stretched local water resources to the limit and often caused tension between colonos and ejidatarios.

    The exploitation of water for both domestic and agricultural applications played a central role in Cardenas' plan. At the time of his address to the nation, Cardenas directed the Secretary of Agriculture and Development to find out which lands could be settled and to assure that those lands could "be sufficiently irrigated." [33] He also directed the Secretary of Exterior Relations to obtain from U.S. officials a definite statement on Mexico's water rights to the Colorado River.[34]

    Given the ambivalence of U.S. officials towards Cardenas' request and their refusals to sign a treaty guaranteeing Mexico water from the Colorado River, it is not surprising that the Mexican president encouraged extensive development of the Delta. Cardenas could only hope that if a treaty ever were drawn up, the United States would have to provide Mexico with enough water to irrigate lands presently in use. While the principles of water law were still ill-defined with regards to apportionment of international rivers, prior-use guarantees could largely be counted on in the event of arbitration. In a letter to Baja California Governor Rafael Navarro Cortina, Cardenas elaborated further on his plans to utilize water in the Delta: "It is important to take into consideration that the greater the land that we place under cultivation, we will be in conditions to assure for Mexico a greater volume of water from the storage that the United States is making with waters from the Colorado River."[35]

    Local leaders in Mexicali and San Luis also influenced the Mexican assault on water resources in the Delta. On December 24, 1935, Bernardo Batiz of the Department of Public Health in Baja California, and Antonio Basich, Secretary of Agriculture and Development for the state, expressed their frustrations with the United States' unwillingness to determine Mexico's water rights to the river. Batiz and Basich also emphasized the importance of that resource in regional development, noting that Colorado River waters "[were] the only and irreplaceable source of wealth and even of subsistence [in the region]." One year later, the same pair of officials mixed ignorance and optimism, suggesting to federal officials that a rapid increase in water appropriation would provide Mexico with leverage against the United States in case a treaty were drawn up. They observed that "Mexico is in better conditions than the United States to utilize the maximum amount of [Colorado River water] for agricultural purposes in the shortest amount of time. . . " While water use would greatly increase during the next half-century, severe ecological problems and demographic strains on natural resources tested the wisdom of such a directive.[36]

    It is doubtful whether local and federal officials were prepared for the response of Mexicans throughout the country and in the United States to Cardenas' call to nationalize Baja California. Controversies raged throughout the late thirties and forties about the propriety of making intake cuts along the sides of the Colorado River for irrigation canals. Ejidatarios and colonos, divided by the amount, and generally the quality of land they owned, also squabbled about the apportionment of water from the Colorado River.[37] Anxious ejidatarios proposed to their leaders that they were willing to work for half salary in order that they could complete a state-funded canal that would bring water from the river to their lands.[38] This enthusiasm often turned to disillusionment once the river (or the local canal system) ran dry.

    Finally, domestic water supplies could not accommodate the rapid influx of land- and job-hungry immigrants. Although a recently constructed water-supply system provided the city of Mexicali with clean water, in the countryside water was "naturally" stored in open tanks near rural schools. These receptacles were "open to the wind and dust, where the stagnant water has created and developed a multitude of small creatures, [which were] easy conductors of infectious diseases." To make matters worse, the conversion of irrigation canals into sewage systems further endangered human health. "Over a two month period the body of a man and an animal were found in the canals that conduct water to the people," one report noted, "This suffices to manifest the quantity of microbes that the people are daily obliged to ingest."[39] Hence, increases in irrigation and immigration portended public health and water supply problems that plagued the Delta region throughout the twentieth century.

    Despite Cardenas' efforts to mitigate American influences in the Delta, he could not control American regulation of the Colorado River. In 1939, as construction of the All-American Canal continued, Esteban Soto Ruiz, who had served on the federal board investigating conditions in Mexicali three years earlier, reported that "Mexicali Valley is without water from the Colorado River." Ruiz asserted that the unwillingness of the United States to guarantee Mexico a certain amount of water from the river while constructing a canal which would ultimately diminish Mexico's water supply was perceived as a threat to Mexicali's economic security. He emphasized the need for Cardenas to deal directly with the United States in order to resolve the problem.[40] The shortage increased requests for water concessions. Roman Yocupicio, Governor of Sonora, for example, wired President Cardenas, asking him for a concession of water to irrigate 10,000 hectares in San Luis Rio Colorado.[41]

    From the perspective of both Mexicans and Americans in the Delta during the late 1930s, Cardenas' expropriation of land, distribution of plots among campesinos, and the comprehensive plan for economic integration to the Mexican state was revolutionary. Yet, Cardenas' plan for regional nationalization was more of a half-way revolution in other respects because of various internal and external factors, many of which were beyond the president's control. First, many of the campesinos, smelling the possibilities of a cash crop of cotton, rejected Cardenas' efforts in 1939 to maintain ejido lands as wholly collective enterprises. Second, lack of federal and private funds to achieve the type of development accomplished north of the border limited Cardenas and his successors in liberating Mexicali Valley economically from the Imperial Valley.

    In fact, U.S. interests continued to dominate financing, cotton-processing, and water distribution through the 1960s, when Mexican cooperatives were finally able to muster the capital necessary to take them over from their American counterparts.[42] Federal financing only amounted to five percent of new farm operations in Mexicali Valley after Cardenas' redistribution of land. The other 95% of Mexicali Valley projects were financed by American banks. Ginning and fertilizing services were also owned predominantly by American corporations, chief among them Anderson Clayton.[43] Finally, the realities of Mexican-American relations demanded that Cardenas maintain cordial relations with the United States even as he warred against trans-national influences in the Mexican economy and politics. He was more concerned about asserting the "Mexicanidad" of the southern Colorado River Delta than he was about abolishing American capitalism in the region.[44]

    In terms of its effects on the ecosystem, the "mexicanizacion" of the southern Delta intensified a revolutionary process of natural resource exploitation that had been initiated by Arizona and California farmers around the turn of the century. While various American interests were already competing fiercely for Colorado River water, the addition of Mexican pressures on water resources brought about an unprecedented level of bi-national competition -- abetted by mutual mistrust -- that has endured at various levels until the present. People on all levels of government and society in the Delta shared responsibility for this precipitous increase in water use. Lazaro Cardenas might have encouraged residents to bring as many hectares as possible under cultivation to establish additional water rights, yet the unwillingness of American officials (in the Delta and in Washington) to provide a reasonable guarantee of water from the Colorado River for Mexico only fueled his efforts to secure prior-use rights. That reticence on the part of the Americans was principally generated by Arizona and California interests who wanted to maximize the usage of water in the United States before dealing with the "Mexican question."

    "Seeking Southern Help" [45]: Immigration and Ecological Change in the Delta

    The two nationalistic economic revolutions that collided in the Colorado River Delta not only created agricultural strains on the water supply, but also encouraged large-scale immigration to the region. Viewed as an economic frontier by people of all classes throughout both nations, farmers, laborers, and their families descended on the region in a chaotic frenzy. Immigration was heaviest in the Mexican Delta, clearly reflecting the asymmetric politico-economic relationship between the two nations. With the decline of agribusiness growth in the region (1960s), the maquiladora factories renewed U.S. corporate and Mexican working-class interest in heading to the Delta.

    As noted above, the initial impetus for constructing an agricultural empire in the Delta came from American farmers and governmental agencies around the turn of the century. The new American inhabitants that challenged the hegemony of the Quechan and Cocopah tribes over the region's water resources came from the Midwestern and Southern United States.[46] Newcomers from the Midwest often came for medical reasons, citing the salubrious climate as an inducement to relocate. While the "Cotton Kingdom" of the Far Southwest did not develop as an extension of the eastern cotton belt, Southern attitudes towards labor and expertise with cotton cultivation dramatically shaped the socioeconomic development of the Colorado River Delta. This involved planters, ranch-hands, and indigent sharecroppers looking for better opportunities than those offered in the South for cultivating cotton. Delia Fuquay Hansberger, the child of one of the early families in Yuma Valley observed that prior to the introduction of cotton to the valley, most of the local settlers had come from California. The rise of irrigation and cotton attracted a different group. Hansberger observed:

  • This included a great many Texans with experience in growing cotton, very often with large families of children useful for the hand labor which growing cotton in those days required. I have seen it suggested that the date of arrival in the Valley often provides some clue as to whether an early family came from the West or the East.[47]
  • Hansberger's observations are corroborated by recent historical scholarship. In her study of the cotton industry in the Central Valley (which region replaced the Delta as the top cotton producing region in California after World War I), historian Devra Weber notes that Southern entrepreneurs, such as Georgian J. G. Boswell, often headed to the Southwest to participate in capital intensive agribusiness.[48]

    The attitudes of Southern farmers -- especially those from Texas -- encouraged the recruitment of Mexicans as the primary source of wage-labor during the twentieth century. In 1908, one year before the first commercial crop was produced in Imperial Valley, Texan-transplant Ira Aten argued:

  • The picking of cotton is held to be a drawback to the valley, but that is not true. We mean to get Mexicans for the work and get all we need. Mexicans are the best pickers we know of. They come from Mexico City to do the work and make good pay at it in Texas.[49]
  • Recent scholarship also illustrates that the cotton culture of West and Southern Texas represented a departure from the labor-relations and production patterns of the Deep South. Instead of relying primarily on black sharecroppers and wage earners to produce and harvest cotton, farmers hired Mexicans to work for wages during seasonal shifts.[50] In effect, the Western edges of Texas' cotton culture "represented the cultural and economic ëborderlands' between the plantation South and the semi-arid Southwest with its history of cattle ranching and Mexican communities."[51]

    By the end of World War I, the Colorado River Delta became the primary entry point for migrant laborers from Mexico who wished to enter Arizona or California to work in the emergent "factories in the fields." This dynamic community, centered in Brawley and Mexicali also experienced one of the darkest hours of the Depression as many migrant Mexican laborers were displaced by real-life Tom Joads who came to California searching for work and federal aid.[52]

    During the Great Depression large numbers of Mexican migrants (and at times Mexican-Americans) were bussed back to the border, yet with the onset of World War II agricultural interests in the Delta and throughout the United States successfully lobbied Congress for a recruitment program, popularly known as the Bracero program, that would bring Mexicans to the United States to work on a temporary basis. In the Imperial and Yuma Valleys Mexicans largely labored as harvesters of crops. It is difficult to know how many contracted and undocumented Mexicans worked in the American Delta during the duration of the program (1942-1964). Correspondence between State Department officials, however, illustrates that the influx of Mexicans from the interior of the country strained the economic, social, and ecological infrastructures of Mexicali and the Imperial Valley.

    Soon after Cardenas' call to colonize Baja California, many Mexicans residing in both the United States and Mexico descended on Mexicali Valley, hoping for twenty hectares of land or a job picking cantaloupes across the border. During the 1940s the United States Border Patrol deemed Mexicali to be the location where the greatest number of undocumented workers crossed into the Delta.[53] However limited their resources, the Border Patrol did attempt to return undocumented Mexicans to processing stations along the border, including one in Mexicali. By 1944, however, the Mexican deportation center at Mexicali closed it doors to undocumented Mexicans apprehended in the United States, unless they had lived in Baja California for at least six months prior to crossing the border. The Mexican government requested that they be delivered to Nogales, Arizona, or El Paso, Texas, where trains could return them to the interior of Mexico. This reflected the state's inability to care for the deluge of workers, as well as the absence of a railroad that connected Baja California to the rest of the nation. Ugo Carusi, Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, further noted, "Detention facilities are not available for the prolonged detention of such a large number of aliens, and to return them through other points along the Mexican border would only create problems in those communities similar to the ones being faced in Mexicali." [54]

    Communities on the American side of the Delta also felt the impact of increased Mexican migration to the region. A 1945 U.S. State Department report noted that stop-gap efforts to recover and return undocumented Mexican nationals to the border in the Imperial Valley yielded an average of 100 to 150 workers per day. The same report suggested that "approximately 6,000 more illegal residents remain[ed] in that vicinity."[55] Local officials were hard pressed to house and detain the inundation of farm workers.[56] A year later, the situation had apparently become worse. S. E. O'Donoghue, First Secretary of the Mexican Embassy, informed the Mexican Under-Secretary of Foreign Relations that "more than 10,000 [undocumented] Mexicans [were] now estimated to be in the Imperial Valley in California where they were creating quite a civic problem."[57]

    The economic incentives in the region often overpowered the official pronouncements of both nations concerning immigration restrictions. After the Baja California and Mexican governments closed off the port of entry at Mexicali, U.S. State Department and Immigration Service officials suggested that Mexico allow the undocumented workers to work during the current season in the United States. Mexican officials responded to the offer unfavorably, noting that such a move would "immediately result in a wide-spread movement of workers to the border in the hopes of being recruited and that this movement would cause many additional problems."[58] This official pronouncement was offset by the chronic inability/unwillingness of Mexico to patrol its own borders during the Bracero program.[59]

    On the American side of the border a similar ambivalence, fueled by the economic interests of the region's farmers, also contributed to increased Mexican immigration after 1940. Farmers in Yuma Valley -- especially during World War II -- often complained about the Immigration Service's rigid standards for procuring Mexican laborers. Yuma's powerful farming and retail magnate, E.F. Sanguenetti, lamented the fact that willing and able Mexicans in San Luis Rio Colorado could not cross the border to harvest truck crops.[60] Due to the unstable nature of the labor supply and the bureaucratic red-tape that local farmers encountered in obtaining workers from Mexico, farmers employed Papago, Cocopah, and Quechan natives, as well as German and Italian prisoners of war during World War II.[61] With the decline of the Bracero program in the 1960s, Arizona farmers scrambled to supplement their labor supply with high school and college students.[62]

    American officials recognized that the Delta's farming frontier encouraged massive immigration to the region.[63] The inability of government agencies to "enforce" legal immigration stemmed from several factors. Understandably, the sheer number of undocumented immigrants forced the U.S. Border Patrol to "discontinue its action looking to the arrest and return to Mexico of Mexican nationals" from time to time.[64] The Border Patrol and Immigration Service, however, often winked at undocumented immigration due to labor shortages induced by World War II. For example, in 1944, farmers in the Delta faced a labor shortage during the fall harvest. Philip Bruton, Brigadier General of the United States Army and Director of Labor, assured U.S. Senator Carl Hayden that his people were doing "everything possible to facilitate the handling of this problem on a practical basis." "Handling" problems often meant taking a hands-off approach. This is clearly reflected in the telegram of Albert Del Guercio, District Director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, to Brigadier General Bruton regarding the resolution of the Delta's labor woes in 1944. He reported, "Personnel Adequate[,] prevent all illegal entries or to apprehend those residing illegally [in] border areas. Ranches [in] Yuma and Imperial Counties not being checked while perishable crops being harvested." Such a policy, while helpful to local farmers, revealed the ambivalent approach American officials took to undocumented entry to the Delta region. This only encouraged Mexican immigration to the Delta and placed greater strains on domestic water supplies.[65]

    The Colorado River, Nationalism, and Water Shortage

    By 1938 two amorphous economic revolutions were well under way on both sides of the border. While Mexicans and Americans largely shared the same creditors, links to the global market, and crop production patterns (focusing heavily on cotton and truck crops), the enduring question of water apportionment drove the deepest wedge between the region's citizens between 1935 and 1974. Mexican leaders were most concerned about the lack of a treaty specifying the amount of water Mexicali and San Luis Rio Colorado would receive from the river. Although Mexico had been ignored during the negotiation of the Colorado River Compact (1928), which apportioned the river's water between the seven American states in the basin, Mexican leaders still believed that at some point the United States would have to recognize their rights to the river. As a result, President Cardenas encouraged massive development of the Mexican portion of the Delta.

    During January and February 1938, Arizona state legislator Hugo Farmer made four trips to Mexicali to assess the pace of Mexican agricultural development. He reported that over 400,000 acres were either developed or being prepared for cultivation. He also observed that the Mexican government had initiated construction of a railroad across the Gulf of California and a harbor "to ship the produce of Mexicali into Mexico for use by the Mexican people."[66] Hugo's observations subsequently fueled efforts in Arizona to win approval for two irrigation projects, including one in the Wellton-Mohawk Valley (Yuma County), which would maximize American usage of Colorado River water. Ironically, a climate of mistrust -- spurred by the recognition of possible water shortages in the future -- only stimulated efforts to increase arable lands throughout the Delta.

    Increased development throughout the Colorado River Basin in the United States, as well as in the Delta region, also affected Mexican efforts to develop Mexicali Valley. The construction and operation of the All-American Canal and Boulder, Parker, and Imperial Dams during the 1930's and 40s greatly disrupted the natural flow regimes of the Colorado River downstream. Instead of being controlled primarily by precipitation and natural run-off, the river was regulated by American dams upstream. Depending on the needs of users and power companies throughout the American West, USBR engineers either increased or decreased releases from these dams.

    This erratic method of control profoundly affected Mexican residents in the Delta. When residents in Mexicali and San Luis anticipated high flow regimes, local organizations built defensive structures to protect river-side fields from the threat of floods. Conversely, when the river was too shallow to enter Mexicali Valley's intake at Alamo Canal, local leaders turned to national officials, hoping that they could convince the United States to increase water flows south of the border. Over time this stop-and-go process increased tensions between residents of the two nations and compelled Mexican officials to secure an adequate water supply without having to turn to the United States for help so frequently. E. Aguirre Camacho, a relative of Mexican president Manuel Avila Camacho, expressed this guarded mistrust towards Americans best when he wrote: " The cotton will be lost if our 'good neighbors' don't loosen water from the Colorado River. These gentlemen are our 'good neighbors' since 1847 and they either make war on us or drag us into it according to their desires. Be concerned for us, Manuel, and save the region . . ."[67]

    The erratic flow patterns set in motion by American dams adversely impacted recent developments in the Mexican Delta. In 1941 the Colorado River flooded 1,500 hectares of land adjacent to the river and destroyed an estimated 400,000 pesos worth of cotton. The flood also immobilized the new railroad bridge that linked Mexicali to Puerto Penasco. Baja California governor Sanchez Taboada reported that the floods were the result of releases from Boulder Dam of 850,000 cubic meters per second.[68] Local residents frantically attempted to build levees that would guard against the impetuous incursions of the river.

    Floods returned in February 1942, followed by water shortages during the summer.[69] United States officials expressed skepticism towards Mexico's request for greater releases from Parker Dam. The U.S. State Department blamed the water shortage on a "breakdown in the control structure of the Alamo Canal," defective installation of inefficient pumps, and the rapid growth that had taken place in Mexicali Valley. To be sure, these critiques did have some merit. In a Comision Internacional de Limites y Aguas (CILA) report, Enrique Padilla noted that between 1938 and 1941, irrigated land had increased from 69,702 hectares to 122,105 hectares.[70] Furthermore, the pumps and the Alamo Canal were inefficient. Nevertheless, discussions between leaders on the American side of the border suggest that fears of losing more water to Mexico also influenced their analysis of Mexicali's water woes during the 1940s. For example, when the Mexican Water Treaty, which would provide Mexico with a modest 1.5 million acre feet of water from the Colorado River, was being debated throughout the Southwest, Imperial Irrigation District officials attempted to dampen support for the treaty in Yuma County, citing the loss of water as the principal reason to oppose it.[71]

    Periodic U.S. projections for decreased flow levels in Mexico also affected the process of bi-national water negotiation. At the end of 1942 U.S. officials warned Mexicans in the Delta not to expect additional releases in 1943 because they would be storing as much water as possible behind the dams upriver. The State Department also continued to discourage rapid development of Mexicali Valley, ostensibly to help the Mexicans store enough water to irrigate arable lands. U.S. officials were especially wary of releasing water "when these farmers increase the cultivated acreage with speculative purposes without any security that there will be water available for them and even with the knowledge that under the foreseeable conditions there will not be water."[72]

    Despite U.S. warnings that water releases from the dams upstream would be limited, telegrams from Mexicali farmers and politicians requesting diplomatic intervention in order to secure additional water flooded President Camacho's office in the spring of 1943. "This problem [is the] agricultural life or death of Mexicali," Armando Lizarraga of the Mixed Council of the Regional Economy, announced to President Camacho. Governor Rodolfo Sanchez Taboada of Baja California requested that a federal official who "knows [the] problem [of a] lack of water" be sent to the valley. Three days later the governor informed the president that the problem was only getting worse because planting season was approaching and farmers needed water to irrigate their crops. Distributors of farm implements complained that the lack of water "would seriously curtail regional economic interests and especially the situation [of] thousands [of] men from the countryside." In order to resolve the problem, Distribuidora del Pacifico encouraged President Camacho to "place your valuable influence before authorities in Washington, who now [are] treating the subject [of] providing water [for this] valley." By the end of April local and national leaders petitioned IID leaders to transfer water from the All-American Canal to the Alamo Canal in time for the planting season.[73]

    IID leaders were reluctant to sell additional water to Mexicali Valley farmers. They rejected the requests of Mexicali representatives to build a temporary dam that would divert water into the Alamo Canal, since the structure might unleash a flood on the Imperial Valley. However, American diplomats reported that the lack of water in the Colorado River "had aggravated the water situation and that the people living on these 36,000 hectares and their lands were in immediate danger of catastrophe." While Imperial Valley farmers did not want to set a precedent with this dispensation, President Camacho successfully presented the pleas of Mexicali farmers to President Roosevelt and G. S. Messersmith, the Ambassador to Mexico, on May 14, 1943.[74] At the request of the State Department, the IID increased the amount of water delivered to the Alamo Canal. Nevertheless, three days later U.S. Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles reported that more water than Mexico could use was passing into their canals. Irritated, Welles warned Messersmith that if such a situation developed again, the Ambassador should "recommend to the Mexican authorities that first of all they check with their own people along the border to ascertain the true facts." "Had they done so," Welles continued, "they would have found that there was no shortage of water."[75] Despite Welles's suspicions, Mexicali farmers continued to send telegrams, full of complaints related to a lack of water, through June 1943.[76] To add insult to injury, by November floods from the Colorado smashed through levee works in Mexicali Valley and threatened cotton fields that were ready for harvest. Whether this was due to increased releases from dams upriver is not known, but it surely added to the frustrations of Mexicans at the end of the river.[77]

    Whether or not Welles' assessment was correct is not as important as the impression it might have given U.S. politicians who were involved with Mexican - American relations in the Delta. As a general rule, regional officials were more leery than federal officials of Mexico's motives for requesting water and avoided any situations that would further threaten the water requirements of their own projects. Likewise, Mexicans developed a strong distaste for working through the bureaucratic and political hoops of America's politico-economic institutions.[78] Leaders in Mexicali displayed an increased desire to secure water works that would free them -- as much as possible -- from continual dependence on the United States. This was important, as Governor Taboada astutely observed, because "the norteamericanos feel that [because of Mexican requests] they are in some sort of danger, and [our own connection to Alamo canal from the river] would resolve this problem."[79]

    During 1944 and 1945 the lack of water in the Mexican Delta continued to strain bi-national relations.[80] Franklin D. Roosevelt's desire to win Mexican loyalty to the Allies, however, tipped the scale in Mexicali Valley's favor. The Mexican Water Treaty was approved in 1944, providing Mexicali Valley with 1.5 million acre feet of water from the Colorado River each year.[81] The newly approved treaty was supposed to solve Mexico's water problems, and, as some local U.S. leaders hoped, place a cap on the amount of water Mexicans could use.[82]

    At the same time, Mexican officials proposed that a dam be built at the international border which would divert water into the Alamo Canal for immediate use and storage. The proposed dam was approved by both nations and included in the Mexican Water Treaty. Just as the All-American Canal symbolized Imperial Valley's "freedom" from reliance on a bi-national canal for water, Morelos Dam symbolized Mexican independence from the political vicissitudes of asking the United States for help in times of drought. At the dam's inauguration on September 23, 1950, Engineer Adolfo Orive Alva, Mexican Secretary of Hydraulic Resources, linked the dam's symbolic purposes with its practical benefits for the valley. With completion of the dam, he noted, the region would support up to 200,000 hectares of agriculture. While Alva lauded U.S. and Mexican efforts to construct the dam, he extolled the dam as a symbol of Mexican independence. He observed, "[Jose Maria] Morelos and the no less great [Manuel] Hidalgo are symbols of our independence, and this dam is also a symbol of our country's independence in one of its most remote and distant corners; a symbol of political and economic independence."[83] Alva also recognized that the traditional goals of the Mexican Revolution (namely free land widely distributed) had slightly changed in a highly arid corner of the nation. The dam was necessary, he believed, because "the land without water[,] even in the hands of our farmers, does not mean for them 'liberty or personal benefit or benefit for the country' as Morelos wanted."[84]

    Despite the construction of Morelos Dam and the security of the Mexican Water Treaty, increased cultivation and immigration continued to deplete water and land resources in and around Mexicali and San Luis Rio Colorado. From 1940 to 1950, population increased in the region from 45,569 to 137,200 inhabitants. By 1957, the population had increased by 50% over the 1950 figure to 192,500.[85] At the dawn of the Cardenas revolution, 54,190 hectares of land were irrigated in the Rio Colorado Irrigation District. By 1940 that figure had increased to 113,190 hectares. With the completion of Morelos Dam and the initiation of irrigation from deep wells in the region, 145,382 hectares were being farmed. By the end of the 1950's, the amount of acreage irrigated from the Colorado River peaked at 192,612 hectares. After that point, dwindling water supplies from the river forced farmers and the Mexican government to pump water from aquifers located beneath the Delta's soil.[86]

    1954 was a critical year in terms of water availability in the Mexican Delta. Operation of the Gila Project in Yuma County and plans for the construction of Glen Canyon Dam drastically reduced the amount of water that would reach Alamo Canal thereafter. While the Mexican Water Treaty stipulated that Mexico would receive 1.5 million acre-feet, over 2 million acre-feet had been reaching Morelos Dam prior to 1954. The following year regional irrigation and farming interests convened to discuss plans to offset the reduction in river water. Engineers suggested that deep wells would provide enough water to salvage a substantial portion of Mexicali fields.[87]

    Following the meeting, a coalition of farmers, bankers, workers, and politicians came together to voice their concerns about the decreased water supplies. They were also concerned because the level of cotton production in Mexicali Valley, stimulated by the Korean War, had increased nearly 400 percent since 1948-49. They informed the Mexican president that a decrease in water supplies would substantially affect the ad valorem taxes that the government collected as cotton left Baja California, destined for world markets through ports in the United States. They proposed that a new siphon and canal be built to better service farms in Mexicali and San Luis Rio Colorado. In order to compensate for over-development of the Valley and the reduction in water supplies, they also suggested that the local irrigation district and private interests provide funding for 400 deep wells in order to sustain present levels of cultivation. This measure would support 60,000 hectares of arable land and "lead to the complete salvation of the Mexicali and San Luis Rio Colorado valleys."[88] A twenty hectare irrigation rule was also placed in effect, limiting the amount of land that could be irrigated on an annual basis. Campesinos loudly complained to President Adolfo Ruiz Cortines, however, that large farms were being watered instead of ejido lands.[89]

    At the same time, Hugo Farmer and Arizona's U.S. congressional delegation feverishly pushed ahead plans to maximize the state's use of Colorado River water. In 1947, the U.S. Congress approved plans to develop the Wellton-Mohawk Valley, located fifty miles inland from the Colorado River east of Yuma, as a part of the Gila Project. With the completion of Coolidge Dam during the 1930s, river flow from the Gila River failed to fill the deep wells of farmers in the Wellton-Mohawk Valley. Fields deteriorated as farmers reused water from their wells. Poor drainage patterns impeded the return of irrigation water to the river, thus increasing the salinity of the water and killing many of the crops. With government funding, a fifty-mile canal was built which transported fresh water from the Colorado River to the Wellton-Mohawk Valley. While this diluted the saline well water, the lack of drainage merely increased the amount of saline water with which the USBR and local farmers would have to contend.

    Saline Solutions and Political Nationalism

    By 1961, developments on both sides of the border reflected an unmitigated effort to push natural resource utilization to the very limits determined by the scarcity of water. The rhetoric of nationalism and "independence" obscured the reality that the region's well-being required collective efforts to avoid a collapse in the Delta's ecosystem. During the fall of 1961, the USBR began using drainage pumps to remove toxic waters saturated with salt from the Wellton-Mohawk Valley. Water was carried through the drains and dumped into the Colorado River above the Mexican-American border. While the USBR believed that these diversion were innocuous, they eventually touched off a regional ecological crisis that national leaders transformed into an international crisis. On a regional level, the toxic water killed crops and damaged farmlands in the Mexicali-San Luis Rio Colorado valleys. Several Mexicali leaders threatened to boycott California businesses if the harmful drainage practices were not curtailed. On Thursday, December 14, 1961, 8,000 Mexicans protested the contamination of Mexicali's water by marching in front of the American Consulate in Mexicali. Two weeks later, some 35,000 people protested in front of the same building. At both of the protests, many of the participants noted the disparity between pollution of the Colorado River and the ideals of the Alliance for Progress. They observed that "polluting the river was not the way to get a partner in an alliance and certainly was not progress."[90] Others looked beyond the national entity of the United States in assigning culpability for the debacle. One of the signs that caught journalist Lenora Werley's attention read, "Arizona Tiene la Palabra."[91] Werley observed that "Arizona causes the protests and the Mexican demonstrators are not unaware of this."[92]

    The salinity crisis took American leaders and residents in Mexicali by surprise. However, Arizona's U.S. Senator, Carl Hayden, emphasized that the United States was not responsible for the "quality of water delivered to Mexico under the Treaty."[93] He reiterated that the Mexican Water Treaty of 1944 placed a stipulation only on the quantity, not the quality, of water Mexico received from the United States. The inclusion of return flow waters, which mainly emanated from Yuma County lands, comprised the bulk of these recycled waters. In December 1961, Hayden warned U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk that granting Mexico any additional water to compensate for the saline run-off dumped into the river by Wellton-Mohawk would establish "a dangerous precedent" which might "diminish the total water supply available to the basin and to Arizona."[94] Taking a conservative approach to the problem, Hayden argued that farmers in Arizona had used water of a similar quality in prior years. Furthermore, asking for a decrease in pumping would further endanger lands in the Mohawk Valley.[95] Balking at Mexico's claims, Hayden suggested that "Mexico can solve her own problem if it is in fact a problem."[96]

    Hayden's suggestion that Mexicali's irrigation infrastructure was the cause of the problem was partially correct, yet it avoided the issue of the United States' moral obligation to provide decent water for Mexican farmers in Mexicali. Prior to the crisis Mexican engineers clearly acknowledged that their waterworks were inefficient, which meant that less water was available than was necessary to properly wash out the excess salt that had gradually accumulated in the ground as a result of poor drainage capabilities.

    During the crisis Mexican engineers and farmers initiated a plan of water conservation to compensate for the highly saline waters that were infiltrating the Colorado River water from the Wellton-Mohawk Valley (point source pollution) and the rest of the Colorado River Basin (non-point source pollution). Amazingly, agricultural production did not fall off drastically during the crisis (1961-1975). Furthermore, Mexican engineers noted that a decrease during the 1966-67 season very well could be attributed to the arrival of the pink boll weevil as it could to damage from saline water. High temperatures also affected production in 1968-69, in addition to lygus bugs that attacked cotton plants. Ultimately, these engineers averred that the decline in production "could not be attributed solely to this same factor . . .during the years of the problem." As a result of the salinity problems, farmers and scientists in Mexicali Valley "formed a conscience concerning better use of water, complemented with another series of beneficial agricultural benefits."[97]

    Despite greater efforts to conserve water around Mexicali, the sense of vulnerability to further losses in water supplies on both sides of the border set in motion a well-pumping frenzy that threatened to drain the aquifer faster than it could be replenished through natural precipitation and run-off. Mexicali farmers and officials justified their actions based on the damaging quality of water provided by the United States. While Mexico received 1,850 million cubic meters of water from the Colorado River according to the Mexican Water Treaty, they were pumping an average of 1,100 million cubic meters of water from the aquifers underlying the Delta. Engineers warned, however, that extraction around Mexicali in 1970 was depleting the aquifer so fast that farmers might have "made possible the intrusion of sea water into the southern zone, deteriorating the quality of the waters and of the lands."[98]

    By 1963, USBR and Yuma County water officials pushed for federal approval of drainage wells that would rescue water-logged farms near Yuma. At the same time, these pumps would counteract Mexican depletion of the aquifer underlying San Luis Rio Colorado and Yuma Valley. Ultimately, attention from Arizona's congressional delegation brought federal assistance a step closer to reality. In a confidential memo to Arizona's congressional representatives, W.S. Gookin, Arizona State Water Engineer, apprised state officials of the need to support funding measures for a drainage project similar to that discussed by USBR Commissioner Floyd Dominy a year earlier in Yuma. Mexican farmers, Gookin noted, "[were] rapidly and aggressively increasing their pumping through the drilling of new wells and subjugation of new land." Gookin believed that if nothing were done to combat the new pumping, Mexican farmers would pump up to 1.5 million acre-feet of water per year.

    Gookin feared that such events would affect underground resources in Yuma. "The water underlying the Yuma area will be drawn into Mexico," he observed. Instead of allowing Mexico to proceed unchallenged, the state water engineer believed that this water should be "pumped by the U.S. and delivered to Mexico as surface water in satisfaction of the Mexican [treaty]." Finally, he warned that state and national interests would probably clash in the process of seeking approval for additional drainage wells. "It is my understanding," Gookin noted, "that the State Department is unsympathetic with western water problems and seeks to assist agricultural interest in Mexico." He also expressed misgivings about Secretary of State Rusk and President Johnson canvassing support for "non-interference with Mexican agricultural interest." Ever mindful of how such developments might threaten Arizona, Gookin urged state representatives to fully support the project.[99]

    Arizona's congressional representatives successfully pushed legislation through Congress that authorized funds for the installation of seventeen drainage wells. Winning approval of the funds, however, did not simplify the complexities of water politics in Yuma County. International diplomacy infringed on local prerogatives in implementing the groundwater program. A confidential memo noted that placing all the wells in the valley would increase the salinity of the river to levels greater than they had been prior to installation of the wells.[100] The State Department had pledged to minimize salinity levels of water destined for Mexico. In light of that directive, USBR officials realized that it would be most effective to place eleven of the wells on Yuma Mesa and only six in Yuma Valley.

    Despite construction of a drainage by-pass in 1965 intended to dump saline run-off from the Wellton-Mohawk Valley below the Mexicali intake at Morelos Dam, high salinity levels continued to pollute the Colorado River. [101] As a consequence, political relations between the United States and Mexico were strained.[102] In 1970, Luis Echeverria used inflammatory anti-American rhetoric to simultaneously kindle nationalist fervor and enhance his campaign for the Mexican presidency.[103] During a speech to the United States Congress in 1972, Echeverria contrasted United States actions in Vietnam and in Mexico. "It is impossible to understand," he commented, "why the United States does not use the same boldness and imagination that it applies to solving complex problems with its enemies to the solution of simple problems with its friends."[104] Echeverria successfully transformed a regional issue into an international platform for promoting Mexican nationalism.[105]

    Eventually, President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger opened talks with Echeverria. By 1971, salt content in the river had been lowered to 1,240 parts per million, yet Mexican leaders pressed for even lower levels. The agreement reached in 1973-- known as Minute 242 ñ stipulated that the United States would provide Mexico with 118,000 acre feet of clean water from Imperial Dam each year until a desalination plant near Yuma, which would purify saline run-off from the Wellton-Mohawk Valley, was completed.[106] Overwhelming congressional approval of Minute 242 brought the salinity crises to a point of diplomatic closure on June 11, 1974.[107] What began as a minor diplomatic nuisance for American leaders had gradually given Mexican presidents a powerful bargaining tool in dealing with the United States.

    The end of the salinity crisis in the mid-1970s only represented the beginning of other challenges related to the integrity of the Colorado River Delta's ecosystem. Heavy groundwater pumping continued to threaten bi-national aquifers in the region.[108] Furthermore, an over-tapped river no longer carried enough water to maintain the marshlands near the Sea of Cortez that had once been the home for an abundance of marine and freshwater flora and fauna. Fortunately, by the end of the century, scientists and organizations on both sides of the border looked for ways to accommodate the ecosystem's well-being within the context of regional development.[109] The dying Colorado River delta, however, was only one manifestation of the challenges that extensive growth posed for natural resource management in the region. The rise of industry and an intensified use of pesticides on both sides of the border signaled the renaissance of the New River near Mexicali.

    * * *

    The New River, Maquiladoras, and the Imperial Valley

    The demise of the Bracero program in 1964 did not signal the end of demographic expansion in the Delta. It merely compelled interests in each nation to adjust their respective programs of economic development in the region. Those changes generated new ecological problems. In the Imperial Valley and Yuma Valley, agribusiness continued to dominate the local landscapes. This fundamental continuity was accompanied by a significant change: the increased application of pesticides to eliminate virulent strains of pink boll worms and white flies. Federal programs, agribusiness, retired communities of "snowbirds," and tourism also fueled a growth-spurt during the 1980s and 90s.

    In the Mexican Delta, national leaders wanted to attract international corporations, mainly from the United States, to construct "twin plant" operations in border towns, including Mexicali and San Luis Rio Colorado. Inputs could be imported duty free to Mexican factories where Mexican labor would assemble the products. The assembled goods could then be returned to a "twin" plant on the American side of the border (in the Delta they were located in Calexico, California, and San Luis, Arizona) for "finishing" and shipment -- as if they were "Made in the USA." Initiated in 1965, The Border Industrialization Program (BIP) encouraged migration from the Mexican interior to the Delta and enticed American (and Asian) corporations to abandon union laborers in the "rustbelt" for unorganized labor south of the border.[110] As a result, population in the Delta region continued to soar, especially in Mexicali and San Luis Rio Colorado. By 1995, Mexicali's population had reached 695,805 and 133,000 called San Luis home. By 1996, Yuma County boasted a population of 132, 869, and Imperial County's census rose to 138,072.[111]

    Ultimately, industrial and agricultural activities place a heavy strain on water resources in the Delta. As Professor Antonio Gonzales de Leon has noted, "The industrialization program . . . terribly aggravated the problems of housing, health, food, education, and municipal services of the limitrophe populations, with indubitable effects on the communities on the other side of the border."[112] In the Delta, the ecological limits of sustainable development manifest themselves not only in increased salinity and pesticide contents in regional waters, but also in alarming levels of toxic sewage and waste that disturbed the New River and tainted the Salton Sea. This was nowhere more apparent than along the New River, which begins near Mexicali as an industrial, residential and agricultural drainage system and continues across the border into the Imperial Valley.

    Along its sixty-mile path to the Salton Sea, the New River reveals a sobering portrait of the bi-national nature of the ecological problems that plague the region. On the Mexican side of the international border, residential areas, new and old, affluent and impoverished, stand side by side with national and transnational manufacturing, chemical, and food-processing factories. Increased immigration placed added pressure on the sewage system, which has chronically malfunctioned since the 1970s, dumping millions of gallons of raw sewage into the river. Given the variety of historic inputs, it is not surprising that "about 100 toxic substances, including mercury and such known cancer-causing agents as PCBs, toxaphene and benzene have been identified at the border sampling site."[113] Bacterial strains of typhoid, cholera, and hepatitis, as well as over 25 viruses, including "three known types of polio viruses" have also surfaced during sampling.[114] Recent studies also indicate that fish in the New River "have dangerously high levels of DDT."[115]

    When the "river" crosses the border at Calexico, it poses an immediate threat to all forms of life. Curiously, the fetid levels of pollution are about the only thing that have brought environmentalists, farmers, and community boosters to a fundamental agreement about the need to clean up the river. Carcasses of dead animals, sewage, and car tires, among other things, bob and sink on their way to the Salton Sea. During the 1980s, the river became a drop off point of dead bodies for criminals. Desperate immigrants from Mexico have also considered the New River a waterway to opportunity, swimming across the border.[116]

    On the American side of the border, a definite bias towards the Mexican origins of the New River's contamination has shaped perceptions of who is responsible for the river's problems. The attitudes of local residents in the face of new waves of pollution capture reflect these tensions. For example, in 1985 a sewage pipe in Mexicali broke, releasing millions of gallons of extra raw sewage into the river. The Imperial County Health officer snapped, "This spill really reminds us that they (the Mexicans) are not doing a . . . thing about the problem."[117] To be sure, raw sewage inputs in Mexicali present an open testament to the hazards of over-development, an inexcusable challenge for residents on both sides of the border. Yet while the Mexican government took a remarkably long time to respond to complaints about the fetid pollution, many American-owned maquiladoras also contributed to the chemical stew.

    Furthermore, agricultural inputs of run-off water in the Imperial Valley also contain pesticides whose effects on humans, plants, and animals, are still not fully understood. One source estimates that farmers in the Imperial Valley have contributed up to 75 per cent of the waters that comprise the New River. That run-off also contains toxic chemicals that have been collecting in the Salton Sea since the initiation of pesticide use. Since those chemicals do not flow through communities in the United States on their way to the Salton Sea, they have not been protested as vehemently as the sewage from Mexicali by local interest groups. Ultimately, however, both Mexican and American sources contribute to the New River's swirl of contamination.

    Water from the Colorado River, which is diverted at Imperial Dam and transported to the region via the All-American Canal serves as a manmade link that effectively ties the problems of the two rivers together. During the past decade, traces of selenium have found their way from the Colorado River to the Salton Sea by way of the All-American Canal and the New River. Ironically, one of the reasons why the All-American Canal was constructed during the 1930s was to provide a fresh water supply that was not tainted by Mexicali's sewage (domestic water was previously diverted from the Colorado through the Alamo Canal). By the 1970s, however, the New River was an indistinguishable mix of Mexican and American inputs that posed a threat to anyone in the region regardless of nationality.

    An increase in pesticide inputs developed in the Valley during the 1960s with the onslaught of the pink boll worm. During the 1980s, the white fly complicated the problem further. Faith in science and the exigencies of capital-intensive farming encouraged short-term solutions to complex problems. Local farmers sprayed their fields with powerful chemicals that promised to arrest the central nervous system of the pesky insects. Government agencies subsidized this war with imported and hybrid bugs calculated to arrest the development of "pinkie" and the white fly. Like many of the problems that Delta residents faced in taming the river, the boll worm and white fly often created new problems for local farmers as they genetically adapted to various strengths of pesticides.[118]

    The drama played out between pesticide-packing farmers and chemical-tolerant insects was transformed into a full-fledged biological tragedy as pesticides (along with sewage from Mexicali) drained from the New River into the Salton Sea. After World War II, ambitious developers planned a vacation paradise along the shores of the Salton Sea. During the halcyon years of the 1950s, nearly 20,000 acres were sold for development and various resorts were planned. Flooding and increasingly saline waters beached those plans. Subsequently, the maquiladoras and farmers upriver contributed significant chemical inputs to the lake.[119] Ironically, the lake continued to function as an important flyway and nesting spot for nearly 450,000 ducks and tens of thousands of geese each year. USBR studies noted that "at least 25 species of waterfowl have been identified in the area [and] winter shorebird counts have documented over 55,000 birds, including 38 shorebird species which feed in the natural mud flats or refuge ponds."[120]

    The health of the sea and its surroundings, however, revealed a serious ecological imbalance to the senses. "Anyone heading north through the Imperial Valley is overpowered," one journalist noted, "by the smell of fertilizers and cattle feed lots." Signs near the sea warned children and pregnant women not to eat the fish from the sea. Another writer observed that at the confluence of the New River and Salton Sea, "The stench of rotting fish grew overwhelming. Thousands of dead tilapia, the Salton Sea's most ubiquitous fish, lay in . . . rows under a skim of mud in the shallows and all across the mudflats. Every one of them was eyeless, though most seemed otherwise intact."[121]

    Many have noted the tragic irony of nature's abundance and humanity's waste coexisting in paradoxical harmony. Despite the fact that the Sea's "rotten-egg stench pervades its backwaters," one writer noted, "hundreds of thousands of birds . . . feed along the edges of the lake or bob on the open water." During the past decade, however, a bird and fish holocaust, fueled by increased salinity, phosphate and nitrate inputs from the New River and absorbed by the lake's sediment, sent shock-waves throughout the environmental community. In 1992 alone, 150,000 grebes and ruddy ducks died. Millions of fish have also succumbed to digestion of toxic chemicals in the sediment, increased salinity levels, and eutrophication.[122]

    The lake's increased salinity occurred primarily because the Sea has no drainage outlet and suffers from high evaporation rates in the blistering desert.[123] As a result, water saltier than the Pacific Ocean has inhibited the growth of corvina and tilapia. The growth process of fish is often arrested due to high inputs of nitrate and phosphorus. These fertilizers cause dense blooms of phytoplankton. As these decompose they rob the water of oxygen and can also lead to production of toxic substances such as ammonia. This makes it difficult for fish to breathe properly.[124] Finally, the U.S. Geological Survey concluded that high levels of DDT and selenium posed a possible risk not only the ability of fish and birds to survive, but also their ability to reproduce.[125] While none of the problems have been connected to human deaths, at least one physician in the region noted an impressionistic linkage between declining human health and toxin-laced waterways. Over an 18 month period in the mid-1990s, Dr. Minerva Kelada, a family practitioner in Calexico, observed "a higher incidence of gastrointestinal problems and bacterial infections than she did when she was practicing in Africa and the Middle East."[126]

    The combination of bi-national aid to solve problems on both sides of the border and the sincere efforts of local officials working together to direct that outside assistance serves as a beacon of hope for future Mexican-American endeavors to purify the region's waterways.[127] A wide spectrum of solutions to the problem breaks down according to political, national, and economic interests. Diking part of the Salton Sea, constructing sewage processing plants in Mexicali, selling purified water to Southern California cities, or pumping low quality water to the Gulf of California only marginally address the central problem of exponential increases in regional development throughout the present century. Other solutions merely reincarnate the speculative mentality that has reigned in the Delta throughout the twentieth century, figuring as a primary cause for unbalanced regional growth.[128] Unfortunately, The present-day conditions of the Salton Sea and New River represent the residue of that historic pursuit. The most effective solution would involve both nations and cast the broadest net in terms of those benefited by rehabilitation of the Delta, including the various Native tribes that make their home there. The search for a "good neighbor" policy takes on a completely different -- and less profit-driven-- meaning in light of the region's past and its collective attitudes towards development and the environment.

    Conclusion: Economic Nationalism and Ecology in the Colorado River Delta

    While it is not the historian's task to prescribe solutions for complex ecological problems, it is within his purview to illuminate the origins of contemporary events that perplex us. This is especially critical when discussing events in the Colorado River Delta, whose twentieth century historiography is about as deep as the Colorado River below Morelos Dam. There may not be another region in North America that has been so forward-looking and enamored by humanity's ability to harness nature through technology and willpower. This tendency has helped create an impressive desert breadbasket, but has also insulated the region from its recent past, and as this paper suggests, obscured fundamental causes to seemingly separate problems. Happily, bi-national and local initiatives to clean up the New River and restore the Colorado River Delta suggest that meaningful change is possible. We must still ask, however, if those solutions are only the means to another golden pot underneath the latest hydraulic rainbow, or if they are also sure avenues to lasting improvements that benefit both humanity and the region's ecosystem.[129]

    While the prospects for change will be determined primarily by individuals in the Delta, Mexico City, and Washington D.C., current ecological problems can be framed within a definite historical context. Two separate, yet inter-connected (financially, ecologically, socially, and diplomatically) economic revolutions competed and coexisted throughout the twentieth century in the Colorado River Delta. Strong governmental interest, abundant capital, and ample links to the world economy insured rapid development of Imperial and Yuma Valleys during the first third of the twentieth century. By 1935, Lazaro Cardenas set in motion a semi-revolutionary economic program in Mexicali Valley intended to link the economy of Baja California with Mexico's interior and wean the peninsula from dependence on American capital. These revolutions sparked a flurry of immigration to the Delta and placed mexicanos and estadounidenses in competition for precious natural resources. Furthermore, continued levels of immigration served as a link between agribusiness and the maquiladora complex.

    In retrospect, while Mexican and American federalism differed markedly in the distribution of power between national and local governments, acute similarities in the actual administration of natural resources and immigration in the Delta region allowed for exponential growth on both sides of the border. In short, federal control (both Mexican and American) over water resources increased absolutely on both sides of the border while immigration policies generally left enough doors open to accommodate industrial and agricultural expansion in the region. Nevertheless, it should be noted that federal intervention often mitigated the rancor engendered by disputes over water, leaving open the option for dialogue concerning the conservation of natural resources in the Delta. Ultimately, dual economic development of the delta, exponential levels of migration throughout the century, the ambivalent posturing of both "neighbors", and the dynamics of the world economy threatened the very lifeline, the Colorado River, that had given birth to the region's legacy of abundance.

    From a historical perspective, sewage, pesticides, and increased salinity are merely by-products of more fundamental issues related to regional development during the twentieth century. As one environmental group has observed, "Rampant human population, concomitant growing water use, and massive riparian habitat degradation have greatly harmed the Lower Colorado River Basin, the wetlands that feed into the Gulf of California and the broader Sonoran Desert Ecosystem."[130] Other scholars concerned about water resources in the Delta have offered their insight concerning the region's problems. In a cogent assessment of the region's past and future prospects, Dr. Paul Ganster observed, "Unmanaged growth in the region has produced serious transborder environmental problems, including air and water pollution, contamination from improper disposal of hazardous and solid wastes, and urban and development impacts on plant and animal species and critical ecosystems."[131] Similarly, Marco Antonio Alcazar Avila, official at the Direccion General de Fronteras at the Mexican Department of Foreign Relations (SRE), has noted that all along the Mexican-American border "a planning effort that permits the anticipation of measures to decrease the negative impact of demographic expansion" is needed to counteract the willy-nilly depletion of water resources. He also suggests that if regional population continues to grow exponentially and the two economies become even more polarized, "it is possible to foresee . . national and bi-national crises of greater proportion, with unforeseen effects, as a product of the different inequalities that could produce the abusive use and deterioration of existing natural resources."[132]

    Ultimately, the ecological problems in the region are not the exclusive domain of the United States or Mexico. Instead they are a shared problem that demand equally complex solutions. As the historic perspective illustrates, compartmentalizing responsibility for those problems only breeds fear and mistrust between Mexicans, Americans, and Native groups in the Delta. If we continue on with that reductionist outlook, the border relationship truly will remain "[an unhappy] marriage without possibility of divorce."[133] Viewing the region's development from a more holistic -- and hopeful -- point of view, however, suggests that despite international boundaries, differing models of federalism, and cultural differences, change can be brought about in a meaningful and cooperative way. Ultimately, the region's two rivers -- their problems and promise -- must be seen as components of an integrated and open ecological system. To approach the region in any other way denies the realities of a shared history, ecosystem, and regional identity.


    Footnotes
    * I would like to thank the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Georgia, Athens, and Dr. and Mrs. Roger Ward for generous support that allowed me to do research for this paper in Mexico City, Phoenix, and Yuma, Arizona. This paper contains a brief portion of the text (mainly in the subsection "Saline Solutions and Political Nationalism") from Evan Ward, "Saline Solutions: Arizona Water Politics, Mexican-American Relations, and the Wellton-Mohawk Valley," Journal of Arizona History, forthcoming in the Fall 1999 issue.

    [1] Antonio Gonzales de Leon, "Factores de tension internacional en la frontera," in La Frontera del Norte: Integracion y Desarrollo, Roque Gonzalez Salazar, editor, (Mexico City: Colegio de Mexico, 1981) 24. All translations in this paper have been made by Evan Ward. All citations from newspapers and non-academic journals were accessed via Lexis-Nexus Academic Universe.

    [2] Frank Clifford, "Plotting a Revival in a Delta Gone to Dust," Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1997, A-1.

    [3] Steve Yozwiak, "Two Waterways 'Endangered'; Pinto on Roster Third Year, Colorado's Delta is Added," The Arizona Republic, April 6, 1998, B-1.

    [4] Stan Grossfeld, "A River Runs Dry; A People Wither; Their Water Taken, Mexico's Cocopah Cling to Arid Homeland," The Boston Globe, September 21, 1997, A-1; Anita Alvarez de Williams has been the leading scholar of the Cocopah for the past three decades. See "People and the River," Journal of the Southwest, 1997, volume 39, 331-351; Anita Alvarez de Williams, The Cocopah People (Phoenix: Indian Tribal Series, 1974).

    Noted water historian Norris Hundley devoted much of his career to writing about the Colorado River, and particularly its development in California. See Water and the West (1975), Dividing the Waters: A Century of Controversy Between the United States and Mexico (1966), and The Great Thirst (1992), all published by the University of California Press, Berkeley, California. For a more popular treatment of the Colorado River basin, with a heavy emphasis on the twentieth century, see Philip Fradkin, A River No More: The Colorado River and the West (New York: Knopf, 1981). Fradkin reflects on changes in the Colorado River Delta (and throughout the basin at large) in "The River Revisited; The Colorado is the Most Used, Politicized, and Tightly Controlled River in the West. . . ," Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1995, Magazine, 16. Marc Reisner also looks at development of the Colorado River in a historical context and exposes the excesses of the United States Bureau of Reclamation during the twentieth century in Cadillac Desert, (New York: Viking, 1986).

    For a definitive environmental approach to the Colorado River Basin see J.A. Stanford and J.V. Ward, "The Colorado River System," in The Ecology of River Systems, B.R. Davies and Keith F. Walker, eds., (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Dr. W. Junk Publishers, 1986), 353-374. Godfrey Sykes conducted one of the earliest geographical surveys of the region during the first couple decades of the twentieth century. His conclusions can be found in The Colorado Delta, American Geographical Society Special Publication Number 19, (Port Wahington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1937). Peter L. Kresan discusses the geological evolution of the Delta in "A Geological Tour of the Lower Colorado River Region of Arizona and Sonora," Journal of the Southwest, 1997, volume 39, 567-583.

    [5] John Dillin, "Pollution Seeps From Mexico to U.S.," The Christian Science Monitor, December 28, 1989, 6; U.S. Newswire, "New River Named One of Nation's Most Threatened Rivers," April 16, 1997, 13:58 Eastern Time, Lexis-Nexus Academic Universe; Newsweek, "In Health There are No Borders," August 1, 1988, 47; Steve LaRue, "Taking the Initiative: The New River Cleanup," The San Diego Union Tribune, December 26, 1992, A-1.

    [6] Norris Hundley discusses the salinity crisis as an extension of the Mexican Water Treaty of 1944 in Dividing the Waters, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), 173-181. He gives an excellent assessment of how drainage water damaged Mexicali fields. Philip Fredkin focuses on the environmental and international ramifications of the crisis in A River No More: The Colorado River and the West (New York: Knopf, 1981), 291-318. Fredkin provides an excellent analysis of the political importance of the crisis in Mexico. Leon Metz deals with the environmental aspects of the crisis and underscores Carl Hayden's reluctance to help Mexico in Border: The U.S.-Mexican Line (El Paso: Magnan Books, 1989), 272-290. Dale Furnish and Jerry Landam provide the best study of the Mexicali area prior to and during the crisis in "El Convenio de 1973 sobre la salinidad del Rio Colorado y el Valle de Mexicali," in Revista de la Facultad, Tomo xxv, January 1975, UNAM, 103-129. They trace the agricultural development of the region and the ecological impact of salinity on the fields. Evan Ward discusses local political factors in Yuma County that contributed to the crisis in "Saline Solutions: Arizona Water Politics, Mexican-American Relations, and the Wellton-Mohawk Valley," Journal of Arizona History, forthcoming in the Fall 1999 issue.

    [7] For a theoretical discussion of interaction between ecosystems and human society see A. Terry Rambo, Conceptual Approaches to Human Ecology, Research Report Number 14, East-West Environment and Policy Institute (Honolulu: East-West Center, 1983), 23-29.

    [8] I have emphasized the word "immediate" because from a broader perspective, intensified use of the Colorado River throughout the entire river basin during the 1950s and 60s contributed to the river's salinity by the time it reached the Delta region. This diffuse type of pollution is known as "non-point pollution." In 1961, runoff from the Wellton-Mohawk District egregiously exacerbated salinity levels, making cultivation of crops more difficult in Mexicali.

    [9] W. Dirk Raat, Mexico and the United States: Ambivalent Vistas, (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992), 73.

    [10] Daniel Tyler, A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion, (Waynesboro, Virginia: M&R Books, 1964), 245.

    [11] J. Ross Brown, Adventures in Apache Country; A Tour Through Arizona and Sonora, with Notes on the Silver Regions of Nevada (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1869), 47-48; Oliver Wozencraft's efforts to irrigate the Delta region are discussed in Donald J. Pisani, From Family Farm to Agribusiness: The Irrigation Crusade in California and the West, 1850-1931 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 66, 89-92, 96.

    [12] For a brief history of the Imperial Irrigation District see Robert Gottlieb, Thirst for Growth: Water Agencies as Hidden Government in California (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1991), 71-76; Donald Worster, "A Place Called Imperial," in Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), 194-212.

    [13] Raat, 91.

    [14] Curiously, the imposition of American institutions on the Mexican frontier has influenced our perception of Mexicans and who they are. Several books provide anecdotes about the corruption and vice that permeated Mexicali streets during Prohibition. Once again, compliant leaders, namely Esteban Cantu and the general sent by Alvaro Obregon to "purge" Baja California of Cantu during the Mexican Revolution, Abelardo Rodriguez, benefited from both American and Chinese vice during the early twentieth century. Along with his efforts to expropriate American land-holdings in Mexicali Valley during the 1930s, Lazaro Cardenas also moved swiftly in 1935 to eradicate casinos.

    These developments are addressed in David Pinera Ramirez, Historiografia de la Frontera Norte de Mexico: Balance y Metas de Investigacion (Mexicali: UNAM-UABC, 1990), 113-114; Fernando Jordan, El Otro Mexico: Biografia de Baja California (Mexico D.F.: Secretaria de Educacion Publica, Frontera, 1976), 100-107.

    [15] Leon C. Metz, Border: The U.S.-Mexico Line (El Paso: Mangan Books, 1989), 265.

    [16] For a detailed first-hand account of the natural and man-made floods that threatened the entire delta during the early twentieth century, see Alton Duke, When the Colorado River Quit the Ocean (Yuma, Arizona: Southwest Printers, 1974).

    [17] Ibid., 243-256; Maria Eugenia Anguiano Tellez, Agricultura y Migracion en el Valle de Mexicali (Tiajuana: COLEF, 1995), 119.

    [18]See W. A. Peterson, "The Work of the Yuma Experiment Farm in 1912," Bureau of Plant Industries Circular, Number 126, May 10, 1913; E.G. Noble, "The Work of the Yuma Project Experiment Farm in 1919 and 1920," USDA Circular 221, June 1922.

    [19] Author unknown, "Exhibit C: History of the Yuma Project," in "Information for ëCommittee on Federal Reclamation Policy, Appointed by Secretary of the Interior, Harold L. Ickes, Yuma County Water User's Association, Yuma, Arizona, October 1934, n. p.

    [20] Pisani, 308.

    [21] Ibid., 302-303.

    [22] From 1919-1925, acres under cotton production increased from 56,938 to 73,967 acres. Gains in bales produced were more modest, increasing from 26,343 to 26,732 during the same period. By 1929 cotton production in the Imperial Valley fell to 11,601 bales produced from 22,165 bales. Production of "truck crops" and citrus compensated for the decline in cotton production. Cantaloupe production increased from 10,449 acres in 1919 to 30,935 acres in 1929. Lettuce production experienced the most precipitous rise, increasing from 1,386 acres in 1919 to 25,194 acres in 1929. Pea production increased from 326 acres in 1919 to 6,396 acres in 1929. For more information on farm production statistics from the Imperial Valley see Agricultural Census, 1920 (360-361), 1925 (446-447, 456-457, 472-474), 1930 (472-473, 538-539, 544), (Washington D. C.: Government Printing Office).

    Farmers in Yuma Valley also adjusted their production to the needs of the global market. Before completion of the Yuma Project, local farmers cultivated alfalfa and wheat in Yuma County. These crops continued to account for a substantial portion of Yuma County's agricultural production (1930 United States Census, Agriculture, 356). Cotton, however, altered cultivation patterns. Long-staple cotton, a variety that grew best in conditions similar to those in Egypt, was introduced in Yuma in 1914. Despite fluctuations in the market, cotton remained the most important crop in Yuma Valley between 1914-1930.

    A good number of farmers reacted to depressed cotton prices by cultivating cantaloupe, watermelon, grapes and lettuce. The refrigerated railroad car extended the geographic scope of markets to the East. In 1919 only 88 acres of vegetables for commercial sale were planted. By 1929, however, production encompassed 3,506 acres, valued at $621,431 (1930 United States Census, Agriculture, 354). Muskmelons and cantaloupes, not listed as part of the 1919 census in Yuma County, generated $173,980 on 1,011 acres in 1929. Lettuce production followed a similar pattern. One acre of lettuce was planted in the county in 1919. As farmers learned that Yuma's climate provided excellent conditions for large scale cultivation of lettuce, production increased sharply. By 1929, 2,203 acres were under production, accounting for $397,293 in sales. Other products that became staples in Yuma's agricultural production included tomatoes, onions, and green beans. Raisins, grapefruits, oranges, pecans, and figs, also were produced in greater quantities after the 1920s.

    Farmers in Mexicali Valley primarily grew cotton throughout the first six decades of the twentieth century, due to the demands placed on them by financiers, including the Colorado River and Land Company. In 1912-1913, fifteen bales of cotton were produced in Mexicali Valley. By 1927, the number of bales produced had skyrocketed to 86,285 bales. Production decreased during the 1930s and then passed the 100,000 bale mark in 1941-42. Wheat and Alfalfa were also grown in Mexicali Valley, but on a much smaller scale. See Anguiano Tellez, 116-121.

    [23] Eugene Keith Chamberlin, "Mexican Colonization versus American Interests in Lower California," Pacific Historical Review, volume 20, 1951, 46.

    [24] Ibid., 49.

    [25] Ibid., 51.

    [26] Letter from General Ernesto Aguirre Colorado to President Lazaro Cardenas, November 3, 1935, Archivo General de la Nacion (hereafter cited as AGN), Mexico D.F., Mexico, RG Lazaro Cardenas, 437.1/413.

    [27] To that end, Chinese, Southern European, Indian, and Japanese immigration was curtailed and many foreigners compelled to leave the country. Nevertheless, a vibrant Chinese community remained in Mexicali following the implementation of Cardenas' plan.

    Evelyn Hu-DeHart set the standard for the study of Chinese immigrants and pioneers in Northern Mexico. A broad overview of her work is presented in "Immigrants to a Developing Society: the Chinese in Northern Mexico, 1875-1932," Journal of Arizona History, Volume 21, Autumn 1980, 49-86. Robert H. Duncan confines his analysis to the Chinese community in Baja California in "The Chinese and the Economic Development of Northern Baja California, 1889-1929," Hispanic American Historical Review, November 1994, 616-647. James R. Curtin offers a geographer's analysis of Chinese culture in the Delta in "Mexicali's Chinatown," Geographical Review, volume 85, number 3, July 1995, 335-348.

    [28] Cardenas wrote to Rafael Navarro Cortina, Governor of Baja California, on January 20, 1937, "To increase the population and activate the development in Mexicali Valley, you have in the American territory many Mexicans that are desirous of returning to the country and that we should bring, giving them transportation and sufficient elements to . . . assure their success." See AGN, RG Lazaro Cardenas, 437.1/413.

    [29]"Memorandum," AGN, RG Lazaro Cardenas, 437.1/413,n..d.

    [30] Cardenas, "A la Nacion," AGN, RG Lazaro Cardenas, 437.1/413, 1-3.

    [31] Anguiano Tellez, 90-94; A collection of interviews with people who participated in the distribution of lands has been compiled by Irma Apodaca Chavira in Abriendo Tierras en Mexicali (Tiajuana: Centro de Investigaciones Historicas, UNAM-UABC, 1982).

    [32] Ibid., 113.

    [33] Cardenas, "Memorandum," "A La Secretaria de Agricultura y Fomento," AGN, RG Lazaro Cardenas, 437.1/413, 10.

    [34] Ibid., "A La Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores," 15.

    [35] Cardenas to Navarro Cortina, January 20, 1937, AGN, RG Lazaro Cardenas, 437.1/413.

    [36] Basich and Batiz to Members of the H. Comission Mixta Intersecretaria del Territorio Norte de Baja California, "Aguas Internacionales," AGN, RG Lazaro Cardenas, 437.1/413, 1.

    [37] Letter from Juan G. Delgado, President of the Ejidal Comission de San Luis, October 1940, AGN, RG Lazaro Cardenas, 508.1/167.

    [38] Telegram from Governor Yocupicio of Sonora to Lazaro Cardenas, October 31, 1938, AGN, RG Lazaro Cardenas, 508.1/167.

    [39] "Ministraciones de Agua Potable," AGN, RG Lazaro Cardenas, 437.1/413.

    [40] Letter from Esteban Soto Ruiz to Colonel Ignacio M. Betata, 1939, AGN, RG Lazaro Cardenas, 437.1/413.

    [41] Telegram from Governor Roman Yocupicio to Lazaro Cardenas, September 11, 1939, AGN, RG Lazaro Cardenas, 508.1/167.

    [42] See Scott Whiteford, "Troubled Waters: The Regional Impact of Foreign Investment and State Capital in the Mexicali Valley," in Regional Impacts of U.S.-Mexican Relations, Ina Rosenthal-Urey, ed., (San Diego: Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, University of California, San Diego, 1986)17-36.

    [43] Anguiano Tellez, 105-107.

    [44] For a sophisticated historiographical assessment of Cardenas' presidency and his impact on the course of Mexican history thereafter see Alan Knight, "Cardenismo: Juggernaut or Jalopy?," Journal of Latin American Studies, volume 26, part 1, February 1994, 73-107.

    [45] The Imperial Valley Press, August 6, 1910, as quoted in Paul S. Taylor, "The Imperial Valley," Mexican Labor in the United States, volume 1 (Arno Press, 1970), 10-11.

    [46] For information on the Quechan Indian loss of land after Anglo immigration to the region, see Robert L. Bee, Crossroads Along the Colorado: The Impact of Government Policy on the Quechan Indians (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1981). Clifford E. Trafzer examines the onset of disease that claimed the lives of some Quechans after being moved to Fort Yuma Reservation in, "Invisible Enemies: Ranching, Farming, and Quechan Indian Deaths at the Fort Yuma Agency, 1915-1925," American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 21:3, 1997, 83-117.

    [47] Edwin L. Hansberger, Delia Fuquay Hansberger, and James LeRoy Hansberger, Dates, Pecans, and Ostriches: Some Memories of Life in the Yuma Valley, (Yuma, AZ: Yuma County Historical Society, 1970), 46.

    [48] Devra Weber, Dark Sweat, White Gold: California Farm Workers, Cotton, and the New Deal (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 23-24 .

    [49] Imperial Daily Standard, September 19, 1908, as quoted in Taylor, 12.

    [50] See Neil Foley, "Mexicans. Mechanization, and the Growth of Corporate Cotton Culture in South Texas: The Taft Ranch, 1900-1930, in The Journal of Southern History, Volume LXII, No. 2, May 1996.

    [51] Ibid., 276.

    [52] James Gregory discusses the relationship between migration to California and the abundance of federal funds that were expended there during the depression in An American Exodus: The Dust Bowl Migration and Okie Culture in California (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).

    [53] Spruille Braden, Acting Secretary of State, to Ambassador Thurston in Mexico, Washington, August 16, 1946, in U.S. State Department, Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1946, volume 11 (Washington: GPO, 1969), 1030-1033.

    [54] Ugo Carusi, Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to the Secretary of State, Philadelphia, January 11, 1954, in U.S. State Department, Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers , 1945, Volume 9 (Washington: GPO, 1969) 1140.

    [55] Ibid., 1139.

    [56] Ibid., 1140.

    [57] Memorandum of Conversation by the First Secretary of the Mexican Embassy, S.E. O'Donoghue, Mexico D.F., January 31, 1946, in U.S. State Department, Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1946, volume 11, (Washington: GPO, 1969), 1018.

    [58] Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, by Mr. William G. MacLean of the Division of Mexican Affairs, Washington, December 11, 1944, in U.S. State Department, Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1944,volume 7, (Washington: GPO, 1967), 1333.

    [59] See Carusi, 1140, and Letter from Ambassador White to the Secretary of State, Mexico City, August 14, 1953, in U.S. State Department, Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers , 1952-1954, volume 4, (Washington: GPO, 1983), 1341-1346. Ambassador White notes, "It has been suggested that the Mexicans have used troops to patrol their side of the border. The Embassy can find no confirmation of this whatsoever except once under the Presidency of Aleman when troops were used to make the peons harvest the cotton crop on his ranch. . . When this was done, the troops were withdrawn and the wetbacks allowed to come over. It is even reported that some of the soldiers discarded their rifles and uniforms and crossed the Border also as wetbacks, lured by the two-dollar a day wage as contrasted with their pay of thirty cents a day."

    [60] See Telegram from E.F. Sanguenetti to Carl Hayden, October 7, 1942; Letter from A. O. Broussard (employee of Sanguenetti) to Hayden, November 28, 1942; Also see Telegram, L.M. McLaren Produce Company, from Don Gustin, Secretary to Senator Hayden. All these correspondences are located in the Carl Hayden Collection, Division of Archives and Manuscripts, Arizona State University, MS 1, Box 548, Folder 15.

    [61] Unfortunately, many of the Cocopah Indians, whose traditional band area crossed the Mexican-American border, which by 1917 divided the group into a Mexican and American band, were often the victims of international politics while trying to work on farms in the United States. On March 5, 1937, Henry Fraunfelder, President of the Yuma County Water Users Association, appealed to Carl Hayden for the Cocopah, one of whom had been detained while crossing the border and subject to deportation.

    Fraunfelder noted: "the Cocopah's have always lived in the river bottom lands along the Colorado even though they did roam at times below the border of our country. They are, at least, as much American as they are Mexican, Indians. Living on the crops raised on overflow lands, they moved from one favored spot to another up and down the river. . . Radical changes in our United States Immigration Laws made about the time of our entry and participation in the World War made the entry of such Indians thereafter illegal." As a result, many Cocopah had been deported to Mexico "and consequently were forced to live in a condition of semi-starvation thereafter." While some Cocopah provided a labor force for the Water Users Assocation, Fraunfelder also hoped that "aid to the whole Cocopah tribe" in the United States could be provided. See Yuma County Water Users Association (YCWUA) historical files.

    In terms of POW help, The Yuma County Water Association readily hired Italian and German prisoners from the Florence Internment Camp to help maintain irrigation facilities in Yuma Valley and harvest crops. YCWUA president Henry Frauenfelder noted that the additional help was necessary because "Normal operation of the draft and migration of workers to the Pacific coast war industries [had] seriously affected [their] farm labor supply." See Letter from Henry Frauenfelder to Carl Hayden, "Re: Farm Labor on Yuma Project," October 9, 1942, Carl Hayden Collection, MS1, Box 548, Folder 15. A small amount of information on POW workers in the Delta is available in the YCWUA historical files.

    [62] With the termination of the Bracero program in 1964, farmers in the Arizona Delta frantically turned to state leaders to supplement the depleted labor supply. "A-Teams," composed of high school and college aged teens throughout the state were recruited by the Arizona Employment Service to harvest the cantaloupe crop in 1965. While the State Employment Service and the Arizona AFL-CIO trumpeted the success of the A-Teams in bringing in the harvest, some Yuma County farmers complained to Senator Hayden that the youth were not able to do the work Bracero workers had done during the previous twenty years (see Carl Hayden Collection, MS1, Box 284, Folder 27).

    [63] Ambassador White to Mexico to Secretary of State, Mexico D.F., December 31, 1946, in U.S. State Department, Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1946, volume 11, (Washington: GPO, 1969). Thurston noted, "It may be argued too that the importation by the United States of several hundred thousand agricultural workers from Mexico during the last few years has contributed to the zeal of those now seeking continually to cross the border and find work in the agricultural sections of California. In other words, the need of the United States for additional agricultural labor has contributed much to creating the problem that now exists."

    [64] Carusi, 1140.

    [65] Letter from Phillip G. Bruton to Carl Hayden, October 21, 1944, Telegram from Albert Del Guercio, September 23, 1944, Los Angeles, both located in Carl Hayden Collection, MS 1.

    [66] Farmer, "Testimony," Arizona Commission of the Colorado River Basin States, June 22-23, 1938, Phoenix, Arizona, 42-43, Arizona Department of Libaries, Archives, and Public Records (ADLAPR), Research Library, Phoenix, Arizona.

    [67] Letter from E. Aguirre Camacho to President Avila Camacho, no date, AGN, RG Avila Camacho, 561.3/11-2.

    [68] Telegram from Governor Crel R. Sanchez Taboada to J. Jesus Gonzales Gallo, Secretary Particular to the President of the Mexican Republic, October 29, 1941, AGN, RG Avila Camacho, 561.3/11.

    [69] The floods in February set off a bureaucratic frenzy as Mexicali residents petitioned the federal government to intervene with the United States in an effort to curtail releases from Boulder, Parker, and Imperial Dams. The United States agreed to cooperate for ten days. See telegram correspondence in RG Camacho, 561.3/11, AGN. The water shortage of 1942 was reported to the President's Particular Secretary by Attorney Diego Peniche Morales on June 30, 1942. See AGN, RG Avila Comacho, 561.3/11-2.

    [70] Enrique Padilla, "Condiciones en que se encuentran las plantas de bombeo para regar las tierras riberenas del rio Colorado, B.C.," Departamento Juridico y Consultativo, Oficina de Limites y Aguas, August 24, 1942, AGN, RG Avila Camacho, 561.3/11-1.

    [71] While discussions were taking place throughout the Western United States concerning the Mexican Water Treaty, which would apportion the Colorado and Rio Grande Rivers between the United States and Mexico, many Yuma County farmers feared that approval of a water delivery scheme to the Phoenix area, known as the Central Arizona would preclude further development of the Gila Project in eastern Yuma County. Imperial Valley officials used this rivalry with Phoenix as an example of why Yuma County farmers should oppose the Mexican Water Treaty. IID officials attempted to convince Yuma County farmers that: "Yuma County is being sold down the river by the people of the Salt River Valley. If Yuma does not fight ratification of this treaty, the Gila Project will never grow to its intended size. Political interests are trying to get approval of a Central Arizona Project which would divert waters from the Colorado River, an utterly impracticable project. They do not care what happens to Yuma Valley." Letter from Henry Frauenfelder to Lawrence A. Lawson, June 22, 1944, YCWUA files. While this example had little to do with Mexico directly, it illustrates how domestic arguments for and against various schemes exploited the question of Mexico's water needs when discussing potential regional development.

    [72] See Padilla.

    [73] Telegram from Armando Lizarraga to Avila Camacho, April 8, 1943; Telegram from Sanchez Taboada to Avila Camacho, April 12, 1943; Telegram from Sanchez Taboada to Avila Camacho, April 15, 1943; Telegram from Distribuidora del Pacifico, S. A. to Avila Camacho, April 30, 1943; Telegram from Sanchez Taboada to Avila Camacho, April 30, 1943. All of these telegrams are located at the AGN in RG Avila Camacho, 561.3/11-2.

    [74] U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1943, volume 6, (Washington: GPO, 1965), 611-613.

    [75] Ibid., 614-615.

    [76] Mexico's Secretary of Agriculture referred to the Mexicali situation as a "grave problem that we have in front of us." After reporting this to Camacho, Governor Taboaba added, "As there has not been a resolution [to] . . . the problem of irrigation, each time [conditions] become worse now that the lack of water in these months not only implies that some not plant crops, but also provokes a loss of whatever has been planted. I submit to your superior consideration, President, for a resolution [of the problem]." See Telegram from Taboada to President Camacho, June 16, 1943, AGN, RG Avila Camacho, 561.3/11-2.

    [77] Telegram from Governor Rodolfo Taboada to President Avila Camacho, November 17, 1943, AGN, RG Avila Camacho, 561.3/11-2.

    [78] Despite the Cardenas revolution that expropriated hundreds of thousands of hectares in Mexicali valley, land was useless without the water to irrigate it. As mentioned above, control of the water works remained in U.S. hands (the Imperial Irrigation District's subsidiary company, La Compania de Terrenos y Aguas). Governor Taboada recognized that this was meant that "the farmers of Mexicali Valley are users of the irrigation system of the Imperial Valley." Governor Taboada to J. Jesus Gallo, July 11, 1944, AGN, RG Camacho, 561.3/11-2.

    [79] Ibid.

    [80] On July 4, 1944, Governor Taboada informed President Camacho that the releases from Boulder and Parker Dam had been decreased considerably. The Mexicans were again prohibited from building a temporary dam below Alamo Canal. See RG Avila Camacho, 561.3/11-2 for this and numerous other telegrams petitioning the President for help and describing the conditions in Mexicali Valley.

    By 1945, strains in the water supply were becoming more evident. Armando Fierro Encinas, President of the Community Agrarian League of Mexicali explained with great detail the travails of ejidatarios in Mexicali Valley. He observed "Mexicali Valley confronts a grave situation because of a lack of water in the canals of the Colorado River Irrigation District. Due to the low volume, we cannot plant crops in the normal pattern of other years. We have sufficient water to irrigate only 1,800 to 2,000 parcels, leaving 1,000 to 1,200 others without any [water]." Encinas noted that because they were not able to plant crops, they would probably not receive additional credit. See Telegram from Armando Fierro Encinas to President Avila Camacho, May 4, 1945, AGN, RG Camacho, 561.3/11-2.

    [81] For a monograph length treatment of the Mexican Water Treaty see Norris Hundley's excellent book, Dividing the Waters (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966).

    [82] During Senate Hearings on the Mexican Water Treaty Arizona State Attorney Charles Carson stated, "Criticism has . . .been made of this treaty because it is a permanent treaty. This is the only kind of a treaty that we would agree to for Arizona. It must be permanent. We must know that there will not in the future be an increase in Mexico's claim. Our engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation are now making surveys and investigations in Arizona for the utilization of Arizona's share of this water, and it is very important to us to know the extent of Mexican requirements in order that we may plan sound projects and run no risk of overexpansion, later to be reduced by the Mexican demands. That is one of the reasons that Arizona is taking the position she is here.(emphasis mine)" See Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Hearings Before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, 79th Congress, 1st Session, 271.

    [83] Adolfo Orive Alba, "Address of Engineer Adolfo Orive Alba, Secretary of Hydraulic Resources upon the Inauguration of the 'Morelos Dam,' September 23,1950," RG Governor's Office, Box 45, ADLAPR, Archives Division.

    [84] Ibid.

    [85] M. Perez Espinoza, "Estudio Agrologico Preliminar del Distrito de Riego del Rio Colorado," Ingeneria Hidraulica en Mexico, October-November-December 1958, 89.

    [86] Federico Ibarra Munoz, "Rehabilitacion del Distrito de Riego No. 14 Rio Colorado, B.C.," publisher unknown, n.d., 9, Archivo Historico del Agua (AHA), Mexico D.F., Mexico.

    [87] Minutes from 20 April 1955 Meeting between General Government Secretary and Mexicali Interest Groups, AGN, RG Cortines, 404.2/296.

    [88] Letter from Mexicali and San Luis Valley representatives to President Adolofo Ruiz Cortines, April 22, 1955, AGN, RG Lopez Mateos, 404.1/502, 6.

    [89] Angel Pacheco of the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Campesinos complained: "In Mexicali Valley, since the recuperation of land carried our by ex-President Lazaro Cardenas, a great economic boom has taken placed upon the triumph of the agrarian movement; but in recent years, some of the campesinos that work the land under the ejidal system have been obligated to abandon their parcels; others give them away or leave them behind because of their poor quality and as an essential element, because the water that they [should] receive from our neighboring country, is being criminally monopolized by large landowners that take advantage of their economic and political position, leaving our campesinos without the precious liquid so that they can plant their parcels that are the only patrimony for the subsistence of their families and homes." Pacheco urged that according to the water laws of the Colorado River Irrigation District, that campesinos and landholders with twenty hectares or less should be watered prior to large private property owners. See Letter from Angel Pacheco to Adolfo Ruiz Cortines, October 4, 1956, RG Ruiz Cortines, 404.2/296.

    [90] Lenora Werley, "U.S. Takes Sudden Interest in Mexicali Water," The Arizona Daily Star, Sunday, December 17, 1961. Carl Hayden Collection, MS 1, Box 253, Folder 8.

    [91] Ibid., Translated this phrase reads, "Arizona ñ You have the word."

    [92] Ibid.

    [93] Carl Hayden, "Remarks by Senator Carl Hayden, April 26, 1962, concerning complaints by Mexico on quality of Colorado River Water," Carl Hayden Collection, MS 1, Box 293, Folder 4, page 1.

    [94] Telegram from Carl Hayden to Dean Rusk, December 20, 1961, Carl Hayden Collection, MS 1.

    [95] Ibid.

    [96] Ibid.

    [97] "Problema de la salinidad creado por La Calidad de las Aguas, Que Estados Unidos Entrega a Mexico Conforme al Tratado de 1944," Archivo Historico del Agua, Record Group Consultativo Tecnico, 13/61, 10.

    [98] Ibid., 15.

    [99] Memo from W. S. Gookin, December 7, 1963, Carl Hayden Collection, MSS 1, Box 708, Folder 6.

    [100] Confidential Memo, Carl Hayden Collection, MS 1, Box 333, Folder 18.

    [101] In 1965, the United States agreed to the conditions of Minute 218, an arrangement drawn up between the United States and Mexico to resolve the salinity crisis. According to the agreement, the United States agreed to construct a thirteen-mile drainage bypass to carry run-off water to a location below Morelos Dam. An alternative solution would have required the United States to install tile drains to improve the recovery of saline waters from Wellton-Mohawk Valley fields. Mexican officials opted for the bypass because it allowed them to either accept or reject water from the affected valley. For a Mexican perspective on the salinity crisis, including Minute 218, see Luis Cabrera, La salinidad del Rio Colorado: una diferencia internacional (Mexico City: Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores, 1975).

    [102] William Bowdler, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, observed, "Whenever an issue arose in our relations with Mexico, whenever opportunities appeared for cooperation between the two governments . . . the salinity problem invariably confronted our spokesmen." See Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Water and Power Resources of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, House of Representatives, 93rd Congress, 2nd Session, HR 12165 and Related Bills, (Washington: GPO, 1974), 95.

    [103] In A River No More, Phillip Fradkin notes, "It was Echeverria's task, as one writer commented, to ërestore the revolutionary mask," which had slipped badly in recent years . . . The trick is to avoid inciting a new revolution by using the political rhetoric that recalls the past one. What Echeverria had to do was bring the ruling [PRI] . . . closer to the center from where it had strayed to the right (305)."

    [104] Ibid., 308.

    [105] Fradkin observes that "While subject to ëreal domestic pressures," the Mexican President ëhad consciously agitated the problem and lent official support to exaggerated claims apparently in an effort to arouse the country and make it a national issue . . ., according to a confidential Department of State memorandum sent to Kissinger from the White House" (307-308).

    [106] Metz, 281-283.

    [107] Fradkin, 315.

    [108] For an in-depth discussion of groundwater conflicts and issues along the border region, see Stephen P. Mumme, Apportioning Groundwater Beneath the U.S.-Mexico Border: Obstacles and Alternatives, Research Report Series, 45, (San Diego: Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, University of California, San Diego, 1988).

    [109] Edward P. Glenn, Richard S. Felger, Alberto Burquez, Dale S. Turner, "Cienega de Santa Clara: Endangered Wetland in the Colorado River Delta, Sonora, Mexico," Natural Resources Journal, Fall 1992, volume 32, 817-824; Glenn, Christopher Lee, Felger, and Zengel, "Effects of Water Management on the Wetlands of the Colorado River Delta, Mexico," Conservation Biology, volume 10, number 4, August, 1996, 1175-1185.

    [110] See Stanley Holmes, "When Jobs Go South -- Mounting Pressure to Cut Costs has Caused Boeing to Send Assembly Work to Mexico and Overseas," The Seattle Times, November 12, 1995, A1.

    [111] Paul Ganster, "Environmental Issues of the California-Baja California Border Region," Border Environment Research Reports, Number 1, June 1996, Southwest Center for Environmental Research and Policy, www civil utah edu/scerp/docs/ berr1.html, October 15, 1998; "U.S. Mexico Border XXI, Frontera XXI," Environmental Protection Agency, Region 8, Dallas, TX, http://www.134.67.55. 16:7777/R9/MexUSAÖa387d882563e1005dedaa?OpenDocument, November 6, 1998; Yuma County and Imperial County statistics from U.S. Bureau of the Census, USA Counties, 1996, CD-ROM.

    [112] Antonio Gonzales de Leon, "Factores de tension internacional en la frontera," in Gonzalez Salazar, editor, 15.

    [113] Michael Riley, "Dead Cats, Toxins, and Typhoid: Clean-up Time for the New River, an International Irritant," Time, April 20, 1987, 68.

    [114] Ibid.

    [115] Ted Pauw, "New Pollution in Mexico (NEW)," American University Case Study No. 142, http://www.sci.sdsu.edu/salton/NEW_RIVER.htm, October 15, 1998.

    [116] Steve LaRue, "Taking the Initiative: The New River Cleanup," The San Diego Union-Tribune, December 26, 1992, A-1.

    [117] Larry B. Stammer, "Pipe Break Sends Raw Sewage Into Salton Sea," Los Angeles Times, April 19, 1985, Part 1, 3.

    [118] See David DeVoss, "How the Bugs Finally Won; For 22 Years, The Cotton Farmers of the Imperial Valley Waged Chemical Warfare Against 'Pinkie.' This Summer They Were Forced to Find Another Way," Los Angeles Times, September 20, 1987, Magazine, 18; S. Lynne Walker, "The Little Fly' of Ill Fortune; Economic Distress Comes to Imperial Valley on Wings of a Tiny, Voracious Pest," The San Diego Union-Tribune, December 22, 1991, I-1; S. Lynne Walker, "Hope a Dying Crop in Imperial Valley," San Diego Union-Tribune, July 27, 1986, A-1; Patrick J. McDonnell, "Farmers Feel the Sting of Whitefly," Los Angeles Times, November 29, 1991, A-1.

    [119] Robert H. Boyle, "Life -- or death -- for the Salton Sea? Large Polluted California Lake has Increasing Salinity and Pollution," Smithsonian, June 1996, volume 27, number 3, 86.

    [120] United States Bureau of Reclamation, "The Source, Transport, and Fate of Selenium and other Contaminants in Hydrological and Biological Cycles of the Salton Sea Area," USBR Salton Sea Study, February 1998, http://www.lc.usbr.gov/~scao/index.html, October 15, 1998.

    [121] Frank Graham Jr., "Midnight at the Oasis," Audubon, May 1998, volume 100, number 3, 82-89.

    [122] Saving the Salton Sea: A Research Needs Assessment, Appendix B, "Deterioration of the Salton Sea: (Ten Year Chronology of Events and Actions Taken)," http://www.sci.sdsu. edu/salton/deterioration_salton_sea.htm, October 15, 1998.

    [123] Steve LaRue, "In But Not Out," The San Diego Union-Tribune, July 1, 1998, E-1.

    [124] United States Bureau of Reclamation, Salton Sea: Challenges and Opportunities, Chapter 2, "Problem Definition," http://www.1c.usbr.gov/~g2000, October 15, 1998, 12-13.

    [125] Boyle.

    [126] Tony Perry, "After 50 Years, New Hope for Detoxifying New River; Pollution: It Brings a Poisonous Stew from Mexico Into the U.S. Now Both Nations are Taking Clean-Up Seriously," Los Angeles Times, November 4, 1995, Saturday, Home Edition, Part A, Page 1.

    [127] Diane Lundquist and Steve LaRue, "U.S. and Mexico Working to Clean Polluted Waterway," Copley News Service, May 5, 1997, Monday, 00:28 Eastern Time, Lexis-Nexus Academic Universe Database; Anonymous, "NAFTA Increases Chances to Clean Up Polluted New River," Journal of Environmental Health, volume 56, number 7, March 1994, Lexis Nexus Academic Universe Database; Steve LaRue and Erik Bratt, "Two Nations Agree to Cleanup of New River," San Diego Union-Tribune, December 1, 1992, A-1.; Tony Perry, "After 50 Years, New Hope for Detoxifying New River," Los Angeles Times, November 4, 1995, A-1.

    [128] The following represent just a few of the discussions related to restoration of the Salton Sea. Patrick LeClair, "Can There Be a Sustainable Salton Sea?," darwin bio uci edu/~sustain/state/pleclair html; Frank Graham Jr., "Lake Bono?" Audubon, May 1998, volume 100, number 3, 86; Stuart H. Hurlbert, "Salton Sea is Alive and Kicking -- Save It," www sci sdsu edu/salton/SaltonSeaAlive%26Kicking html. 15 October 1998; Ivan P. Colburn, "Salton Sea is Dead-- Keep it That Way," www sci sdsu edu/salton/ColburnEditorialSS%20is%20Dead html, October 15, 1998.

    [129] Laurence Iliff and Alfredo Corchado, "Boom Times: Towns Such as Mexicali May Offer Glimpse of Mexico's future," The Dallas Morning News, July 5, 1998, J-1; Diane Lindquist, "Bordering on Success; Burgeoning Maquiladoras Reshape Baja Economy," The San Diego Union-Tribune, June 28, 1998, A-1.

    [130] Defenders of Wildlife, "Salton Sea Position Statement: 'The Ecological Realities of the Salton Sea,'" August 1998, http://www sci sdsu edu/salton/DOWPositionSaltonSea.html, October 15, 1998.

    [131] Paul Ganster, "Environmental Issues of the California-Baja California Border Region," Border Environment Research Reports, Number 1, June 1996), http://www civil utah edu/scerp/docs/berr1 html, October 15, 1998, emphasis added.

    [132] Marco Antonio Alcazar Avila, "El papel del agua como frontera entre Mexico y los Estados Unidos de Norteamerica," in Ingenieria Hidraulica en Mexico, January-April 1989, 19-29.

    [133] John Gavin as quoted in Patricia Nelson Limerick, Legacy of Conquest, (New York: W. W. Norton, 1987), 346.


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