What would a binational course teach our students? – Voice of San Diego
Environment, energy, tourism, commerce, migration, crime – powerful forces unite Tijuana and San Diego. Yet students who grow up on both sides do not study these connections.
What if high schools in Tijuana and San Diego taught the same regional history course and made it a requirement for graduation? The courses would be taught in different languages, in two countries, but with the same books and the same set of facts.
Such a class may seem like a reach. Tijuana high schools teach Mexican history and world history as part of a curriculum established by the federal government of Mexico. San Diego high school students learn U.S. and world history at meet graduation requirements set by the California Department of Education. But neither side requires a regional history course.
Let’s dream of things that never existed and ask why not, to paraphrase playwright George Bernard Shaw. Educators in Tijuana and San Diego have already shown their willingness to work on common projects – as a program to train bilingual teachers in Baja California.
What would a regional history course teach? To answer this question, I turned to two border historians – Marco Antonio Samaniego, professor at the Autonomous University of Baja California with expertise in water issues, and Paul Ganster, Professor Emeritus at San Diego State University which focused on the cross-border environment.
What follows is a digest of our conversations, edited for brevity and clarity.
Chapter One: A Region Created by External Resources
The border region that exists today was created by infrastructure, says Samaniego. He points out in particular the Hoover Dam, a huge US water project on the Arizona-Nevada border that, since the 1930s, has controlled the flow of water from the Colorado River to the Lower Basin.
âMy thesis is simple: the border is an infrastructureâ¦ For me, the most important piece of infrastructure that explains the history of Baja California is called the Hoover Dam. He reduced the flow (of the river), reduced the amount of water that came to Mexico, and opened up land for agriculture. The reason Los Angeles and San Diego grew up is [the] Hoover Dam.“
Tijuana also grew thanks to imports of water from the Colorado River. But it wasn’t just the imported water that enabled growth on both sides, Samaniego says. “We live in a region that does not produce its own products. You have to bring it from outside. If you go out to eat in Tijuana, wherever the oven is on, they use gas from the United States.
Chapter 2: From tourism to science: the strength of cross-border connections
Ganster says tourism has been one of the strongest links: âThe growth of tourism in San Diego in the early twentieth century had a strong connection with Tijuana, where tourists first descended to visit the curiosity shops. and various entertainment such as bullfights and horse races. And then during Prohibition to take advantage of the boom in cabarets, bars, casinos and restaurants.
The relationship remains fundamental, says Samaniego. “Many residents of San Diegan do not travel to Tijuana, but several thousand do. There are over 100,000 north americans (US citizens) living on the coast, many retired, and receiving medical services in Mexico.
Meanwhile, San Diego’s population has grown more and more Latino. âThe Mexican connection is very, very obvious,â Ganster says. âIt is therefore useful for the pupils to understand the links on both sides of the border and with the border. “
There are also lesser-known links, such as San Diego’s contribution to the development of the Baja California scientific community. Samaniego spoke to students about the role of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego in creating the Ensenada-based School of Marine Sciences from the Autonomous University of Baja California.
Chapter Three: Migration and Violence
For decades, migration – both voluntary and involuntary – has had a profound effect on both sides. Ganster would start by examining the depression of the 1930s and its effects on both Tijuana and San Diego: âThere was a significant deportation of Mexicans from California based on the theory that foreigners were in jobs that should be held by Americans, even though some of the deportees were US citizens. “
But before long, there was a northward flow of labor, Ganster says. âDuring World War II, the growth of military manufacturing in San Diego produced a significant demand for labor locallyâ¦ then the post-war boom in Southern California and growing demand. of labor, which encouraged migration to Tijuana. â
But how do you explain the continuous flow of undocumented immigrants across the US-Mexico border?
âThe explanation is that there is an economy that needs labor and there are other economies that don’t work,â says Samaniego. “I would tell them poverty means there are workers crossing illegally so you can pay a low price for tomatoes, oranges, onions, cucumbers.”
The program should deal with difficult but unavoidable topics. The flow of drugs north, the flow of money and weapons south, and drug-related violence continues on the Baja California border. What should high school students learn?
Ganster: âYou have to handle this sensitively. You could show how drug trafficking affects high school students on both sides of the border. You could talk about drug trafficking, arms trafficking and violence, and the symbiotic relationship.
Samaniego: âHere in Tijuana we have some of the highest homicide rates in the world. Why? Because we are by nature assassins? No, because that’s where the drugs get on their way to the United States. I used to say to the students in San Diego, âTell your friends not to use drugs. If you don’t use drugs on your side, we won’t have deaths on our side â.