Impacto, Influencia, Cambio
Science, Technology & Invention in Latin America and the Southwestern
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Science, Technology & Invention in the Rio Grande
In its almost 2,000-mile journey, it is known by different names: El Río Grande del Norte, Río Bravo, the Wild River, Río de las Palmas, Po’soge, the Rio Grand. Many diverse groups of people live in the Río Grande/Río Bravo Basin, each with its own personal and collective experiences.The Río Grande/Río Bravo Basin spans different geographical and cultural regions. From the river’s headwaters in Colorado to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico, its basin is a complex cultural, ecological, and political landscape. It extends through mountains, deserts, plains, and subtropics in the states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas in the United States and the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas in Mexico. Like the semi-desert lands it flows through, the Río Grande/Río Bravo is itself a natural wonder whose power and beauty we appreciate more as we get to know it.

In 1598, Spanish explorers migrated from Zacatecas through the Chihuahuan Desert with Juan de Oñate and founded the first permanent Spanish settlement. They traveled with mestizos (people of mixed European and Native American ancestry), Native Americans from present-day central Mexico, and Africans. Like the Pueblo communities they encountered, they built their settlements close to the Río Grande/Río Bravo. Oñate’s route, known as the Camino Real (the Royal Road), contributed to the development of cities such as Chihuahua, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe.

On the Mexico-Texas border, the river is a boundary marker between countries and a resource shared by communities who have thrived together for 150 years. Twin cities initially settled in the colonial Spanish and Mexican eras as military outposts or ranching settlements — Nuevo Laredo and Laredo, Matamoros and Brownsville, Ciudad Miguel Alemán and Roma, Piedras Negras and Eagle Pass, and Ciudad Juárez and El Paso — have become international commercial gateways.

Basin residents continue to depend on the river. Although often a setting for romantic western novels and films, the Río Grande/Río Bravo Basin is home to people whose history and experiences usually bear little resemblance to those in the books and movies. As a frontier, the region attracted colonizers, adventurers, and war refugees, and today it attracts new settlers and tourists. Today’s basin communities are challenged to manage their limited water and land resources in a way that respects a culturally diverse population.

This program explores how local cultures contribute to a sustainable river-basin environment. It invites you to ask: What kinds of communities are found in the region today? Can their traditional knowledge be a resource in managing the environment? Can local culture provide a foundation for sustainable development projects?

- Enrique Lamadrid
University of New Mexico

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