Mojados Moving Against the Current

This part of our presentation explores the current of the North American Rio Grande as water flowing down river as well as a stream of processes that occur as the river is embedded in human culture. Paul Horgan’s Pulitzer Prize winning history of the Rio Grande documented centuries of Native American, Spanish, Mexican and Anglo-American people living alongside the river and entering into conflict over water resources and territory. The same year that Great River appeared, in 1954, the U.S. government launched “Operation Wetback” to deport Mexican who had entered the country illegally, but in practice targeted all Mexicans. Mexicans who crossed the Rio Grande in the early 20th century were described as wetbacks—a pejorative term that gained currency as an accusation towards Mexicans residing in the U.S. This talk considers how these and other currents help shape and are shaped by the Rio Grande.