The Borderlands Archive is an active collection of research, mappings and contributed artifacts from the U.S.- Mexico borderlands that symbolize connection across territorial divide. Collected objects and information represent physical, social, political and environmental connections that form a counter-narrative, or collective public record about a contested space between two countries. 

Unrefined Copper Nugget , 2018
Unrefined Copper Nugget, Bisbee AZ, 2019
Location: N. 32.522499, W. -117.046623
Item Number: BLA 070119-01
Description / Material: copper nugget, untreated, raw
Date Collected: 01-07-2019
Contributed by: Anonymous


What cross-border connections does this artifact represent?

This piece of Copper comes from Bisbee AZ where there is a long history of cross-border ties that Transend almost every political, social and natural border in the region. In 1881, the same year that Southern Pacific Rail completed its transcontinental route, Phelps Dodge company purchased 2 mines at Bisbee, AZ. The firm turned Bisbee into an industrial town overnight. As their empire moved south into Douglas, AZ and further into Mexico, extending from Nacozari, Sonora where Phelps reopened the areas colonial Spanish Silver mines for their rich copper deposits. This was one of the areas along the southern border where crossborder connections were solidified early on and supported by an exchange of economic investment.

Canena, Sonora , 2018
Article Linked Here

One of the largest open-pit copper mines in the world, the Cananea mine produced over 164,000 tonnes of copper in 2006. The mine is located approximately 40 kilometers south of the border between Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. The active, 2-kilometer-diameter Colorada Pit (image top right) is recognizable in this astronaut photograph by the concentric steps, or benches, cut around its perimeter (see larger image). These benches allow for access into the pit for extraction of ore and waste materials.

Water (black) fills the bottom of the pit and several other basins in the surrounding area. The city of Cananea, marked by its street grid, is northeast of the mine workings. A leachate reservoir for removal and evaporation of water pumped from the mine workings is located to the east of the mine (image lower left). The bluish-white color of deposits near the reservoir suggests the high mineral content of the leachate.

From the US Library of Congress:

DISTANT NEIGHBORS:  The U.S. and the Mexican Revolution
Strike at the Cananea Copper Mine, June 1-3, 1906

Although this northwest corner of Sonora had had small-scale mining operations since the 18th century, it wasn’t until 1896 that the U.S. entrepreneur William Greene made the Cananea copper mine into one of the largest in Mexico.  Greene also owned land, cattle, lumber, and railroad interests, which dominated the economy of that area thanks to favors from both state and national governments. By 1906, the mine boasted 5,400 Mexican workers, many of whom were sympathetic to the opposition Mexican Liberal Party.  Employees from the United States, alarmed by the labor action, incited widespread violence and brought in Mexican troops and “volunteers” from neighboring Arizona to quell the disturbance. The use of U.S. troops launched an inquiry into foreign control of natural resources and strike leaders Manuel Dieguez and Esteban Baca Calderón went on to become important revolutionary leaders.

Mining fuels economies on both sides of the border by
Arizona’s Mining Industry is a modern example of  thriving cross-border economic connections linked to the inherent environmental connection between Arizona and Sonora.

Article Linked Here  

Sam Truett’s book: Fugitive Landscapes: A Forgotten History of the Borderlands illustrates the historic relationship between Arizona and Sonoran copper mines.

Fugitive Landscapes by Samuel Truett
Sam Truett’s book: Fugitive Landscapes: A Forgotten History of the Borderlands illustrates the historic relationship between Arizona and Sonoran copper mines, as directed by US Capitalists.


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