This introductory chapter provides a history of the U.S.–Mexico border. Long before the border existed as a physical or legal reality it began to take form in the minds of Mexicans and Americans who looked to maps of North America to think about what their republics were and what they might someday become. Their competing territorial visions brought the United States and Mexico to war in 1846. Less than two years later, the border emerged from the crucible of that war. With U.S. soldiers occupying the Mexican capital, a group of Mexican and American diplomats redrew the map of North America. In the east, they chose the Rio Grande, settling a decade-old debate about Texas's southern border and dividing the communities that had long lived along the river. In the west, they did something different; they drew a line across a map and conjured up an entirely new space where there had not been one before.
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