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the September 2001 issue of World Press Review (VOL.
48, No. 9).
Mexico's Southern Border: a Virtual Line
Proceso, Mexico City, Mexico, June 26, 2001.
The border that divides Mexico from Guatemala
is merely a virtual line, although there are demarcations
such as stone markers, mountains, fences, rivers, and streams.
It marks a separation between two nations that share the same
language, customs, and physical traits, but also misery and
From the time the state of Chiapas declared its independence
from Central America and later was annexed to the Mexican
federation on Sept. 14, 1825, the border has never been completely
defined. Many years later, some people living in isolated
enclaves in the mountainous areas on either side of the border,
where governmental institutions including the civil registry
do not exist, still did not know what citizenship they had.
Family ties link one community to another along the southern
border. In the wake of the violence that rocked Guatemala
from 1966 to 1996, thousands of refugees arrived in Mexican
In some communities in the Marqués de Comillas area,
local people still recall when they used to hear exchanges
of gunfire between [Guatemalan] guerrillas and the Guatemalan
army. These confrontations, on more than one occasion, took
place in Mexican territory. The military forces would flee
into Mexico to get supplies and regroup, and in the 1980s
the kaibiles, a Guatemalan military elite force, even had
Four Mexican states are on the southern borderChiapas,
Tabasco, Campeche, and Quintana Rooand more than 20
municipalities in all, with more than 1.5 million inhabitants.
Indigenous communities predominate in this area.
By tradition, thousands of Guatemalans at first, and now Salvadorans,
Hondurans, and Nicaraguans, emigrate to work on the farms
and ranches [of Mexico] to harvest coffee or bananas. These
stays are temporary.
Mexico, particularly the southern part of the country, shares
a history with the Central American peoples, and despite their
specific differences, forms a cultural continuum with the
rest of Latin America.