Visualizing the U.S.-Mexico Border – The Intercept
For all the talk of “securing the border” and “building a wall,” there is surprisingly little visual material that conveys just how vast this stretch of space is.
In total, the U.S.-Mexico border spans 1,954 miles. According to Google Maps, it would take 34 hours to drive its entire length. In places, there already is a border fence — more than 650 miles of it. Pushed and pulled by various forces, some 1 million people are estimated to pass through the official ports of entry every day.
But what does the geography of this landscape look like? Is it industrial? Desolate? Populated? All of the above?
Using the geographic coordinates of the international boundary line, in addition to location data for the existing border fence (which has been mapped by journalists at NPR and the Center for Investigative Reporting), I wrote a small computer script to download satellite imagery for the entire border.
I ended up with about 200,000 images.
Using a command-line tool called ffmpeg, I programmatically stitched the images together, and then worked with Laura Poitras and her team at Field of Vision to edit them into a short film. Jace Clayton, the artist and author known as DJ /rupture, developed an original score for the piece.
Rivers of Data
Borders begin as fictions. They are performed. They are lines drawn in the sand, spaces that bend and break and make exceptions for certain kinds of bodies.
But borders are made real by the policies built around them. The fact that borders are performed does not make them any less real. The border is quite literally what gives the nation its shape.