Fruit of the Line

An upcoming two-part PBS omnibus of six documentary shorts has a special and ongoing relevance to this area, which is made clear by its title: The Border. The goal of the show, hosted by 20/20's John Quinones, is to get away from the hysteria and distortion that surround much of the popular-media discourse on the subject of the U.S./Mexico border and explore some of the genuine economic issues faced by the region.

The first half of the program airs from 10 to 11 p.m. Thursday, September 23, on KAET-TV Channel 8, with the second half following on Friday, September 24. Here's a quick run-down of the segments:

"Factory of Dreams": Paul Espinosa of San Diego's Espinosa Productions made this intriguing chronicle about the impact of the studio built by Twentieth Century Fox, specifically for the making of Titanic, in a tiny Baja fishing village near Rosarita, Mexico. The unsurprising point is that while the production employed many Mexicans, most were engaged as extras or for fairly low-level crew positions.

"Unfinished Business": This segment from Galan Productions of Austin, Texas, examines the legal struggle of the descendants of Spanish colonists in what is now south Texas, who believe that the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo entitles them to compensation for land in the Rio Grande Valley that was once part of Mexico.

"Not a Drop to Drink": Produced by Matthew Sneddon of KNME-TV in Albuquerque, this segment examines the population boom in the city of Juárez, due to the establishment of maquiladoras -- low-wage assembly plants, most owned by U.S. firms -- and the resulting water shortage.

"Winter Texans": Another film from Galan Productions, this segment also concerns the Rio Grande Valley. It contrasts the economic impact of tourists who winter in the region with that of the migrant farm workers who return to the area after the harvest.

"A People Divided": Produced by Hector Gonzalez of KUAT-TV in Tucson, this is a look at the Tohono O'odham Reservation, which was divided between Arizona and Mexico by 1854's Gadsden Purchase, a division that has resulted in travel restrictions for the inhabitants by the U.S. Border Patrol.

"Culture Clash in Bordertown": Espinosa Productions made this chronicle of a theater production called Bordertown, which was commissioned by San Diego Repertory Theatre and is written and performed by the vaudeville-style Latino comedy troupe known as Culture Clash.