MULTIMEDIA FEATURE: Tamez no longer afraid

May 6, 2008 at 1:09 pm Leave a comment

Tamez walks down the levee.

Fighting to keep hold of a family property older than the United States

Story: A.J. Miranda
Photos: Andrew Rogers
Video: A.J. Miranda
Volume II, Issue 3 (Crossing Borders)

EL CALABOZ, TX — You don’t have to ask Eloisa Tamez twice what she thinks about the wall. In fact, you don’t even have to ask her once. She’ll tell you.

“It’s an abomination,” says Tamez, a 73-year-old administrator with the University of Texas at Brownsville. “I don’t think it’s something to be proud of, and certainly America should not be proud of it.”

Her passion for the subject became personal last year. Tamez is one of about 400 property owners in the Brownsville area whose land has been appropriated for construction of the wall. Her family has owned the property since 1767—when the U.S. was a British colony—as a result of a Spanish land grant.

Now, history is repeating for Tamez, who witnessed the property undergo similar government takeover in the 1930s when more than half of the property was seized without compensation for constructing flood levees.

Tamez has resisted, and has fought court battles as a result. Last month, Tamez was ordered to allow government surveyors onto her property. But family history aside, the issue is about more than land for Tamez.

“I’m just one person, and obviously I’m not doing a very good job of stopping the wall,” she says. “The purpose of the litigation was to force the government to follow the law, because they were not following it.”

Tamez speaks out against the wall. Tamez opens the fence surrounding her property.

She takes issue with the assertion that a large border wall is necessary to protect against terrorism, calling it “that fear factor.” Referring to the 9/11 attacks, Tamez says, “We here in the Valley know that the terrorists didn’t come through the southern border.” They came legally, with passports, she says.

And though she agrees that drug smuggling is a problem, Tamez does not foresee a fence on her property stopping or even slowing the drug trade.

“My giving up my one little acre is not going to stop something that governments haven’t been able to stop for decades,” she says. “They’ve been working on this and they don’t seem to agree.”

The first thing one might notice while glancing at the property is that multiple fences, locked with chains, surround it. But Tamez quickly dismisses any questions about conflicting views when asked how she can so fervently fight a government fence when similar barriers protect her property.

“This is a fence,” she says, glancing at the humble chest-high structure. She points toward the levee and says, “That’s going to be a wall; that’s the difference.”

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Entry filed under: Crossing Borders 2008. Tags: , , , , , .

PHOTO ESSAY: A story from the other side MULTIMEDIA FEATURE: Wall threatens Zavaleta’s campus

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