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The Joseph Family Collection - Trips to Juarez and Red Bluff Reservoir (1971)

Joe Joseph

Silent | 1971

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  •  Visiting the El Chamizal Monument in Juarez, Mexico 
  •  Water sports at the Red Bluff Reservoir 
  •  Slipping and sliding 
  •  Neighborhood Fourth of July celebration 
  •  Back at Red Bluff 
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This home movie from 1971 captures the Joseph family of El Paso on trips to Juarez, Mexico and Red Bluff Reservoir in West Texas. In Juarez, the family visits a monument in a part of the city known as El Chamizal. The area separating El Paso from Juarez was the subject of a long-standing border dispute between the United States and Mexico, caused by shifts in the Rio Grande. The conflict was finally resolved in 1963, with the two countries signing a treaty to split the territory and construct a man-made channel across the river to prevent further movements. In 1974, the Chamizal National Memorial was established, featuring a park, art galleries, theater, amphitheater, and museum. Also included in the footage is a family trip to Red Bluff Reservoir. Located north of Pecos, Texas and spanning counties in both Texas and New Mexico, the area is a popular site for outdoor recreational activities like fishing and swimming. The Joseph family enjoys their stay by water skiing on the lake.

The Chamizal Dispute, a border disagreement over 600 acres of land between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, was a source of tension in U.S. – Mexico relations for over fifty years. 

At the close of the 19th century, the course of the Rio Grande River (or the Río Bravo del Norte) had shifted on many occasions, as a result of flooding and other events. According to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) and the Treaty of 1884, the border between the United States and Mexico was to remain down the middle of the river, regardless of alterations in course, as long as the movements were the result of gradual natural changes. A stretch of 600 acres, known as El Chamizal, was now claimed by both nations; settlers had incorporated the land into El Paso proper, while Mexican citizen Pedro I. García held title. 

In 1910, the International Boundary Commission (later the International Boundary and Water Commission), consisting of delegates from Mexico, the U.S., and Canada, set out to settle the matter. Ultimately the tribunal's 1911 proposal split the territory between the two nations, but the U.S. rejected it on grounds that it did not conform to the terms of the arbitration. 

In the ensuing years, several U.S. presidents sought resolution to the dispute, which remained a contentious issue for both countries. U.S. Senator Tom Connally was known to frequently declare, "Not one inch of Texas for Mexico!" In 1963, President John F. Kennedy elected to settle the matter largely on the terms of the 1911 proposal, which Mexico accepted, and payment and land appropriation began. The American–Mexican Chamizal Convention Act of 1964 legally settled the dispute, and festivities were held on the border with President Lyndon B. Johnson and Mexican President Adolfo López Mateos in attendance. In 1967, after a man-made channel was built to prevent the Rio Grande's course from bringing the border into question again, President Lyndon Baines Johnson and President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz met on the border to officially announce and celebrate the end of the dispute after more than five decades.