Arguably among the most notorious border zones in the world, the Mexico-United States border is continuously a site for national and international controversy: from the threat of a militarized fence to the ongoing drug trafficking to the recent immigration wave of Central American children. Yet it is also a productive ground for artists and academics exploring issues related to the United States and Mexico as well as those unique to this area.
Caustic Soda, Shane Roeschlein’s and Daniel Crosier’s in-progress graphic novel, sets these issues “five minutes in the future.” Unlike the famous futuristic border tale Sleep Dealer, Caustic Soda pictures the border dissolving as regional conflict escalates into full-fledged war. But, like Alex Rivera’s film, Caustic Soda paints its dystopian future with the familiar tropes of the present: a postnational conflict between a private paramilitary security corporation and a rising narco insurgency; the threat of a Snowden-like whistleblower exposing illegal surveillance and spying programs; a league of sicarios with close ties to a music band that disposes of their victims in sodium hydroxide.
Adopting the maxim that future is already here, the graphic novel renders this forecast in stark browns and oranges. Its palette thus not only symbolizes the arid landscape of the region but also upends the classic deep-blue hues of futuristic dystopias to suggest that even the future won't bring solace from the unforgiving desert sun. In Roeschlein’s and Crosier’s novel, the border becomes the locus for a set of contemporary anxieties — surveillance, corporate militarization, cartel violence — taken to their extreme conclusion. Caustic Soda therefore demands an examination of the border's complex, often contradictory formations today, lest they unravel in the near future.
The posts in this week similarly approach the border region’s multifacetedness, treating it not only as a site of connection between two countries but also a space unto itself, a land with distinct cultures, logics, and idiosyncrasies. Dystopian futures notwithstanding, the border already offers multiple insights into the state of the Americas.