(MEXICO CITY) - A new era of discovery and collaboration between the U.S. and Mexico began today with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Center for Big Bend Studies of Sul Ross State University (SRSU) and the Instituto Na-cional de Antropología e Historia (INAH), the federal agency that oversees and investigates all anthropological and historical sites in Mexico.
The agreement will initially focus on several U.S.-Mexico frontier projects, with an emphasis on those along the Texas-Coahuila and Texas-Chihuahua border. The first two projects that will take place under the MOU will focus on two historic cave sites—Mexican Lion and Spirit Eye. The former is in Coahuila directly on the Rio Grande/Río Bravo, adjacent to the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River administered by Big Bend National Park; the latter is on a private ranch on the Texas side of the river in the Big Bend area.
Other proposed projects by INAH and CBBS will include:
Repatriation of more than 500 artifacts smuggled out of Coahuila, Mexico, through Big Bend National Park;
Initiating a comprehensive investigation and registry of Native and Spanish colonial sites on both sides of the Rio Grande/Río Bravo in the Far West Texas-northern Mexico area; and
Investigations and excavations in La Junta de los Rios archaeological district near Presidio, Texas, and Ojinaga, Chihuahua.
“The Center for Big Bend Studies has long been involved in significant research along the border,” Dr. Brian McCall, Texas State University System chancellor, said. “Through this agreement, the Center will be able to expand these efforts while working hand in hand with researchers in Mexico, providing new opportunities for archaeologists, historians and the general public on both sides of the river.”
“INAH is now very interested in the study of the north of Mexico and the Southwest of the United States,” stated Diego Prieto Hernandez, Director General of INAH. “The study of our shared borderlands is of enormous importance within the Agreement we just signed with Sul Ross University of the Texas State University System. Along with their department of the Center for Big Bend Studies, we have a large task ahead us regarding the study of geography, archaeology, history, culture and migration patterns along the Rio Grande, on both sides of the river. We have to work together towards the understanding of that area, not only as a border but as an element that unites us. Mexico and the United States have a shared history of population and of migration patterns along the Rio Grande, and it’s important that we study and investigate this important region to improve the relationship between our two countries."
Long before the Rio Grande/Río Bravo became an international border, the ancient waterway was a strategic resource for native peoples along both of its banks. The CBBS and INAH have historically worked separately on their respective sides of the river, although there have been instances of cooperation over the last 10 years. Most significant of these was repatriation by CBBS to INAH of a large collection of artifacts—thousands of specimens—from the Alta Vista site in the state of Zacatecas. Importantly, the new agreement will allow CBBS and INAH to work together along the history-rich borderland area.
Researching the past is an integral part of the mission of both organizations, and such studies are limited when constricted geographically. Now, with the MOU in place, research efforts along the border will include a more holistic approach and yield a greater understanding of past cultures under study. In addition, the MOU promotes active collaboration between CBBS and INAH staff, helping each other on a wide range of proposed archaeological and historical projects.
“The Center for Big Bend Studies has long desired to work side by side with INAH historians and archaeologists, and through this agreement that dream will now become a reality,” said CBBS director William A. Cloud. “Since both organizations have similar research projects and goals, and our subjects of study are intricately intertwined along the border, this collaboration will reap benefits for years to come.”
Representing the CBBS at the signing were Dr. McCall; Dr. Bill Kibler, SRSU president; Cloud; Robert J. Mallouf, former CBBS director; Dr. Manuel Ramos Medina, Friends of the CBBS board member and director of the Centro de Estudios de Historia de México; Dr. Felix D. Almaraz Jr., CBBS Advisory Council member and professor emeritus of borderlands history at The University of Texas at San Antonio; and William E. Millet, CBBS member and director of Millet Films LLC.
“Sul Ross State University is proud to be part of this historic agreement. This agreement and relationship between the Center for Big Bend Studies of Sul Ross State University and the Instituto de Anthropología e Historia opens a new and exciting chapter of cooperative research and shared initiatives between Mexico and Texas,” said SRSU president Dr. Bill Kibler. “Sul Ross State University is honored to provide talent and leadership to these exciting collaborative projects.”
The signing took place at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, the largest and most visited museum in Mexico. The museum contains a wide array of significant archaeological and anthropological artifacts from Mexico’s pre-Columbian heritage and is managed by INAH.