And the River Floweth On
A collaborative exhibition by Tiffany Carbonneau and Shawn Skabelund
Grainer Art Gallery, Hanover College, Hanover, Indiana, 2012
The history of the United States is built on migration. Our country was made and settled, and its destiny became manifested by it. Its destiny continues to be manifested by a natural human search for economic sustainability. The United States was manifested through various migrations including the slave trade, which will always remain a stain in our history. The continued dismemberment and relocation of our Native Peoples is an act of genocide in the diverse landscapes of this country. The extraction, exploitation, and the exporting of our natural resources within these landscapes for our benefit, has contributed to a genocide not only of human cultures, but of constituents that have no voice. These acts of federally warranted destruction should give us pause and reflection of what once was, but now is gone.
Western ethics allow corporations to cross borders in search of economic growth while refusing individuals the same right. The contemporary Hispanic migration to the United States is directly influenced by trade policies written by the United States government; policies that allow for subsidization and exportation of resources for the benefit of our country. These policies have not only hurt small farmers within the United States, but have disregarded the survival of farming communities in Mexico. Since 1994, when NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) became a policy, large amounts of corn have flooded into Mexico. That agreement decimated Mexican agrarian cultures, leaving thousands of farmers unable to support their families, which is one of the major reasons for the current influx of Hispanic Migration into this country.
The River Floweth On is not so much about a river – the Ohio – continually flowing, but a river of migration, that has and will continue to flow. Just as the Ohio River was a natural landmark that slaves needed to ford in order to get to freedom, the current wall being built along the US/Mexican border is a human made landmark Hispanics must cross over to find economic freedom. We as a people may build dams, walls, or fences to hinder that flow, but the waters for the desire to have economic freedom, will always lap over. When we look back at our history one hundred years from now, the two thousand mile US/Mexican border wall will be another stain, another mark of embarrassment, we have placed on the American landscape.
See below for a brief description of US corn subsidy.
And the River Floweth On was supported by Hanover College
Due to the unreliability of agriculture yields, the United States has been subsidizing corn farming since the 1930’s to ensure farmer’s livelihood as well as a dependent food supply. These subsidies, totaling billions of dollars a year, allow American farmers to earn the same income no matter the price of their product. Corn is a relatively stable crop with a high yield, leading many farmers to cultivate the crop, including massive industrialized farms where most subsidies end up (about 75%). Following the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, these companies were able to sell corn internationally and at a much lower price than corn produced in those countries locally.
Mexico has been growing corn for 10,000 years (compared to less than 200 in the US). When cheap corn subsidized by the US government entered Mexico, many local farmers couldn’t sell their crop and went out of business, forcing farmers to migrate to find work, many times to the United States.
In 2000, 67.7 million tons of grain and oilseeds were exported by barge through all U.S. ports (U.S. Department of Agriculture 2004). In 2003, nearly 12 million tons of grain and oilseeds were shipped on the Ohio River, nearly all of which was corn and soybeans (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 2005). Almost all of this grain flows into the Mississippi River and is exported from Mississippi River Gulf ports.