Foreign Relations: Out of the Thicket

Fences may make bad neighbors, but rivers can drive them wild. When the flooding Rio Grande between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez switched course in 1864, it hefted the U.S.-Mexican border south and thereby shifted to the U.S. an arid, chop-shaped patch of land known as El Chamizal (The Thicket). The transfer exacerbated American-Mexican relations for a century.

Last week, in a cordial exchange of abrazos and acreage, Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Gustavo Díaz Ordaz redressed the Rio Grande's trespass. Crossing into bunting-festooned Ciudad Juárez, they spoke at the monument erected by Mexico to commemorate the settlement. "An old argument has...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!