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Distillations | Science History Institute

325 EpisodesProduced by Science History InstituteWebsite

Each episode of Distillations podcast takes a deep-dive into a moment of science-related history in order to shed light on the present.


High Steaks at the Border

When we think about the U.S.-Mexico border, it’s hard not to think about the current immigration conflict and the contentious idea to build a wall. But the concept of a border wall isn’t new: proposals for walls have been made for more than 100 years. Our story starts in 1947, when a group of Texas ranchers demanded a fence along their state’s border with Mexico. Their motivation, though, was to stop an outbreak of a disease that struck farm animals. The response to the crisis was complicated and often messy. But in the end two countries came together to solve a complex predicament—instead of building a wall. 


Hosts: Alexis Pedrick and Elisabeth Berry Drago Senior Producer: Mariel Carr Producers: Rigoberto HernandezAlexis Pedrick Photo illustration by Jay Muhlin


Music courtesy of the Audio Network.

Research Notes

Cervantes Sanchez, Juan, Roman Diaz, Ana Bertha Velazquez Camacho. “Una historia de vacunos y vacunas: Retrospectiva de la epizootia de Fiebre Aftosa en Mexico a 65 años de distancia.” Revista electronica de Veterinaria 11:B (May 2011).

Clements, Kendrick. “Managing a National Crisis: The 1924 Foot-and-Mouth Disease Outbreak in California.” California History84:3 (Spring 2007). 

Domel, Jessica. “USDA Expands Fever Tick Fencing in South Texas.” Texas Agriculture Daily, January 2, 2019. 

Dusenberry William. “Foot and Mouth Disease in Mexico, 1946-1951.” Agricultural History 29:2 (April 1955). 

Fox, M. Kel. “The Campaign against Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Mexico, 1946-1951.” Journal of Arizona History 38:1 (Spring 1997). 

Ledbetter, John. “Fighting Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Mexico: Popular Protest against Diplomatic Decisions.” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 104:(3), (January 2001).

Machado, A. Manuel. “Aftosa and the Mexican-United States Sanitary Convention of 1928.” Agricultural History 39:4. (October 1965). 

Mendoza, Mary. "Battling Afotsa: North-to-South Migration Accross the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1947-1954." Journal of the West, 54:1 (Winter 2015). 

Mendoza, Mary. “Treacherous Terrain: Racial Exclusion and Environmental Control at the U.S.-Mexico Border.” Environmental History 23 (January 2018). 

Mulvey, Ruth. “Cattle Killing Turns Peon against Doctor.” The Washington Post, January 4, 1948.  

Outbreak. Department of Agriculture, Office of Public Affairs. 1949.

Proctor, George. “An American Tragedy in Mexico: The Death of Robert Proctor.” Journal of Arizona History38:4 (1997).  

Sill Wickware, Francis. “Crusade in Mexico.” Collier’s, August 20, 1949. 

Texas Cattle Fever.” U.S.Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Library. 

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