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National Moat, Regional Lifeline: The Campaign for the All-American Canal, 1917–1944

Eric Boime


This article contends that the Colorado River Delta, an arid region and a border region, offers fresh insight into the intimate relationship between federal reclamation, nation building, and citizenship. Its primary focus is the campaign for the All-American Canal, which was authorized in the same legislation as the Hoover Dam. Both projects established the basin-wide hegemony of the Imperial Irrigation District and the Bureau of Reclamation, and set a new, literal, line of sovereignty between nation states. The paper argues that the campaign revealed various means by which government representatives, corporate interests, and local residents constructed “Mexican” and “American” identities in the early 20th century. It further argues that the international competition influenced not only the trajectory of land reform in the delta but the larger federal reclamation policies of both nations.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229