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The Gateway to the Southwest


Wooden stakes used for an erosion control project in the 1930s and 1940s still line the Red River at Fulton, Arkansas

The Red River only cuts through the extreme southwestern portion of Arkansas, and as such, it was considered a borderland. For a while, the Red River marked the boundary line between French and Spanish domains, then United States and New Spain, then United States and Mexico. After the Republic of Texas was established, the Americans acknowledged that this portion of the Red River was part of the United States.

"This portion of the Red River" was the Great Bend, where the Red River makes a dramatic turn from the west towards the south. This bend marked the "gateway to the Southwest" for Americans leaving their home states (willingly or unwillingly) to find new homes in a buffer zone.

Buffer zones are places between countries and/or enemies. Instead of militarizing the space, governments use people like refugees and immigrants, and entice migrants, to relocate to the disputed territories. The people who know occupy the area will defend their new homelands, leaving the government and military free to focus on other purposes. Buffer zones are  historical, geographic, and political strategies that are still in use today, using humans as geopolitical tools.

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