Sitting Room

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bussing in the Triple Border - Text on Border things

Photos: National Park Bus, one of Foz do Iguaçu's most famous and most internationally known bus line. The line connects downtown Foz to the NP Visitors' Center, Airport and the Bird Park.


The Iguassu WaterFalls is by far the most important sight to be seen in the Triple Border Area. I would rather say that it is the region’s only claim to fame under the sun. Why else should you come here, say, from New Zealand, for? Tourist literature, mainly local, try to wrap everything up in the same bundle, democratically. I am tired of seeing utterances like “God and Man joined hands to present the world with the best example of their work in the Triple Border Area: Iguassu Falls, God-made, and the Itaipu Damn, sorry, Dam, man-made, of course.

I have questioned that regularly – it has been my life’s mission to say that this kind of phrase is stupid and is not good for God. Even the term Triple Border is not smart. People used to call this Três Fronteiras (Portuguese) or Tres Fronteras (Spanish) litteraly meaning Three Frontiers in the sense of Three Country-borders. Lately, some people of the press, travel agents and their likes implanted a new term into the linguasphere: Triplice Frontera / Tríplice Fronteira which American Press, the World Intelligence Community, the World’s Police Forces and even Foreign Offices adopted, adapted and translated it into English as “Triple Border”.

The Triple Border is what is mentioned everytime the press announces the discovery of new evidence of terrorist presence or money laundereing to benefit international and transboundary crime in the Triple Border. So in Portuguese I would say ‘bem feito’ or ‘serves you right’! to all those who helped coin the better-sounding, chique Triplice Fronteira toponym. That is a good example of a simple term that backfired! In the field of protesting and questioning, here goes another one, does the meeting point or junction of three countries and two rivers create a three-border physical landscape?

The pair Argentina / Brazil makes up one border. The Brazil / Paraguay pair is a second border. I see only two borders here. Agentina / Paraguay, Brazil / Paraguay, Paraguay / Argentina or any other imaginable bureaucratic pair arrangement would not be new borders. I do tend to see only two borders. I see here a need to make a difference between borders on paper and borders on a landscape. I think than the German language has the best description for the three-contry-two-river-junction where I live: Dreiländerecke (three-countries-corner) – where “ecke” means corner even though only two sides seem to fit the description of corners. Officially, the Brazilian External Affairs Ministry, the Itamaraty, refers to junctions of three countries as a Tri-Junction – and there are quite a few of them in South America but, by far, the most notorious, noted, famous, important of them is the Tri-Junction wrongly called “Triple Border”. In these notes I will cling to the official term.

Now let me go to the subject I have been willing to address since the start of this posting: how to bus around the three-country area? Most backpackers and participants in congresses and conventions do use the local bus system. I have known many great people thanks to the local bus system. That was how I met Tim .. from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center – a satellite control expert who was in a congress and ended up in my home and touring the area of the city where I used to live.

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