Sitting Room

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Three-Border Mark

The Marco das Tres Fronteiras (Portuguese)
The Hito de las Tres Fronteras (Spanish)

This is one of the most interesting places to see in the so called Triple Border Area. Triple Border because three countries converge here. In this corner of the world, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet. Argentina is on the left bank of the Iguassu. Brazil is on the right. The iguassu flows between the two. Paraguay, if you are floating down the Iguassu River is straight ahead on another river, on the Paraná River. The Iguassu is about to end its journey. The exact border is when the Iguaçu River bed meets the bed of the Paraná. This is the real border for the three countries. If you are at that point, Paraguay will be ahead of you, Brazil will be on your back to the right side and Argentina will remain on your left side.

The Three-Border Mark is a rundown park-like thing. Now and then Foz do Iguaçu-based Brazilians announce some big, macho project. The world's largest cassino. A Theme park. The Cabeza de Vaca Monument and Park. As of lately the newest announcement has been the construction of a 150-meter tower, a would-be replica of the CN Tower or any other such saxonic towers scattered from Ontario to Chicago, from Auckland to Sydney. There will be a gyrating restaurant. There will be shops and parking facilities. Construction will start soon and wil begin by charging a parking fee. From the tower top visitors will have a glimpse of the universe, the Iguassu Falls at a distance, cities and villages on the Argentine and Paraguayan side too.

All that would be unnecessary for me. What we have there today is a little shop kept by the same family for over 50 years. They will be kicked out since someone else has won the bid. There is also a snack bar. You can climb to the roof of the snack bar and look around. The "Mark" proper is a pyramid-shaped, stone monument painted green and yellow - the national colors of Brazil. The mark is official but symbolical and celebrates the closing of the Border Commission's work in 1933. It is not a "stone border marker". The real border here is in the rivers downthere. And it is not easy or necessary to plant stone markers in the water.

Brazil has 16.886 kilometers of borders shared with nine South American Nations and France (French Guiana). Out of these, 9.523 kilometers are borders defined by rivers, lakes and other water bodies. The rest, 7.363 is dry, land borders. As of today there are 5.932 stone markers defining borders in the dry land border areas. Brazil and Paraguay share 437 kilometers of dry land borders defined by 910 stone markers. None of these to be seen in the Triple Border Area since it is a water-dominated border area. Another example of the use of markers is with Argentina. Just 25 kilometers out of 1.261 kilometers of borders with Argentina, is on dry land. It is the stretch between Santo Antônio do Sudoeste (BR) / San Antonio (AR) and Barracão (BR)-Dionisio Crequeira (BR) and Bernardo Yrigoyen (AR). There are 310 such markers along these 25 kilometers. They have been placed at every 80 meters to such a degree that they are intervisible by any one and so that a clear idea of the border line is possible.

Two more things
First, I call the place Three-Border Mark and I will cling to Three-Border Mark wherever I write. There are many other ways to address the area: Three Borders Mark, Three Frontiers Mark and Mark of the Three Frontiers. For diplomats including the Itamaraty – the Brazilian Foreign Relations Ministry, the place where three countries meet is called a “Tri-Junction” so I suppose we could talk of a Tri-Junction Mark. There are several Tri-Junctions spots in Brazil but this is by far the most populated one.

Second, the The Tri-Junction area is also a favorite of holistic, ecumenical, religious, transreligious, peace workers, universalists of all kinds. A testimony to this fact is seen in the few but important messages left by Bahá’is, Rosecrucians and other groups.

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