A native of Brownsville, Fernie Reyes is now in Tulane University’s Latin American Studies M.A. program, where he is writing his Master’s Thesis on the border patrol and their place in the immigration debate.
I have always been fascinated by history. As a kid, I spent a lot of my free time watching documentaries on the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and TLC. Then the movie “Gladiator” (2000) came out, and I was instantly hooked on Roman history. But then my interests shifted towards more contemporary history after 9/11 when I became interested in the Middle East and why the West and Islam were still fighting it out. When I got to Southwestern University in the fall of 2006, I started off with an aspiration to study Classics, primarily the Roman Empire. And then I met Dr. Daniel Castro, who was teaching a course entitled “Guerrilla Movements in Latin America.” From that moment, I was hooked on Latin American history.
Growing up in Brownsville, the southernmost city along the American-Mexican border, I had grown up in an international setting. Literally Mexico was just two miles away from my neighborhood. I knew more about the United States and Mexico than I did about the other Latin American countries. But after some more classes with Dr. Castro and other Latin Americanists at Southwestern, I began to see the world differently. Gradually I came to realize that the world around me wasn’t so black and white. I also began to question the nationalist narratives that I had been taught through the public education system and through the documentaries I had seen as a kid. In other words, I started to question things, and I tried my best to figure out why historical events had played out as they had. Above all else, I believe historians need that sense of wonder. They can’t blindly say that Event B happened because Event A. No, it’s not that simple; history is more than that. The river we call History is deep, and at Southwestern I was taught to dive deeper than the levels most people are comfortable with exploring.
In spring of 2010, I was accepted into Tulane University’s Latin American Studies M.A. program. I was a bit nervous, to be completely honest. Except for a semester abroad in London during my junior year, I had never in my life lived outside of Texas. New Orleans seemed like a world away. When I did get to New Orleans, I was in awe of the city. There was so much history, so much life all around me. I became interested in the history of borderlands. I began to read heavily about the Rio Grande Valley, my homeland, and the relationship between the United States and Mexico. Now as I’m writing this, my thesis will focus on the border patrol and their place in the immigration debate. Not exactly the thesis on the Southern Cone (i.e. Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina) that I had in mind when I applied to Tulane, but like everything else in NOLA, you just have to go with the flow.
As for the future, I don’t know really what to say about that. If things go as planned, and for me that’s really rare, I’ll be in law school in two years. My M.A. program ends in the spring of 2012, but I want to take two years off and just appreciate things before I take a leap into the unforgiving arms of law school. But, like I said, things might change radically for me. The threat I gave to Dr. Castro, my family, and my friends that someday I’ll run off to the Argentine pampas to become a gaucho might just come into fruition. All in all, my time spent at Southwestern was a blessing. The history department is full of fantastic professors. But most of the time, it’s about what you want to do with your time at Southwestern. Take the classes that interest you, and always push yourself to go further and deeper than what you’re used to.