Collision of Countries

British journalist Ed Vulliamy remains fascinated by the line in the desert, "the contradiction of porous and hard" that allows two countries to crash into each other in a place he calls "Amexica."

Vulliamy is flying across the pond this week to share his perspective on this place which piques his fascination, and led him to write his book Amexica: War Along the Borderline, which was released last October.

A journalist formerly for The Observer and currently for The Guardian, Vulliamy comes from a heritage of writers, and has seen his fair share of tumultuous times.

He mourned with families after the Oklahoma City bombing claimed more than 160 lives in Middle America. He made his way into Bosnia to cover the difficulties of refugees when war broke out there in the '90s.

Vulliamy's first visit to the Southwest came at the beginning of the 2000s.

"It seemed to me that the borderlands was a territory in its own right. That's why I gave it a name (Amexica)," Vulliamy said. "It belonged to both countries, yet neither, in a way. ... Added up, it was greater than the sum of its parts.

"But after Sept. 11 happened, no newspaper was really interested in sending correspondents down to the border," he said.

He jetted to New York and covered the resiliency of the city after the terrorist attacks. Then Vulliamy went on to cover the ensuing Iraq war, and was one of the first journalists on the ground there.

Vulliamy's original idea for his Amexica book was to return to this intersection of two countries and explore this place which had fascinated him—but what came out was a tale of a drug war, kind people, dirty deeds and rich culture.

"Once I got back to it, the story had really shifted, with all of the horrors of Ciudad Juárez," he said.

In the last three years, drug violence has claimed nearly 7,000 lives in the city, which is across the U.S.-Mexico border from El Paso, Texas.

"I wanted to write about a place, not about a war. There are so many things that I love about the border. I just don't love what's happening," Vulliamy said.

The developing violence became a topic for his book, which tells stories of the interplay between the rich and the poor, all with a backdrop of the narco-trafficking realities of the region. Vulliamy travels from Tijuana, to Juárez, to Mexico's Atlantic coast, exploring immigration and factory conditions in what is, in many ways, a war zone.

"I'm not a war correspondent. I hate war," Vulliamy said. "I learned in Bosnia that the decent civility of the good, brave people is always more interesting than the banality of evil, and that, I kept with me. The courage of the women, the courage of the priests, the folks who just keep going ... that also is the life of the border."

Vulliamy expressed unease when asked to talk about the Tucson shootings of Jan. 8. He said he presumed that after the "awful, awful news," the Antigone event would be cancelled.

"I feel wary about talking about any of it," he said—although he did express his love for this town just 50 miles from the border.

"I love Tucson; that's why I spend as much time as I can there," he said. "I chose Tucson, not Santa Fe, not San Diego."

Vulliamy said he spends time here because he loves the city—a now-wounded place where he feels honored to have the chance to speak.

"What right do I have to talk about Tucson in Tucson?" he said. "I'm sure there are locals who know more about things than I do. ... I don't have to remind people in Tucson that this is going on. But I do have to remind people in London and New York and Sydney that it's going on."