Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Oh, Please Let This Happen!
A number of years ago, prior to 9/11, I visited Big Bend National Park on my own. It is truly one of the most wild and wonderful areas the US has left within the continental states. Home to mountain lions, black bears, javalinas, and event the occasional jaguar I believe, Big Bend National Park is an incredible place to spend time.
So why would I want an open border to the Mexican side? Well, you'd really have to go there to see what a non-issue this is. When there I paid something like three dollars to have a Mexican boatman ferry me across the Rio Grande to Mexico (illegally, gasp!!) where I paid another three dollars or so to a young Mexican boy to ride a burro (donkey?) up the hill to the Mexican town of Boquillas Del Carmen. Feeling eversomuch like Don Quixote I rode into town not knowing what to expect.
What I found was a truly eye-opening experience. I sat in the residents little adobe homes and feasted on real Mexican tacos at a dollar for three each time. Ice cold beers?? A dollar. A pack of Marlboros?? A dollar. No one spoke English but it didn't matter, the locals were as nice as could be (except the young boy with the burro who whipped the poor thing too many times in my opinion, but my Americanized sensibilities and my perceived views on the treatment of animals digress).
While having tacos I ran into another friendly American tourist (border jumper) to share lunch with. He and I walked across the dusty street (now feeling like Clint Eastwood) to enter a dusty Mexican bar where we continued to down one dollar beers, smoke Marlboros and waste away the day. Offered cocaine, pot and who knows what else while sitting at the bar (all politely declined thank you) it was obvious I was a bit out of my suburban league here and while pissing in an adobe horse trough out back (what served as the bar's bathroom) I must say I was a bit concerned for my safety. Later in the afternoon the local Mexican drunk was literally thrown out the front door opening (for there was no door) and I knew it was time to leave.
Upon beginning my walk back down to the Rio Grande my taco and drinking companion and I noticed that the Federales had arrived in their green camouflaged Hummer looking vehicles for one of their rare but steady visits to the town. Taking the boatman back to the US side of the border (again, illegally!!) I had safely completed my Mexican sojourn and was none the worse for wear.
So why would I want an "honor system" border crossing there? Because there is NO border crossing there currently. With 300 miles of open border at that spot along the Rio Grande (nothing in either direction for 150 miles on each side of that point), no real roads leading to Boquillas del Carmen from the Mexican side, no electricity, no phone, no water, etc., etc. at Boquillas, the chances of that site becoming a haven for illegals is slim to none. Those who want to cross illegally or bring illegal drugs to the US have hundreds and hundreds of miles of open border to cross should they wish, implementing a self service kiosk isn't suddenly going to draw criminals to the area to scan their passports while they come and go. Add to these facts that Customs and Border Patrol man roadblocks on the ONLY roads leading out of Big Bend (trust me, I sat under their sunglassed glaze for some time when I left) and you have one of the safest border areas along the Mexico/US line.
What has been hurt by the post 9/11 crackdown in Big Bend on travel between the two countries is the town of Boquillas and the sense of adventure one gets from going to one of the last few "wild" locations in the US.
Boquillas has lost 1/2 its population (now down to about 100 individuals) and its lifeblood of tourism (illegal though it may have been) along with access to the Big Bend convenience store have been eliminated. One thing that always interested me about the area local to Boquillas was the number of stalactites and stalagmites that were for sale by the locals when I was there. They had obviously raided local caves for these, sheering hundreds if not thousands of them off to sell to visiting gringos. Given the remoteness of this area and issues surrounding the border here I would imagine there could be quite a few caves worth preserving.
Reopen the Big Bend National Park/Boquillas Del Carmen border crossing!
More on the self-service crossing due to open this spring here: National Park Border Crossing to Open...
and a great description of the area, its remoteness and thinking behind the reopening by a similar normally conservative minded individual here: http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/43198
The "Park Bar" in Boquillas:
The drunk who got thrown out the front door opening (Juan Valdez is his name...supposedly):