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  • hardie karges 3:37 pm on November 28, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , McAllen, , Reynosa, ,   

    Perry-Troopers in Laredo, Mexican Military Mafia & Mothers in Matamoros 

    Mexcian Politics

    Mexcian Politics

    So the border crossing at Piedras Negras, Mexico into Eagle Pass, TX, went without a hitch, no problema, nada nadita, this after repeated problems in Arizona and absolutely zero in California, so I’m advancing my thesis about the abuses of Arizona; but I’ll need a few more examples to confirm it. Of course I’d like to be able to say that I’ve been to every border post along the 2000 mile US-Mexico border, but that quickly becomes a problem of definition: cities or actual crossings, since many cities have multiple crossings, and some are hardly pedestrian friendly. That’s me: Mr. Pedestrian. Hi.

    Anyway, given the dozens of crossings along the border, and my limited time, I decide to not even bother with Laredo, since I’ve been there many times before. So the next major crossing down the road southward is at Roma. The American town looks interesting, a historic town overlooking the bluffs of the river. And there’s a bridge right there in town, connecting to an equally interesting-looking town on the other side. But it’s still early, since I left at daybreak. It’s cold, too. Hardly anything will be open at this time of day. I’ll be back, later in the day. I continue on down the border.

    Roma, Texas

    Roma, Texas

    There seems to be a bridge at Rio Grande city, but no real city there, so I pass on by. Then there’s a sign pointing the way to a ferry, near Sullivan City, so that sounds interesting. It is, a long winding road to a long winding border along a long winding river. The border itself is not much more than a stop sign and a few derelict buildings. The border post looks modern, but I don’t see the boat. I don’t see anything on the other side, either. That’s crucial. Crossings to nowhere don’t interest me. I go back.

    By now the highway down south is getting thick with police—state troopers, cheaper by the dozen, apparently. I guess this is part of Governor Rick Perry’s border crackdown. They don’t seem to be doing much, though, just parked by the side of the road, mostly, or parked double-wide and deep in chat, looking bad and breaking bread, doughnuts, that is…

    Border Flea Market at Hidalgo

    Border Flea Market at Hidalgo

    The suburbs are getting thick, too, the United States of Generica, life at the speed of an automobile, going in fourth gear down a crowded freeway, frontage roads crowded with signs like little China-towns all, Whataburger Jiffy-Lube Best Buy Wells Fargo Kmart Circle K and countless other refugees from downtown all competing for attention, multicolor flashing signs all shouting the same thing: More! More! Bigger! Bigger! There’s everything but the Starbucks; apparently Arabica has yet to reach the lower forty, still steeped slowly in ignorance, como agua para Nescafe…

    Finally I get to the greater McAllen area, knowing not much more but there’s a bridge there somewhere, a vague picture of Google Maps in my mind, so I switch on my internal GPS and proceed by cruise control. I find a bridge soon enough, but from nowhere to nowhere best as I can tell, so I continue on to a smaller town called Hidalgo—jackpot. This is not only THE border crossing to the large city of Reynosa, but also home to one of the largest flea markets in the world. Comparisons to Talat Rong Kleua along the border with Kampuchea spring to mind. Welcome to Thailand.

    Border-town Bars in Reynosa

    Border-town Bars in Reynosa

    Reynosa, twin city to Matamoros, is one of the places where the Mexican uncivil war is taking place, just like Ciudad Juarez farther north; that much is clear. The tone is subdued, and the cause is more than the chilly weather. There is a strong military presence around the central plaza, and I’m not sure I’d want to be around after sundown. The road to democracy is long and hard and frequently violent, and too easy to say, “it’s just the drugs.” Still it’s got more life than the average American city, by far, and it’s almost worth the extra military presence just to accomplish it—almost.

    The crossing back is slightly more stressful than the day before at Eagle Pass, but only slightly. The only time I got the glare, the ICE glare, was when the man asked me what I was doing in Afghanistan, like I could almost see him counting heartbeats. I smile a lot. We’re good. Brownsville is even farther down the road south, but I’ve already been there, and the sun is on the wane, so I high-tail it back to Roma, this time counting state troopers. It’ll total up to at least twenty along this stretch of asphalt.

    Flower District in Cd. Miguel Aleman

    Flower District in Cd. Miguel Aleman

    Ciudad Miguel Aleman is the city across the river from Roma, TX, though I didn’t know that until it was almost time to cross back. It always helps to know the name of the place where you are, though not absolutely necessary. It’s also nice to know your own name, or so the ICE man seems to think. I hand him my passport.

    “What’s your name?”

    I’ve got a live one. I just handed him my passport, so he knows my name. He wants to make sure that I know it. People with false ones frequently don’t. So I tell him. But that is not enough to satisfy. He’s got a stiffy, and he intends it poke it in my face. I tell him all about myself.

    “Who do you sell your books to, the highest bidder?”

    Now there’s a novel idea, but I don’t really believe he’s trying to be helpful. I believe he’s trying to be an a$$hole.

    “Empty your pockets.”

    Okay, here we go, the old once-over. So I empty my pockets (as if I were a smuggler I’d carry my illegal goods right there in my front pocket). He even brings another ICE man in to glare at me, just to see if I get nervous, I guess. But that’s that. I can go. No trip to the back room, nothing. Still I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead. It’s getting dark. It’s been a long day. I think I’ve seen enough of the border to last me a while.

  • hardie karges 12:45 am on November 25, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Del Rio, Eagle Pass, , , Piedras Negras, ,   

    Texas Nexus: Borderlands Here, Too, Y’all 

    Mexico-US boundary post

    Mexico-US boundary post

    So here’s the deal: I’m becoming obsessed with this border between the US and Mexico, this line that defines so much while accomplishing so little, worshiped as a line in the sand, a bulwark of democracy, a first line of defense against those who would abuse the privileges of America without paying the full price of admission, those entering the amusement park without paying the cover charge, violators subject to a revenge equal to and exceeding the pulling of eyes for eyes and teeth for teeth.

    Here’s my thesis: that the Arizona border region—aka Brewer’s Gulch—is the most abusive of all the involved states, and likely for a reason: because of the current anti-immigrant climate in that state as best exemplified by SB 1070, and including various other neglects, slights and omissions committed upon people of Mexican ancestry by law enforcement agencies and the broader society of ‘real’ (white) Americans as a whole.

    Ironically these slights and omissions have been inflicted even upon myself while reentering the USA recently along the Mexican border, three times (out of five) in Arizona, and not once in California. There seems to be a pattern forming here. With such my mandate and mantra I set out upon the continuance of my journey of discovery in Texas, the USA’s longest border, and the only one with a river running through it. (More …)

    • Leigh 2:57 am on November 25, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      For three years running I had trips right down at the US-Mexico border. I even found a hole in the fence in Coronado National Memorial. In Big Bend NP the border was only a few feet across the Rio Grande. It feels like your every move is being watched – and it probably is.

      • hardie karges 3:15 am on November 25, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        Probably more so than before, yes. I remember Big Bend 30+ years ago felt pretty loose, but I doubt that is the case now. Business there has suffered accordingly…

  • hardie karges 12:42 am on November 20, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Talking Time Travel Border Bashin’ Blues 1983 

    Karges in Guatemala 1983 buying huipiles

    Karges in Guatemala 1983 buying huipiles

    April, 1983 Tecate, MX: We’re sitting on a remote border between the USA and Mexico, waiting on midnight, waiting for the night shift to come on at US Customs up the hill. I’ve got a pickup load full of stuff, handicraft stuff, mostly textiles, from Guatemala, and Oaxaca, far to the south in Mexico, not as far as Chiapas, but almost. Lu and I went there, too, San Cristobal de las Casas mostly, and all over Oaxaca, including Huautla, home of the famous shaman Maria Sabina, and the psychedelic mushroom capital of Mexico, or so I hear.

    This was after spending a full month in Guatemala itself, including the remote war zone of Nebaj, part of the ‘Ixil Triangle’, where much of the fighting in the Guatemalan civil war took place. Of course we didn’t know many details of that at the time, most of which came out later, over the next decade. We knew it was weird, though. You just gotta’ chill, not my partner Lu’s specialty. (More …)

    • Esther Fabbricante 1:05 am on November 20, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      A couple of knockout pictures of you – like 30 years ago? You have a knack with words and I look forward to your posts – and am reading you book. Sorry, I need cataract surgery – so enjoy the posts on line since I can enlarge the print. Keep up the good work and take care of yourself.

  • hardie karges 1:35 am on November 11, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Algodones, , Calexico, , Mexicali, , Tecate,   

    4:20 from Yuma: 3 Borders, 2 Countries, 1 Day 

    Border at Algodones, Mexico

    Border at Algodones, Mexico

    8 a.m. I check out of my motel in Yuma, AZ, feeling bad. Yesterday had the pleasure of witnessing a German shepherd—under ICE commands—sniffing up a woman’s private parts for suspected infractions of unspecified rules and multifarious regulations, while itself committing gross violations of human dignity and self-determination. Yuk.

    8:30 a.m. I find Yuma’s ‘Old Town’, much nicer than I imagined, considering the border’s Nazi-like presence. The area is well-defined, with shops, a brewery (yes!) and the Golden Roadrunners Ballroom, like time travel, from the annals of my memory. I wish I’d discovered it last night—downtown, not the road-runners—but might’ve been a challenge, given the distance and lack of direction; and maybe a brew or two. I hear there’s a dispensary—meh. (More …)

    • Esther Fabbricante 2:25 am on November 11, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Reading this was an education! I’m glad you are home, though.

    • hardie karges 5:13 pm on November 11, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Home? Now there’s a concept…

  • hardie karges 3:54 pm on November 4, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , San Luis,   

    Ethnic Cleansing, Arizona Style: Eyeless in Gadsden, Trial by ICE 

    IMG_0203I’m getting into the border, as an entity, like skin, an organ in itself, a living breathing self-sustaining organism, barbarous and cruel, unrelenting but forgiving—despite my two detentions. I can’t wait to unravel its mysteries, winding through four US states, two countries, several political parties, several languages, several geographic regions and dozens of micro-climates.

    The main mystery right now is whether I’m right that the Arizona border seems to be a cruel inhuman place. I’ve been to four out of six Arizona border posts, five if you count the Lukeville/Sonoita crossing that I’ve already crossed by vehicle several times within the last couple years, so that only leaves one: the San Luis crossing near Yuma. That’s where I’m going today. (More …)

    • annathrax 10:28 pm on November 4, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Really enjoyed this read, a great story!

      • hardie karges 10:34 pm on November 4, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks! Stay tuned for the happy ending…

        • annathrax 10:48 pm on November 4, 2014 Permalink

          Happy ending as in asian “happy ending”? Nothing would surprise me after this first episode! 🙂

        • hardie karges 11:14 pm on November 4, 2014 Permalink

          Ha! No, nothing like that… 🙂

    • Esther Fabbricante 2:01 am on November 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Oh, my goodness! Also, a great read, though. But I don’t envy you!!

    • April M. Williams 2:19 am on November 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Love traveling vicariously through you. What an adventure. Novice nod to Arlo.

      • hardie karges 4:34 am on November 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        Arlo? Arlo who? Ha! Hey, it’s Thanksgiving, good time to recall Alice’s Restaurant…

    • Esther Fabbricante 11:07 pm on November 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I couldn’t find Ario on Google, but maybe this is it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arion

      • hardie karges 12:16 am on November 6, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        Arlo Guthrie, of ‘Alice’s Restaurant” fame, son of Woody, I was using some of his routine in my piece, just for fun. Listen to it for Thanksgiving. Greg will know it, for sure…

    • Esther Fabbricante 5:24 pm on November 6, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Oh, that explains it. I was way off base.

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