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.

San Antonio in the rain

San Antonio in the rain

All of a sudden it’s winter, or feels like it, anyway. When the temps drop down below freezing in San Antonio, then you know it’s winter, even if we haven’t reached Thanksgiving day yet. And only a few short days ago I was basking in eternal summer sunshine, soaking up rays and counting the days, playing the fool too cool for school and getting my feet wet in the gene pool. I was so much older then..

That’s okay; it’ll warm up by noon, and San Antonio will continue on its merry way, getting and spending and testing the ways and means of power, the city once home to Crockett and Bowie and other assorted adventurers and freebooters willing to risk it all for a good fight, tired enough of city life back east to seek fortunes out west down south in the interim between revolutionary and civil wars. They didn’t have TV then, you know. Clustered around that little chapel under the alamo grew up a city second to few and home to many, the sycamore trees now losing their leaves and turning pale in scarce light.

Uvalde in the broad daylight

Uvalde in the broad daylight

I set out towards Del Rio, as my first and most northerly border destination of this series. From there it’ll be all downhill downriver, leaving me maybe only one border post unfulfilled, the one at Presidio and Ojinaga, too far away for my current times and trajectories. But I’m hungry. First stop along the way is Uvalde, a little slice of middle America in an ever-confusing pie. The long lost lonesome west seems to preserve these little gems better than the average satellite city lost in a sea of suburbia and long ago surrendered to the dictates of the modern age. Here it’s just peaches and cream, homemade ice cream.

I arrive on the border, but quickly change plans. The border at Del Rio is off to the side and sadly misplaced, served by taxis and apparently that only, from parking lots that appear to double as junkyards from which good decent upstanding automobiles go in and never return. It doesn’t look inviting, and will certainly necessitate a taxi for the return as well. I think I’ve been here before, many years ago, but I don’t think it was like this. So I decide to forego it. Del Rio is interesting, but it’s not right on the border, a few klicks removed. My desire to go to every border town has a sliding scale of fulfillment, fortunately…

Main cathedral in Piedras Negras, with priests' parking

Main cathedral in Piedras Negras, with priests’ parking

Even the American border cities are more interesting than most others, I decide, simply because of the Mexican influence, and many Mexican-Americans living there, whose habits and livelihoods are more socially oriented and central, less removed and suburban. Social critics drone on about how smart phones are separating us, and stifling conversation, but automobiles already did that. If anything smart phones might be a resurgence of social activity; social media, get it?

If it weren’t for Mexican-Americans, LA would have been abandoned for the last twenty years, until its recent resurgence, and I suspect many American cities are the same. And the Mexican side is usually more lively, if poorer, likely some causal relationship between the two. Poorer people are more social, and their lives more centrally located, while white middle-class Americans prefer their lives in cars, shopping malls and fried chicken, even Starbucks now probably doing more drive-through business than sit-down; so much for the kaffeeklatsch.

The border crossing at Eagle Pass/Piedras Negras is only an hour down the road. Let’s try this again: Take Two. Second time’s a charm, a real charmer, in fact. Border bridge right downtown and $2 parking-lots only a block away. Piedras Negras is as nice as any border town I’ve ever seen, and wide open for bizniz, even a real market for curios, like they’re awaiting the influx of tourists that are sure to come if they’re only patient, and Hell thaws out accordingly. The American side ain’t much, but I do score for Korean food, rice and veggies in some hot scalding glop, thank God for small milagros.

Market in Piedras Negras, Mexico

Market in Piedras Negras, Mexico

That’s enough border bopping for today. I’ll continue on to Laredo for the night, then renew my search tomorrow. It ain’t pretty, though. We’re in the oil fields of the Permian Basin now, proud inheritor of the Cambrian Explosion and undertaker for the Permian extinction, in which millions of hydrocarboniferous animals would die for our sins, just to test our respect for Nature and belief in God. Now here we are several hundred million years later, driving cars over the cliff and grinning like Cheshires the whole way. Life’s weird.

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