I’ve been in Del Rio three times and never seen downtown. I’ve driven along the strip mall lanes of highways 90 and 277 and wondered. This time I enter with purpose, I want a coffee shop and wireless. It’s deadline day for my first installment of Muro. And it is Sunday.
While I didn’t quite catch on about what day it was until after I made a U-turn for a federal office, thinking I could pick up a copy of Homeland Security’s Draft Environmental Assessment for the Del Rio Sector, I did manage to find downtown. I liked it. I drove a few extra blocks just to make sure then started to hedge some right angles to coast back in for another look.
Then a sign about a historic plaza caught my eye and I stumbled upon my first zocalo so far this trip. On the other side a large “No Muro” banner radiated in the February sun (which, incidently, in Del Rio feels as good as any June one ever did). Outside a small group is breaking up. I pounce.
Thankfully, once again, I’ve stumbled upon a collection of wonderful people. They bring me inside Casa De La Cultura in Barrio San Felipe and show me all the great things they are doing the young people here and talk about how they are fighting The Wall. How does this river keep doing this? Director Lupita de la Paz is delighted by my story of stumbling upon their center. It’s apparently not the part of town tourists are supposed to fumble around it. At least that’s the reputation. Of course, reputations are s0 often wrong.
La Casa helped organize a protest against Homeland Wall plans back in October. Joined by their neighbors from Acuña, they shut the port down for 40 minutes. One woman grabbed Diana, one of my hosts today (left in pic above with La Casa director Lupita de la Paz), and asked, “Why are you doing this to us.”
The fence sections are relatively small — particularly the one running south of the port — and generally resented here, but many in the town seem resigned to it.
“I’m sure everybody is afraid,” Diana says. “I don’t know why people are scared to speak out.”
“We know that Mexico needs to fix its economics, and the United States we have a lot to do with it. Unless they work that out they can put up all the walls they want and nothing will happen,” she says.
Here, like at La Junta upriver, the dominant economy is in Mexico. (124K compared to 36K populations.)
If Mexicans took offense at a mass level, so much so that they quit crossing to shop and eat, it would have a huge impact on Del Rio, says homegrown attorney Eloy Padilla.
“If they ever decided to get mad at us and not come over, all our businesses would fail. Our cities along the border would just crumble,” he says.
For all the talk of China, Mexico still beats the Asian beheamoth in providing goods to norteamericanos. Imports out of Mexico increased from $31 billion in 1991 to last year’s mind-rattling $210 billion.
Padilla took me on a drive along Border Patrol’s proposed fenceline. I was surprised to see we were still a half-mile from the river on the northwestern section. This feeds into what folks in Eagle Pass have been blistering over about, the ceding of land to Mexico for the illusion of security.
“It’s probably the worst thing I’ve experienced in my lifetime,” Padilla said.