With the three Border Wall features now having run, I am rediscovering the pace of a city that went on living in my absence. Thankfully, many of you have been circulating not only my stories but the international media’s coverage of Chertoff’s wall-building efforts, as well as the press releases and videos of those still marching on the ground contra al muro.
As I hit pause on Muro for now, I want to share just a few images from the road: Some rust, some light, some real and recreated “history.” Let me know if you recognize any of these sites.
It was about ten years ago and my first trip to Marfa. I wasn’t there for Judd’s concrete boxes, likely hadn’t been tipped to Judd’s genius at the time. I was down for some Border Patrol meeting, the substance of which has long escaped me, distanced as I am by thousands of news items and feature assignments.
Fences were going up in a nearby border state at the time and I couldn’t help but ask: Were there any plans to build a fence here in Big Bend? The room erupted in laughter.
Considering the terrain, it seemed unthinkable — ridiculous.
I guess I should have titled this entry “Security II.” During my travels I met more than a few river residents who expressed concern about the Wall not for the unpalatable signal it sends to our neighbors in Mexico, or for the eco impacts, or simply the waste of taxpayer dough. The concern of these few was over which way the fence was really leaning. Is it to keep Mexicans out or the rest of us in?
Several I met with, including growers in Presidio, the brave folks at Fronteras Unlimited, and Mayor Chad Foster in Eagle Pass, talked about the impact increased security effort had already had in their communities: Farms left fallow for want of labor, Mexican communities without resources locked out, and guest and undocumented workers fenced in.
I’ve entered the last remaining hundred acres of sabal palm forest ecosystem in the nation. Soon we will be cut off from it by Homeland’s Wall.
I walk a wooden boardwalk and marvel at the trees’ stature, the volume of their massive fronds clashing in the winds I’m sheltered from.
The river here, approaching freedom and the Gulf at Boca Chica, used to be a mile wide and up to 40-feet deep, a local conservationist tells me.
I can’t use any proper names here. You see, the clampdown is on. Both employees at the Audubon Sanctuary said they could not speak about the wall, could not tell me anything, in fact. Instead, one hands me a printout from the non-prof’s website. I can use this, I’m told.
Father Roy showed up at the end of this week’s No Wall walk to splash us with some sanctified Rio Grande water outside the historic La Lomita Chapel. A fine and welcome gesture — even if all the local convenience stores were out of Lone Star and we were reduced to mere Miller quaffers.
Today wraps up a week of marching for Valley residents and the Border Ambassadors joining organizer Jay Johnson-Castro for portions of the week-long 63-mile March 4 March 4 contra El Muro. The effort was an (successful) attempt to push the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border into the political debates.
When I set out a little over two weeks ago my dreams were of being lost in the suburbs, but my first night staying at a ranch north of La Jola changed all that. I walk to the window and look over a Yucatan-like scene. The sky is full of birds of every imaginable color and size, fantastical creatures. Feathers and sunshine swirl everywhere. Many more dreams like this and I may not leave.
The desk I have been given to work at is said to be my host’s great-grandfather’s. Another honor. Catarino Garza was a “journalist, revolutionary, and folk hero,” according to Handbook of Texas Online.