Nuevas Fronteras

My cherished steering-wheel waves are a thing of the past. I got a couple three-finger salutes heading west out of Marthon (where a Border Parol helicopter turned in circles beside the roadway), but past Sanderson the rural greeting of passing motorists is history.

I keep popping my fingers out there, hoping for a response, waiting to for a flash from a kindred spirit who also clings to the small-town and county-road customs. But as the ratio of shiny Suburbans, bass boats, and camo-coated ATVs spikes, civility vanishes. By the time I hit Langtry, I have given up altogether.

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Ghost Town Grievances

ghost town fenceThe anger, frustration, and despair are evident in Terlingua after several immigration sweeps and increased surveillance activities tossed this foundational corner of the Big Bend and former quicksilver mining town into turbulence recently.

The restaurant I ate at tonight just lost its kitchen staff in a raid. Some legal residents left voluntarily to be with unpapered spouses after the intensification of Border Patrol activities, taking their children back across the river where there is no school waiting for them. But Terlinguans must maintain their buoyant humor (right).

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‘Unfriendly Gesture’

presidio advert

I can’t cross. Actually, let’s get this straight: I can cross, into Mexico. Once on the other side however, I run into problems. With my current collection of identification cards I would not be let back into my country. I have a driver’s license, my social security card, and my voter’s registration. It’s not enough. Passports and birth certificates are the order of the day.

Fortunately, Mexican diplomat Hector Raul Acosta-Flores is available to offer his perspective on the history of the area — Las Junta de los Rios — where the strained Rio Grande is revitalized with channelized Rio Concho water from Mexico.

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This Desert Quiet

jacal y yo

Maybe in El Paso. That’s the greatest allowance any River resident I’ve met so far has made for the Homeland Security concept: these proposed miles of “discrete” border fencing (y tactical infrastructure, tambien) on either side of Presidio and upstream at Neely’s Crossing. Maybe in El Paso.

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East Berlin

roberto lujanIt’s come up three times in three days, East Berlin and the Berlin Wall (RIP).

Roberto Lujan (right) grew up in segregated Alpine during the ’60s. His first feeling of truly being an American only came when he and fellow American troops were bused through the communist city in Germany and throngs of residents began making obscene gestures at the troops. But when he moved to Presidio on the River and began to grow closer to his Jumano Apache identity, he said he began to see the U.S. Border Patrol network of checkpoints and facilities akin to “living on the Rez.”

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mundo on horseI wasn’t sure how welcome we were on this land down the river from Neely’s Crossing, site of Homeland Security’s planned 4.6-mile fence in the middle of nowhere. Bill insisted everything was fine as this hombre padded through an arroyo and up to where we were inspecting the graves of three Buffalo Soldiers killed in the ongoing struggle to displace the Apache from West Texas in the late 1800’s.

Turned out he was more angry about fence plans that could find their way down to this remote site just outside a series of sacred Indian hot springs.

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‘Tactical Infrastructure’


Day one. Settling into breakfast in Alpine. The woman in line has a copy of Homeland Security’s “Environmental Assessment for the Proposed Construction, Operation, and Maintenance of Tactical Infrastructure” under her arm. She taps the words Tactical Infrastructure saying, “This is what it’s about.” She is challenging me to decipher the opacity of the words. Tactical, useful. Infrastructure, stuff.

Or maybe she is only tapping the book.

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