When I told people I was going to Marfa, one of the first things I was warned about was The Border. Beheadings! Kidnappings! Who knows what else. You’d think I was going to Iraq, not Texas, the way some people talked about it. Didn’t quite make sense to me, since the town seemed pretty far inland to me (60 miles north of Presidio, which is on the Rio Grande).
I guess in the same way that 9/11 can seem sort of abstract to someone who didn’t live in a city where the attacks took place or have relatives who were involved, all the ranting and raving on talk shows about the border doesn’t quite register to me as a New Yorker.
So I was surprised in my first few days here to see a border patrol truck where ever I went.
I really couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to come to a part of the country where you had to drive 30 miles to the nearest town. One glance out over the desert and you can spot anyone coming from miles away. Not to mention the fact that the towns are so small that everyone knows everyone else. Didn’t seem like a prime area for smuggling people or drugs to me.
But despite its remoteness, Marfa seems to be Border Central. There are two Border Patrol offices here and I’ve been told it’s the biggest employer in the town.
The “Department of Homeland Security” also had always seemed kind of vague and made-up to me (maybe because of that bizarre term “homeland”, which seems kind of old-fashioned and doesn’t sound as important as if it was called the U.S. Security Department). Was sort of reassuring to see their sign:
In New York I am so used to being subjected to the “security” procedures at office buildings, museums, etc. – it is something different out here where it is the real deal, and you know the agents are armed. And it’s pretty frightening to think what they might be up against when you see their serious bullet-proof vests.
There was an article in The Big Bend Sentinel (the “local” paper of the whole region, I think) about several hundred pounds of pot that were found hidden in the wheels of old tractors being brought into the US on a truck. A savvy agent was suspicious since the old equipment ususally goes from the US to Mexico, not vice versa.
Going down to Big Bend by the Rio Grande, I thought we would see much more border activity. But we hardly saw any. And this was in places where you could literally – and easily – wade or swim over the border.
See the hordes of illegal immigrants flooding into our homeland, the vicious kidnappers, and the machine-gun toting drug lords?
I understand that the border has problems in some places, but the border from Presidio to Big Bend National Park is one of the most peaceful, beautiful places ever. National Geographic has called The River Road drive one of the most scenic in the country. (I’ll do my Big Bend post next – in the meantime you can sneak preview some pix: click here )
The idea of building a 15 foot wall here seems pretty insane to me. Especially when I heard that cows and other animals from both countries cross the river to get to food on the other side.
Why can’t man be more like the animals?