Special Report – Border Wall

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A full report on Big Bend National Park will be coming in a day or two, but right now I want to touch on the other side of the potential border wall. The Rio Grande and life along it’s banks.

We had the good fortune to visit the Rio Grande yesterday. First, we drove down a narrow, very rutted dirt road to the old hot springs where people would go in the early 20th century for “the cure” of bathing in hot mineral water.

Then, we continued to the very end of the road. The river is not terribly wide, and depending on the amount of water running could be waded across. Yesterday there was a fair amount of water and the strong current was visible.


Across the river from this point stands the Mexican village of Boquillas del Carmen, population roughly 300. For as long as the older residents can remember, they have been able to wade across the river or row a boat to the US side to purchase supplies from the little camp store at the Rio Grande Village RV Park which stands on the banks of the US side a mile or two away. The nearest Mexican town of any size is 140 miles away by dirt road, and the residents plan supply drives there. There were two little restaurants in the village which served simple menus of tacos and burritos and residents sold handicrafts to the Americans who crossed the river for lunch and an experience.

Then 9/11 happened and life in Boquillas came to a screeching halt. Mexicans and Americans alike were no longer allowed to cross the border freely … they weren’t allowed to cross the border at all for 12 years. The restaurants closed and families had to move away. By the time the border reopened, there were 4 families left in Boquillas. The US Goverment opened a border crossing at Rio Grande Village and one enterprising man from Boquillas offered to run a “ferry” across the border in the form of his row boat. Americans pay $5 for a round-trip ferry ticket (purchased from the US Governement at the visitor centers, mind you, not from the man who is rowing the boat, which makes you wonder how much he is actually receiving). The families returned, the restaurants reopened. The World Bank even provided funding to the Mexican government to build solar panels so Boquillas finally had electricity after the US refused to run power lines from Rio Grande Village across the river for fear that they would upset migrating birds. Life began returning to normal.

Until the US government shutdowns.  Every time our government shuts down, that border crossing is closed and Americans cannot cross for their Boquillas lunch experience. And the town dries up again. Yet, children from the village cross the river in a canoe and set up little trinket stands on the US side using the honor system to sell their beaded figures, painted walking sticks, and fabric items. That’s about all they survive on when American tourists stop visiting their village.

And now, we’re not only planning to build a wall to destroy our view of this beautiful river, but also to permanently destroy a simple little village once and for all.

2 thoughts on “Special Report – Border Wall

  1. Beautiful souvenir from your stop! Thanks for the great history lesson. I’m rooting for Boquillas to survive.

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