Border Town

This photo is of Nuevo Laredo, MX as seen from Laredo, TX. wp-1484531919174.jpg The Rio Grande River separates the two – no big wall (yet). So, John and I decided that we would scout locations for the Wall, in case civilian input is requested as some point in time. We didn’t know what to expect, but it was a surprise to see a wide-open river with a big park on the Mexico side, and the same on the Texas side. Seems like it would be pretty easy for a swimmer of reasonable skill to get across and enter the park on the Texas side. The Border doesn’t run down the middle of the River, as I figured, but zigzags from side to side. These guys were fishing – standing in the USA, but actually fishing in Mexican waters since the Border runs right up to the shoreline at this point.wp-1484531962725.jpg Perhaps any fish they catch are subject to some kind of international tariff – we didn’t ask.

It’s hard to pick a spot where the Wall should go. Too close to either shoreline would deprive those citizens of enjoying the beauty of a riverside park. Perhaps putting it right down the middle of the River would be fairest, although it would almost cause some ecology and navigation issues. From where we were standing, we could see the pedestrian bridge (foot traffic only going from US to Mexico, as much as we could see), a busy car crossing, and a railroad bridge. wp-1484531905990.jpgwp-1484531879806.jpgSince Mexico is going to ultimately pay for the Wall (right?), I guess it would only be fair to let them choose where it goes. The more you look, the dumber the idea gets.

Laredo is a hardscrabble town. There really wasn’t anything pretty here.wp-1484531818977.jpg20170115_195733.jpg John even passed up the only BBQ joint we saw. 20170115_195554.jpgWe bicycled around from our campground at Lake Casa Blanca International State Park. That’s a whole ‘nother story – this town will never win any “bike-friendly”awards! Mile after mile of aged, severely rundown houses. Most had not seen paint for at least fifty years. Plywood covered many windows, and sagging chain link fences held back menacing pitbulls, caged in rubbish-filled yards. We also saw many loose dogs – one young pitbull gave John a pretty good run for his money before John surprised him with a blast from his water bottle right between the eyes. He was confused enough that when he eyeballed me, and I hollered very roughly, he didn’t even bother. (I can sound very threatening when I need to be). But, we also passed one very run down house where an elderly man was sweeping dirt and leaves from the driveway. Grubby kids waved and hollered as we passed. Seems like folks are just trying to carve out a life with the cards they’ve been dealt.

So, how bad would your life have to be, that you would give it up to cross the Border to live in Laredo? I really can’t imagine. I’ve never walked a mile in those shoes. We just saw people trying to get along. The big old Cathedral was filling up with worshippers on a routine Sunday morning.20170115_200025.jpg An elderly woman approached me, as I was standing with our bikes while John peeked inside, and indicated (in Spanish + hand gestures) that there was a bike rack where we could lock up our bikes around the corner. Let’s give her the boot too, eh?

End of sermon.

This State Park is the most crowded of any we’ve found so far this trip. Since it’s on a lake, everyone has a fishing pole, and there are lots of families with small kids on bikes. Probably 80% of the conversations we’ve heard have been in Spanish. We’ve got a pretty good site,wp-1484532108350.jpg but our neighbors last night chained up their German Shepherd away from their tent and left him outside all night. He barked ALL night. Thankfully, they left today. If not, I would have complained – it was ridiculous.

Our big fear was the series of storms that swept through Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas this weekend. Luckily, we were too far south for them to hit us, although we have had huge winds, accompanied by brief showers. But, the warmth is appreciated. I’m not complaining. Now, Laredo is under a flash flood warning, as all the rain dumped west of us is headed this way. We are rolling tomorrow morning, and really don’t anticipate that we’ll run into anything bad.

20 thoughts on “Border Town

  1. Those border towns can be quite scary. I’ve been there many times delivering freight. If you want to experience a culture shock, you need to head over to the border in El Paso, TX. Take a look at Juarez. Be careful on your journey and play it safe.

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    • We really haven’t had the desire to cross the Border – many friends go for dental care/surgery or to purchase their prescription drugs. I guess, since we don’t really need either of these now, this hasn’t been a priority for us, and cheap shopping isn’t our thing at all. I really hate the idea of the exploitation that occurs when rich Americans cross the Border to purchase cheap stuff, without respect for the struggle on that side of the Border. I doubt that we will become regular Border crossers. I appreciate your comments. Hope your job keeps you safe as well.

      Liked by 1 person

    • We are doing our best to boost the economy wherever we go. At least the grocery store part of any economy.

      How’s Florida? Warm, I hope. We go from too hot to too cold – heading to Big Bend, so hoping for somewhere in the middle, and dry.

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  2. I’ve spent a lot of time along the Texas-Mexico border since many of the high school JROTC programs I was responsible for were along the Rio Grande. Pretty dismal area but some great Mexican food. Yes, the river is easy to cross on foot in many places and even if there was a good reason to create some type of. Arrowroot, it would come at great expense. Even when we were at war with Mexico, the most we did was to build a series of military outposts along the border from which to run patrols. You guys need to come to Florida next winter where Mexicans make up an important segment of the workforce. An excellent state park system exists as well.

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    • I don’t deny that the Mexican or Hispanic population makes important contributions to the economy here, and everywhere. But, there are some of the poorest living conditions I’ve seen anywhere here in Laredo. I was trying to convey sympathy for anyone who had come seeking a better life, and found themselves trapped here for lack of other resources, or for whatever reason. This surely can’t be the better life that was envisioned.

      We haven’t snuck into Florida with the Fireball yet. I’m really not a beach or water person, so the appeal is a bit more limited for me. But, sooner or later, it seems like we will have to make the trip down there….

      Looks like your retirement plan is working great for you and Sheila.

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      • Most of “real Florida” requires neither. There are some very cool hiking and biking trails throughout the state and the park system is excellent.

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  3. I’m appreciative of your consideration as to walking a mile in their shoes. Laredo is a humbling experience for when you get to the overabundance of Californ-i-a.

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    • A visit to a border town really smacks you in the head with what a have vs have-not country this is. There’s a whole sub-economy going on that is just too easy for someone like me with a bit of privilege, to ignore. It’s humbling to be reminded of that.

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  4. Some years ago during the peak of the drought in Texas, we visited Big Bend NP. The Rio Grand wasn’t so mighty that year and the river’s border separation was barely ankle deep. We saw Mexicans walking across and also on horseback to sell hand crafted souvenirs to foreign tourists visiting the park (European & Asian). The US Park Service had highly visible warnings telling people that it was illegal to purchase anything from illegals who come across for that purpose. They must have had look-outs from the other side as every now and then they’d all beat feet back across the river minutes before a Ranger would show up. We took a long rough dirt road out the back entrance of the park when we left and passed by Homeland Security observation posts. We were also stopped at a Homeland Security checkpoint when we reached the main paved road out of the park. They were freaked out about the GoPro camera I had mounted on the roof. I had to show them that the battery was depleted demonstrating that I wasn’t filming them and when they asked what I had been filming I gave them a business card for Travels with Yoly :-)

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    • We saw all the little handmade trinkets in Big Bend the first time we were there, too. It will be I retesting to see if that little cross-border exchange still exists. I have always regretted not buying a little beaded cockroach.

      Are you two on the road these days? Hope to run into you somewhere…

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      • We’ll be in Colorado at the end of May and from their Glacier NP and then 4 weeks in western Canada (BC & Alberta). If you haven’t heard, in honor of Canada Park System’s 150 year anniversary, all National Parks have the entrance fees waved. I just sent away for their annual park pass which is normally $80 per person (or something like that) and it was $zero.

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