Crossing Borders: Fear Verses Community

Our world has changed since 1968. In the mad rush of technical advancements we easily forget that freedom once was a state of mind, the ability to move from place to place without suspicion in our hearts. Freedom is confidence in our innate right to explore and communicate with others. If we listen to those who profit from the dissemination of fear, we will become fear itself. Freedom cannot exist within the armor of fear. 

In 1968, crossing into Mexico through Big Bend National Park in Texas was a simple affair. Visitors to the park drove down a hard-packed dirt road where a man awaited with his rowboat. On the side of the boat were painted the words, “La Poderosa,Turistas Bien Vendidoes a Mexico.” For a few coins the man would row the visitor across the Rio Grande. On the Mexican side was a small village called Santa Elena where visitors could walk around and visit a tiny Mexican general store. When finished, the man would row visitors back across the river.


Hands like oarlocks, arms cables of steel...

Hands like oarlocks, arms cables of steel…


On the side of the boat it said, "La Poderosa, turistas bien vendidoes a Mexico."

On the side of the boat it said, “La Poderosa, turistas bien vendidoes a Mexico.”

This is what a visit to Big Bend National Park entail in 2013:

This following message is on the website of the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, regarding Big Bend National Park.

Big Bend National Park shares the border with Mexico for 118 miles, and therefore can be a chance to learn about our neighbors to the south, and preserve the larger Big Bend ecosystem together. Being on the border, however, does come with its own challenges and concerns.

Occasional drug smuggling and border crossings occur within the park. If you see anything that looks illegal, suspicious, or out of place, please do not stop or intervene, but note the location, and call 911 or report it to a ranger as quickly as possible.

Be Aware, Be Safe

  • Remember that cell phone service is very limited.
  • Do not pick up hitch-hikers.
  • Keep valuables (including spare change) out of sight, and lock your vehicle.
  • Use common sense, especially in remote areas.
  • People in distress may ask for food, water, or other assistance. It is recommended that you do not make contact with them, but note the location, and immediately notify Park Rangers. Lack of water is a life-threatening emergency in the desert.
  • Report any suspicious behavior to park staff or Border Patrol.

Border Merchants

Mexican Nationals have approached visitors to sell souvenir items such as walking sticks, bracelets, and Mexican crafts. If you purchase their items or make a donation, you are encouraging them to cross the river, which may result in their arrest and deportation through Presidio (100 miles away). Additionally, they may be fined or incarcerated.

Items purchased are considered contraband and can be seized by officers. Rocks, minerals, archaeological items, etc. cannot be purchased, imported, or possessed in the national park.

In addition, illegal trade damages natural resources, including the creation of social trails, cutting of river cane, erosion of river banks, and an increased amount of garbage along the Rio Grande. Supporting this illegal activity contributes to continued damage.

You may legally purchase crafts made in Boquillas, Mexico, at camp stores in the park. These items are purchased directly from Mexican artisans and are processed through a legal Port of Entry before being brought to the park. All wholesale proceeds go to the artisans.

Border Patrol Checkpoints

Checkpoints operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection are located on all north/south highways leading from the Big Bend area, and are staffed at all times. Each vehicle traveling north is stopped at one of these checkpoints for a visual inspection and brief questions by a Border Patrol agent. This process is routine.

Foreign nationals planning to visit Big Bend should carry the appropriate documentation to avoid unnecessary delays, as Border Patrol agents are required to determine the immigration status of every traveler.


Any questions?

Leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.


copyright © 2014 Martha Fawcett


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