Everyone was all up and in arms when Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump said he wanted to build a wall on America’s southern border. What is hilarious about people’s incredulity, is that it was President George W. Bush who signed into law the ‘The Secure Fence Act of 2006.’ With the passage of the Act, the building started. Anyone who has actually been to the border can see that the wall/barrier is very much present in places like El Paso and San Diego. There is a place on the Mexican-US border that is actually 1,500 feet tall. Happily for Mr. Trump, this wall was free to build. He doesn’t have to worry about Mexico paying for their half. Unhappily for Mr. Trump this wall bring Mexicans and Americans together, not tears them apart.
The 1,500 foot canyons of Big Bend National Park were formed thousands of years ago. The park is one of the remote and untouched of America’s national parks. A bill authorizing Big Bend National Park (so named because it is located where the mighty Rio Grande ‘bends’), was passed on June 20, 1935. Just two days later, On June 22, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes asked Secretary of State Cordell Hull to call up the Mexicans to propose an international peace park that would include Big Bend and the area immediately over the river on the Mexican side. Texas Senator Morris Shepard also liked the idea. He wrote President Roosevelt, asking him to make the area a peace park (managed by both countries).
Aerial view of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, the border can clearly be seen as it divides the two cities at night via Wikipedia.
Things looked good for a while. That fall, in El Paso, Texas, two meetings were held on the matter. A joint commission was set up to see what should be done. President Roosevelt did indeed talk to his Mexican counterpart about creating an international peace park akin to the one already built Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park on the Canadian border. Then, as always, politics got in the way. Successive Mexican administrations were less inclined to create said park and the politicos in Washington were busy fighting the Nazis and, later, kicking Mexicans out of the country (I wrote about THAT previously).
Canyons at Big Bend. Mexico on one side, the US on the other via cbsnews.com
Even without a bi-national park, it is hard to tell the difference between the different sides of the border. To quote the San Francisco Chronicle, “…the fact is, Big Bend National Park and the town of Boquillas del Carmen in Mexico's adjacent Coahuila state are joined at the hip.” Before September 11th, people could go back and forth freely. Since there was no official port of entry, this was (and is) illegal. But the people of this region are used to treating the Rio Grande as if it were merely a small waterway in the middle of town. Federal officials simply thought of Boquillas as an extension of Big Bend. The terrorist attacks that day in September changed all that. The border was closed and Boquillas was at risk of becoming a ghost town. Then, thankfully, the US government opened an official border crossing. It’s actually the first of its kind. No actual Customs agents are at the site…you check in and out via video. Park rangers are there if you have trouble with the system. Still, most around these parts echo what President Roosevelt said way back in 1944:
"I do not believe that this undertaking in the Big Bend will be complete until the entire park area in this region on both sides of the Rio Grande forms one great international park."
Featured photograph via the chron.com.