Greetings from the Road: El Paso to the Outskirts of Marfa

hancockPO

The Post Office in Fort Hancock, Texas

Driving on the overpass in El Paso, a gigantic Mexican flag was waving at the border at Ciudad Juarez (notable, of late, for the series of beheadings committed by Mexican druglords). Needless to say, we didn’t stop in El Paso and drove right through to meet the I-10.

In the road atlas, I noticed that, at Fort Hancock Texas, the I-10 ran very close to the Mexican border.

“I’d love to see the Rio Grande,” I said to J.C. and he was game.

I stopped in the post office and asked the clerk how we could do that. She directed us to the Port of Entry, which was just a few streets away.

Border-lo.res

The border is an ominous place. When J.C. walked over to a group of Border Patrol officers to ask permission to walk over and see the river, their posture stiffened as he approached. I sensed much rapid darting of eyes behind their mirrored sunglasses.

As soon as they determined that J.C. was harmless, they relaxed and gave their consent. I locked the car and joined them.

“You can walk on the bridge, but make sure you don’t cross over the line,” said one of the officers. Crossing over the line meant you would no longer be under the protection of the United States. “It’s very dangerous on the other side.”

The “other side” looked to be no more than a green forest, which, somehow made the warning behind their words even more scary.

But, was walking on the bridge worth it? Definitely.

riograndeSeeing the Rio Grande, I felt the same kind of thrill I’d felt in Memphis, when I’d first laid eyes on the Mississippi. A deep sense of history and power and danger, all at the same time.

Because of all the farmland in the vicinity, which uses river water to irrigate its crops, the Rio Grande running through Fort Hancock had been reduced to little more than a muddy stream.

Across from the Port of Entry gate were acres and acres of cotton fields. I’ve always had a special affection and fascination for cotton plants.

cotton

We thanked the Border Patrol and came away with a great deal of respect for the danger faced by these officers — not from the illegals trying to cross, but from the constant threat of vengeful drug traffickers. It’s a lonely job.

Back on the I-10, we were starting to get hungry. The next town — a tiny dot on the map — was Sierra Blanca. We turned off the exit and looked for a restaurant. Too bad we weren’t in need of accommodations.

Horse Mote-loresl

I fiddled around with the GPS and located a¬†restaurant listing for La Familia. Mexican is always a safe bet for vegetarians because, without fail, you’ll find cheese enchiladas on the menu.

They say the best place to eat is where the cops go. Lucky for us, the laid back Sheriff (try to imagine Ruben Blades in the film “The Milagro Beanfield War,” and you’ll get a sense of him) and his deputy were dining, lazily, at one of the tables.

La Familia was a family-run establishment and everyone pitched in. Our waitress’s little five year-old son was bussing the tables. When we paid the check, J.C. asked if he could take her picture.

Jokingly, she said, “I hope I’m not having a bad hair day.”

LaFamilia Waitress-lores

Our next stop was Marfa, Texas. On the way, we passed by the Prada mini-boutique sculpture installation by artists Emily Milne and Zoe Brown, which sat on the edge of a vast, deserted section of road.

Prada-lores

In the middle of nowhere, in that context, empty, abandoned, sharing the same the West Texas landscape as the many other deserted structures…

housetexasit was an eerie, wry piece of social commentary with a strong presence. And, you never know when you might need a pair of six-inch heels out in the prairie.

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