Round 2: Juarez/EP versus Luis Urrea @ Monument Marker #1

Self-portrait with Luis Urrea at Monument Marker #1

Please visit Round 1, my August 18 blog note about Luis Urrea's visit to El Paso, so that this will make a bit more sense.

Yes, this is the U.S./Mexico Border. It's the first marker set down to delineate the U.S/Mexico Border as established by the 1854 Treaty of Mesilla.) Behind us is where Francisco Madero established La Casita Gris as the capital of the Revolutionary Govermnent. In 1911 he and his little army crossed the Rio Grande (aka el Rio Bravo) and established his revolutionary government to do battle with the armies of the dictator Porfirio Diaz. It was here Pancho Villa, the Italian Garibaldi, Pascual Orozco and others sat and smoked and made plans with the little Madero¹. In the clump of salt cedar trees, you can see a bust of Madero.

To get there, we drove past two Border Patrol vans. One on east side of the river, then crossed the brick company bridge and came along the levee road where another BP agent inside his van asked what we were doing and told us to be careful. We saw pickups pulled up to the banks of the river and Mexican families swimming, having picnics, a few men hovering near the dam that crosses the river, waiting for a chance to slip undetected into El Norte.

Mexican families swimming in the Rio Bravo.

Monument Marker #1 is truly a sacred spot. A contradiction of everything you read about in the newspapers or see on the TV about the U.S./Mexico Border. A few miles from the downtowns of El Paso and Juárez you can actually step across the border here. You can step into Mexico like 9/11 and the great immigration scare never happened. But very few people from El Norte visit it. Maybe they believe everything they read in those newspaper. And, oddly enough, fewer still write much about it. I think most of us want to protect it from the hideous border fence that the federal government put up. I am hesitant about bringing attention to this surreal place, but as the nation's maniacal fear about the border and Mexico continues to grow like kudzu, I'm starting to think it's best people know about it. We need to protect that small open piece of land between two cities, between two states and between two countries. There are no fences here. If a secular place can be holy, then this is a holy place.

And most importantly--geologically and historically--this is the place where the Rio Grande cuts through the mountains (hence, El Paso, or The Pass) and heads east toward the Gulf of Mexico. I don't know why the feds skipped the Monument Marker #1 Park and the Monte Cristo Rey which abuts it when they built their fence. Maybe they too recognized it's a special place in the local and national psyches of both nations. I doubt it.

The beast doesn't seem to have an imagination.

[¹The photograph of Orozco, Baniff, Villa and Garibaldi is found at the Library of Congress FLICKR site here.]


Warrior said...

Beautiful blog! Very cool to see the great Luis Urrea sitting on Monument #1! I'm sure it is a sacred place, and even if the G doesn't think so, I am sure there are many BP Agents that can feel your sentiment. Peace be with you.

Glenn Buttkus said...

Thank you for more of the history lesson and tour de Byrd. Luis is grinning so hard it seems like another grand moment in your time with him. How lucky we are, those of us living so far from the fray, to have a poet and mensch there in the thick of it, reporting, observing, experiencing that elongated event.

Jay Koester said...

Months later, I'm probably just typing this to myself, but ... this cool post inspired me to visit this site on Saturday. Took my 7-year-old daughter to check it out.

Border Patrol agent sped up to us as we got out of the car. I told him we wanted to check out the boundary marker. He said fine, but warned us not to cross the marker line into Mexico or we would "be deported."

Yes, he literally said we would be deported. That's ridiculous, but I didn't feel like fighting, so I stayed on the U.S. side. Disappointing: The Mexican side had a bust I would have liked to check out. My daughter was a little less worried about authority and took one quick step into Mexico.

Thanks for the inspiration to check out this little-known place.

Bobby Byrd said...

Jay, the bust sticking up in the loneliness of that salt cedar grove is of Francisco Madero, and it commemorates that spot as the place he and his revolutionary crossed over to do battle against the Diaz Regime. I hope the journey remains in the memory of your daughter. No telling what that holy spot will look like when she's a grown woman.
Thanks for reading the blog.

Anonymous said...

I lived in El Paso in the late 1980s and I remember the bust of Madero.
I cannot find a picture or any info about it on the Internet.
We had dirt bikes, and we drove there. These were off road vehicles and often we didn't know if we were in Texas, New Mexico or Mexico itself.

Bobby Byrd said...

I think I have a picture of the Madero bust somewhere and if I find it, I'll post it. It would have been great to have a dirt bike back in the 80s and be able to tool around all of that area, not knowing where you are. Still, it's so odd that this spot is still protected from the onslaught of governments with their paranoia, fences and the rest of the insanity.
Peace for the City of Juarez, peace for Mexico, peace for us all in the New Year.

Anonymous said...

I was there in 1987 and 1988. At that time we often went for dinner or drinks in Juarez. Border crossing was easy by car. No documents required either way.

Often went to Chihuahua Charlies and Kentucky Club. There were a few great discos, but they got started very late in the evening.