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.
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.]