N.S.M. AZ Nogales, AZ/Sonora Mexico Excursion

- After Action Report -

Saturday, January 29th, 2011


If Nogales didn’t have a gate running through the middle of it, separating the town into almost mirror images of two nations, it could be almost any Mexican border slum town. When NSM Media recently joined the Arizona unit of NSM for a “Walking Tour of Mexico,” all expectations were met…or rather expectedly let-down.

As we walked along the border before crossing, we saw a particularly porous section. American taxpayers were funding a lone Border Patrol agent standing guard over largely- spaced slats of what is ostensibly a ‘protective’ fence between two countries. Fortunately, most of the border fence is more visual imposing.

The undercurrent of border paranoia seemed even more evident, as NSM Media was discouraged before entering Mexico from photographing anyone’s face – especially those passing through into America. “It’s an international zone,” one of the burly Border Patrol guards explained. One of his fellow guards was actually more accurate, when he said that many Mexicans crossing over the border are embarrassed. Maybe they should be.

On the American side, Nogales was a Twilight-Zonish mixture of cheap stores – most with heavily marked-up items from China, and all trying to empty tourists of their dollars. Ironically, one store had high-top tennis shoes laced in red. If they only knew what THAT means. While “Welcome to Mexico” was painted on a barricade near the entrance to the border, communist symbols were also painted on the border wall just a few hundred feet further. Sorry folks, but communism isn’t a ‘way out,’ nor is it widely accepted in America either.

Once across the border, the buildings became of mish-mash of electrical code disasters waiting to happen, noxious and bizarrely colored buildings, and street hawkers desperately trying to sell good and services to the lessened number of tourists traversing their streets. Even from our short video, it’s easy to see the somewhat disarming and tragically almost necessary. “Pharmacy…you need some pharmacy?” persistantly bantered one, while another assured us that we would find any kind of pseudo-sexual gratification, if we came into his theater. Perhaps the only thing worse was to see a child of perhaps six trying to sell chewing gum to passersby.

As a country, Mexico has done most of this to itself. Just as its population does not see the visual grotesque from the gaudy, garish paint on their buildings, Mexico does not seem to bother about the vulgar greed on its tourist streets, either. By comparison, a Las Vegas prostitute would seem a veritable princess. Not unexpectedly, Mexican traffic seems to whiz by winding streets with little caution. “Cigarettes and piñatas,” one in our group cleverly summed up. Mexico seems to have a ‘code’ of its own.

While some Mexican border towns have underdeveloped their economies, other tourist border towns have fallen under drug cartel violence. I remember going to El Paso, Texas during college to visit the Mexican border town of Juarez. Flavorful food danced across my palate (as did a Mexican beer or two). I bought a cool belt, and a warm hand-woven coat.
Since then, I found that the belt really wasn’t that well made. It fell apart. The coat shrunk, too. But, I remembered the sights and sounds of that time.

Only several months ago in that same town, a graduation party was decimated as a drug cartel spattered the celebration with angry bullets. Forget the past. Mexico has become a very bad shell of its former self.

As a country, Mexico has allowed itself to wallow in poverty, and unwittingly forced itself into crime. Pathetically, the Mexican government even recommends its citizens flee their country for greener pastures. Or orchards, construction job sites, fast-food or whatever they can get across the border.

On our ‘Walking Tour of Mexico,’ we got to see first-hand the cheap squalor under which Mexicans exist. As a humanitarian gesture, we would like to help them. But, this gesture would only be extended under the rational laws of our nation. Viva America!

 


The Nogales port of entry

After walking by the numerous stores that specialize in cheap Chinese goods and what appeared to be inferior “knock-off” fashions, we made our way to the port of entry. There was no fancy sign, just spray paint on a barricade directed us to the check point.


The line between U.S. and "them". Neither side looks very impressive.


They must drink Corona here

If your papers are in order, crossing the border is easy. I would like to caution everybody to watch your backs while in Mexico. Times have been tough and as in any city, you have to be aware of your surroundings. Don't get drunk and stupid or you may find yourself bleeding to death in the gutter.


Look at the colors! Where do they get this paint?


Run down streets, run down cars and run down people

We all noticed very quickly that we were the only White People walking around. Tourism is way down due to the poor economy and the drug violence that plagues many border towns is on the rise. The locals were busy checking us out and sizing us up. This is one town where you need to know the difference between a “mark” and a “ringer”.


He is probably tipping off his partners in crime that the police are on their way

We were quickly approached by a multitude of shady characters. Some tried to sell us drugs. Old ladies walked up to us and begged for money. Children were selling candy. None of us were buying.

I tried some of the local cuisine. They said the stuff in the tacos I ordered was beef. They weren't that bad for $1.25 / 2. I have yet to experience any gastric discomfort. If Indiana Jones can eat bugs and monkey brains, I can certainly handle Nogales food.

We decided to return to our motel rooms after crossing back in to the United States. As we turned the corner, we noticed some law enforcement activity. A group of illegal aliens were caught by the Nogales Police and the Border Patrol just a few doors away from our motel rooms. They were lined up against a roll off trash dumpster. After conducting a search of their persons, the agents loaded them into a van to be sent for processing and deportation.

 

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