Monday, February 15, 2016

Boquillas Mexico and the Rio Grande

For some reason I kept a notebook of stories I'd started and ideas for stories I'd never written, way back before the internet was born and I was traveling and wanted to write stories and books. There were no personal computers then and all I had was a notebook and a pen. Ah, the good old days. Below is one starter, and the photo that inspired it. It was when I was camping by the Rio Grande at Big Bend National Park. The river was not so grande and the crossing brought us to a little town called Boquillas.

We had walked over, and saw school children in Catholic school uniforms walking home for lunch, chickens scattering ahead of them. A restaurant with a 1950s Chevy car seats to sit in under the front portico. A boy willing to rent donkeys. Warm beer.

All you did was walk across the ankle deep river and wander into town. It was cool.
Boquillas del Carmen cooperated with Big Bend in other ways. In the late 1990s, Boquillas was a small town of around 300 residents primarily dependent on the Big Bend tourist trade with visitors crossing the Rio Grande to visit the village's bar, restaurant, and taco stands. Children posted adjacent to the village's Christian mission sold rocks collected in the desert or from nearby caves. Tourism options included pony and donkey rentals, parties at Park Bar, and overnight stays at a local bed and breakfast known as the Buzzard's Roost.
But then 9/11 happened and shortly after, they closed the informal crossing for many years. When it re-opened, there was a customs house and lots of government red tape. Wikipedia:
The events of September 11, 2001, destroyed Boquillas del Carmen's traditional way of life. In May 2002, the border crossing from Big Bend National Park to Boquillas was closed indefinitely. As of October 2006, only 19 families of around 90 to 100 residents remained in Boquillas. Most of the town's residents had been forced to move away by the closure of the tourist crossing and destruction of the town's traditional economy.
On January 7, 2011, the US National Park Service announced plans to reopen the crossing using a ferry and a passport control center planned to open in the spring of 2012. After multiple delays, the new Boquillas Port of Entry was finally officially opened on 10 April 2013. 
Some good news. Though the government formally took control of the crossing, and for many years the town suffered, it seems to be bouncing back. But it will never again be the way that it was, charming, low key, informal, no government.
Since opening of the border crossing, the town of Boquillas del Carmen has seen substantial growth with the addition of electricity (brought over from the U.S. side), a new medical care office, and enhancements at the public elementary school. A single telephone line now comes into the village. When one calls that line, the operator states a specific time at which the caller should call back, promising him/her that the operator will find the person being telephoned and ensure that he/she is at the phone in order to receive the call at the appointed time. The village's population is now said to be about 200 persons. There are at least two U.S.-quality restaurants/bars in the village, both owned by cousins surnamed Falcon, but little to buy in the curio shops in the village (mostly bead craft work). One may not buy alcohol in Boquillas and bring it back to the U.S. via this entry point. 
Finally, a somewhat self-deprecating statement told about the village by persons who live there. "Boquillas del Carmen has 200 people, 400 dogs and one million scorpions." Source
Here is my story starter:


The dog ran into Mexico and I had to go after him. The Rio Grande was narrow here in Big Bend National Park and he'd spotted a horse come to graze at dusk and saw his chance for a little fun. Too bad he doesn't know about geopolitical boundaries.  All he saw was a horse and a field and some fun.

I hear him barking in Boquillas now and I'm not looking forward to running into that guy selling mineral earrings again. he scared me with his pitiful intense desperation, 'Look, I made these, aren't hey beautiful' and he touched my sleeve.

So I slip off my sneakers trying hard not to notice the myriad paw prints looking like muddy hieroglyphics from big things that had come to drink. tie the sneaks in a good knot and sling them over my shoulders. Feet slipping in the oozy mud, my own prints now mingling with last night's predators and prey. I run splashing loud across the river drowning and the cattails whisper announcing my arrival in a foreign country without a passport.

No comments: