Repeat after me…
“Yes sir, we are American Citizens. No sir, there is no one else in the vehicle.”
When taking a trip that follows the US/ Mexico border, you can be certain that you will be asked this question over and over again.
By now, our license plate is well entrenched in Border Patrol databases.
We’re on our way to El Paso Texas to stock up on groceries before venturing into the Big Bend Wilderness. We planned on staying a couple of days to take care of some business and visit a couple of sites that sparked our interest.
But first, a rest stop in Las Cruces New Mexico where this junk art roadrunner waited to greet us.
Here’s his story: This giant, recycled roadrunner stands 20 feet tall and 40 feet long. It was built in 1993 by Olin Calk. It originally stood at the city landfill and was made exclusively from items salvaged from it. In early 2001, Olin stripped off the old junk and replaced it with new junk and it was moved here.
The day we visited, the bird was boucing up and down in the high winds. We didn’t get very close, but we could see a pair of crutches that make up the wing.
Home for a few days is the El Paso/Anthony KOA outside of town. It’s a giant, dirt lot located behind Camping World but what it lacks in amenities it more than makes up for in peace and quiet. We found it to be a no frills, good night’s sleep.
Once again, our National Park Passport Book has shown us a place to visit that we didn’t even know existed. In El Paso there’s a National Memorial at the Mexican border. It’s worth a stamp so that’s our destination for today.
Border disputes solved peacefully? It’s been done before, fairly recently.
Chamizal National Memorial tells the story of a border conflict over 600 acres on the US-Mexico border between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. Between 1852 and 1868 the Rio Grande River was continually shifting. The center of the river was the recognized border between the two countries but when the river shifted, it moved the border so that land originally in Mexico was now in the US. Even though Mexican farmers lived on the land, US citizens began settling there which understandably caused problems.
US senator Tom Connally stated “Not one inch of Texas for Mexico.”
Starting in the summer of 1911 and continuing until 1963, arbitration commissions tried to resolve the disagreement with no success. Starting in the 1920’s and Prohibiton, Cordova island became a particularly troublesome hot spot for illegal drugs and liquor smugglers. Border agents referred to it as “No Man’s Land”, the bloodiest section of the US-Mexico border.
The complicated dispute was finally settled on January 14, 1964 when the United States and Mexico ratified a treaty that awarded Mexico 366 acres in Chamizal and 71 acres East of Cordova Island. The United States received compensation for 382 structures and 193 acres of Cordova Island. The two nations also agreed to share the cost of building a concrete river channel to direct the Rio Grande and to help avoid any future problems.
Today, the US side of Chamizal is an urban oasis. The grounds feature a beautiful green park with an outdoor stage. Inside is a center for the arts. Theater, music, visual arts are all included in a celebration of friendship and culture. Unfortunately the day we visited it was closed for refurbishing.
The ranger in the administration building provided a movie for us to watch that explained the history of the conflict.
There were a few exhibits.
Newspaper reports of the successful treaty signing.
The original button that President Lyndon B. Johnson and President Adolfo Lopez Mateos pushed to open the new river channel, is in the historical collection in the closed museum.
There is a short self guided tour outside.
The mural that covers the building is titled Our Heritage.
Directly behind the building is the border crossing to Mexico.
The giant red X is a sculpture in Ciudad Juarez titled “La Equis”, the X. It was created as a tribute to Mexican President Benito Juarez who is the first President with Aztec blood. The two intersecting arms of the X symbolize the merging of the two different cultures.
Two-sided monuments in the park show Mexico on the Mexico side and United States on the United States side.
Markers along the road show the original boundary fence.
Our visit only took about 45 minutes and there’s still daylight to burn, so in keeping with our border theme, we decided to check out the US Border Patrol Museum.
The border patrol museum is located near Fort Bliss and the Franklin Mountains. The entire area has been used in the past as a bombing range and signs in the open fields around the museum warn of unexploded ordinance.
Guess we won’t stray from the parking lot!
The museum is a small, but well appointed collection of Border Patrol history.
The have small vehicles…
and large vehicles…
…and sky vehicles
Even boat vehicles.
In the early 90’s the US Border Patrol Tucson Sector had a program called Project Roadrunner. The purpose of the program was to reduce the number and length of pursuits using vehicles quicker than the traditional police cars at the time. The border patrol purchased a Chevy Z-28 Camero, SSP Ford Mustang, and a Pontiac Firebird for this project. All three vehicles were equipped with Jetsonic lightbars and a roll cage. The firebird now resides here.
…and slow vehicles.
Drug money is often laundered by purchasing antiques and other valuable commodities. This vehicle was confiscated from drug smugglers in Del Rio, Texas.
Speaking of seized….
I find it a little funny that an old pair of sheep shears is considered a weapon. They do look pretty sharp and is that a pair of tin snips in the upper corner?
Homemade Zip Guns…
To silenced Barrettas.
It’s difficult to forget the tragic loss of life in the quest for border security.
For many years there was no formal ceremony for the burial of agents killed in action. Recently an honor guard was established for the purpose of recognizing these heroic men and women,.
A rifle that was used to protect the president at Chamizal.
This flag went to space.
Border protection is everywhere!
Wherever you find Border Patrol Agents, you will find people who are using new and creative ways to avoid detection.
They fasten things to footwear to conceal their tracks and confuse trackers.
They dig tunnels under buildings and under border fences.
Often using only buckets and hand tools.
They build ladders out of rope…
…and rafts out of truck hoods.
…or boats out of tarps and tires.
Their motorcycles boast gas tank filters to keep sand and dirt out, a tire pump even though the tires are very worn, mufflers to reduce sound and blankets to cover the hard wooden seats. They do not have lights or suspension but smugglers load them with multiple passengers.
Drug smugglers with more money try to avoid detection by using this motorized hang glider.
They were caught.
Over the years the Border patrol has used a wide variety of equipment to aid in communication, detection and apprehension of illegal border crossers.
Both the Northern and Southern border patrol agents are represented in this collection of uniforms.
An old photo shows a greeting between US and Canadian agents
Uniforms changed styles and adapted over the years.
This is R.A.D. Robot Against Drugs.
He was used as an ambassador to promote D.A.R.E. drug education to local area schools. R.A.D. cost $24,000, he’s 54″ tall and weighs 350lbs. He moves forward, reverse, right and left, and spins 360, his arms move up and down, he has voice activated mouth movement which is synchronized with his voice and he has walk/don’t walk and traffic lights.
R.A.D. wears a border patrol gun belt with a plastic water gun to teach kids not to play with guns, a handcuff case which holds a plastic syringe to teach children not to use drugs and a simulated seatbelt panel which teaches kids to “buckle up.”
In addition to performing in schools, R.A.D. once performed in Washington D.C. for Attorney General Janet Reno. I wish he would perform for me!
R.A.D. was retired on November 10th, 1998 and moved to the border patrol museum to live out his days.
I’ve learned so many new things today and my respect for the brave men and women who patrol our borders and keep us safe has increased exponentially.
Secrets of Border Security have been revealed!
…and thus ends our explorations for today.