This time last year Ruth and I were in Big Bend National Park in Texas. Taking the trail along the Rio Grande River to the Boquillas Canyon Overlook, we read warning signs like the one posted here. We had been advised to secure our car on the parking lot because people were on the rocks above….watching. As we hiked, we noticed unsupervised trinkets for sale on boulders and assumed that people were on the rocks above….watching. As we walked along the Rio Grande to the top of the Canyon, we were approached by men who, we assumed, wanted to sell us items that the warning signs forbade. A man on a high rock on the Mexican side was singing.
Later in the Panther Junction Visitor Center, I asked about this and was told that the little Mexican town of Boquillas del Carmen depended on Big Bend visitors to cross the river, shop, eat in the cantina, have a beer, etc. But the border slammed shut after 9-11 and had remained so for more than 10 years.
Because Boquillas del Carmen was suffering, however, things were about to change. Perhaps. A border exception was in the works to allow Big Benders to once again visit. In an era of steady talk about illegal immigration, drug trafficking, securing the Mexico-U.S. border, etc. a relaxation might occur to help the economy of a Mexican town. Fascinating. I was not given a timetable, but I was given a contact name. I waited about a month, called, and was told that nothing had occurred. The man was vague, maybe uncomfortable, with my questions, but he did promise to call me if there was change. That call never came and I moved on to other travel topics.
That’s why I was so surprised when I googled Boquillas this week and learned that a Port of Entry reopened on April 10th, 2013. From Wednesday to Sunday, visitors to Big Bend with a U.S. Passport, Enhanced Driver’s License, etc. can cross the Rio Grande by foot or pay $5 per person to ferry across and walk a mile or ride a burro for $8 round-trip to town. In Boquillas, U.S. citizens must go the Mexican immigration office to get a 7-day tourism permit before exploring.
A Big Bend National Park website about the new Boquillas Crossing Port of Entry still carries dire warnings like, “Mexican Nationals may approach visitors in the park to sell items….if you purchase their items or make a donation, you are encouraging them to cross the river, which may result in their arrest and deportation….”
I find this very interesting. If this is just an experiment to see if border exceptions can work, why was a $3.7 million Port of Entry built? Lots of questions, few answers.