Wednesday, April 25, 2012

El Río Bravo del Norte

There's nothing quite like seeing things up close. Dispenses with political theatrics and propaganda distortions, for one. At this Brownsville-Matamoros crossing point, El Río Bravo del Norte (the Rio Grande) is nowhere near as formidable as the Detroit River at the US-Canadian border. Here there's a lot of foot traffic, which makes the border crossing feel intimately human in scale. More like Detroit-Windsor is the crossing at Laredo-Nuevo Laredo, with its long lines of 18-wheelers and aggressively intrusive inspections. Here, no problem, really.

The International Bridge: where both Route 77 and the USA begin (going north from Tamaulipas) and end (going south from Texas). That's the ground leading into Heroica Matamoros across the river. Matamoros has about half a million inhabitants; Brownsville proper has just under 200,000.  

The Great Wall of America, I suppose, except there's a big hole in it that we walked through to see the river up close. No one stopped us, no one cared. No one said anything, in fact. Behind all the smoke and hype from far away mouths, Brownsville is almost entirely a Latino-Hispanic city, far more so than during the Mexican-American War -- which started here in 1846. Longterm cultural survival and demographic realities have trumped many of the early results of that particular military-political conflict. People, as they have for a long time, cross back and forth, buy things and do stuff, and then they go home until the next time around.  

Porfirio Díaz resided here in 1875, biding his time to become ruler of Mexico in the late 1870s and from 1884 until he was forced into exile in 1911 by the Mexican Revolution. This complex, resembling a Spanish governor's palace in, say, San Antonio, New Orleans or Santa Fe, dates to 1850.

Downtown Brownsville at night has a different feel than during the day. On this visit, by day it was filled with pedestrians, by night, mostly people in cars, trucks and SUVs, with a few tavernas open for business and most shops closed.  

Lost?  You might wait around a spell and see what happens, but I'd keep going down the road to see what's over the horizon -- one can never be sure if you're sittin' dead in the water. As old Visser quips in the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple (1984): ". . . what I know about is Texas, an' down here... you're on your own."  In this case, it's a back road leading to Resaca de la Palma -- the World Birding Center, not the battleground.

Today's Rune: Defense.   


the walking man said...

There never is any end to the road--east never meets west and south turns naturally into north. On and on.

Charles Gramlich said...

Always interesting where cultures meet.

jodi said...

Erik, I am more familiar with the border between the U.S. and Cuba. I have witnessed more than once, a boat loaded with people trying to make the trip. Never been to Texas, but want to someday! Hopefully it'll be while you are still there so we can cocktail!