Saturday, November 24, 2007


I made myself a promise when I moved to Arizona in late September, a vow that I would get out and explore my new home. Today I took a road trip in my quest to learn more about the southwest. I drove from Phoenix, through Tucson, and on down to Nogales, Arizona. I left my car behind the McDonald’s, four dollars for the entire day, and walked through the international border into Nogales, Mexico.

Nogales, Mexico, was much as I expected it to be: crowded streets with many shops and vendors vying for attention. I was clad in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt and the day was much cooler than I had anticipated, so the first shopkeeper who accosted me managed to unload a woolen parka and a blanket. He literally saw me coming! After that I spent a couple of hours roaming through the narrow streets and alleyways looking at merchandise and watching the easy flow of multi-culturalism.

Having been in southern Mexico a couple of times, I was expecting to see the multitude of little shops with their blankets, pottery, silver jewelry, leather goods, and whatnots. Something that I hadn’t expected to encounter was the abundance of pharmacies and dental clinics, several of each on almost every block. Clearly the gringos must be crossing the border en masse to buy prescription drugs and have their dental work done.

Another surprise was the relative ease with which I was able to get into and out of Mexico. Going in involved navigating through a turnstile, no identification check, no sign-in, nada. Coming out I presented my passport to a US Customs agent who didn’t look at it. He asked what I had bought, and when I told him and started to pull the blanket out of its bag, he waved me on through. Mexican nationals crossing into the United States, and they were by far the majority as I was going through, presented an identification card to the bored agent, and he swiped it through a card reader. On the way home I encountered a Border Patrol checkpoint about 20 miles north of Nogales where I was waved through without being carded or questioned. (Lou Dobbs would have been appalled!)

All in all, it was a nice way to spend a beautiful Saturday.

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