Texas, Mexico and The Bridge Btw Them July 31 2012, 0 Comments


I have wanted to photograph both the San Antonio Missions and the El Paso Missions for a long time. So, I decided to head out a few days ago. The brochures of El Paso show it off as a quaint western city just a short drive, about an hour or so, from New Mexico. I love New Mexico. So my plan was to photograph the El Paso Missions, a bit of west Texas and then head into Southern New Mexico…One should always have a backup plan!
I arrive in El Paso mid-afternoon because of the time change. El Paso is on Mountain Time. I see a sign for the “Historic Mission Trail” so I turn off onto a side road and head about 15 miles into an area that may as well be Mexico. All of the shop and restaurant signs are written in Spanish. Bars are across the store doors and windows. Not a very welcoming sight. I trudge on because it is a beautiful day and my gas tank is full. I don’t speak Spanish, something I truly regret actually, but it doesn’t look like I am going to have to speak with anyone as long as I follow the signs.
I arrive at the first of the three missions. A light bulb goes on. I have often wondered why this mission is always pictured at an angle. The photos are awkward and cramped. Now I know why. There is a solid wall about ten feet from the front of this mission. There is no way to back up and get a complete photo of the front of the building. There is something like yellow crime tape hanging out the front door and the door is locked. This is not a good sign! I don’t have a pair of scissors to cut the tape so I get back into my car and head to the next mission. This mission is also closed but wow! What a fabulous view of this perfectly kept building. The sky is blue, the clouds are puffy and white and when the sun ducks behind them, I get a photograph with perfectly even light! On I go. The third and final mission is open but I take photos in between folks coming out and going inside.
I hadn’t expected to gather those photos that quickly but given that I did, I head further into El Paso to find a place to stay for the night, grab dinner and make a quick stop at the shopping mall! I hop onto the interstate where I am cruising along listening to a fabulous rock station, when, I am all of a sudden no longer near any shopping, hotels or restaurants. But I think I am still on the interstate. I glance over to my left and there is a VERY tall wire wall. If I didn’t known any better, I would think that I was driving next to a federal prison. Then it dawns on me that that is the border wall between the US and Mexico. Border patrol cars are everywhere. I slow because I have somehow gotten onto the bridge that goes into Mexico and the concrete barriers prevent me from turning around. I have either a sheer look of panic on my face knowing that I have no passport with me or a deer in the head light look because a border patrol car pulls up behind me. Out of the car comes an officer who looks like he could bench press 250lbs without any effort whatsoever. He asks me where I am trying to go. Completely embarrassed, I tell him that I was trying to go to the shopping mall. “Oh.” Then nothing. He busts out laughing. “The mall is about fifteen miles back. You didn’t look like you wanted to go to Mexico. Just go up about a quarter of a mile and you will see a sign that says, ‘open exit’. Turn there and it will take you right back into town. You want exit twenty-five.” Dying of embarrassment, I thank him and press on. After a short trip to Dillards where I did not find what I was looking for, I check in at a Hampton Hotel, order in and spend the night watching the Olympics.
The following morning I have my sights set on the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. I head out this time in the right direction. The sky is beautiful, mountains rising in front of me, the same great rock station blaring and coffee in my cup holder. I am about seventy miles down the road when I see flashing lights and a sign that reads, “Border Patrol Check Point”. Now I KNOW I am on the right road but every car and truck is required to stop and show that they are legally in the country. I am no-where near the border so I am a bit irritated. A U2 song has started playing on the radio and I am probably going to have to lower the volume. I approach the border agent and we chat. Turns out we were both born in New York so we get to talking for a minute and out of the corner of my eye, I am watching four other agents hand cuff a woman about 40 years old while drug dogs are in her SUV going crazy over something!! She doesn’t look particularly upset about being in hand cuffs, although the guy she is with standing ten or so yards from her does. I look at the border agent and say, “This isn’t the America we grew up in is it?” He assures me that it isn’t and waves me on. I begin to rethink this little trip. At first opportunity, I make a U-turn and even though I am hundreds of miles away, I head home where no address is required…and no proof of citizenship is needed!