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Author: Subject: Border Tours
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[*] posted on 9-10-2016 at 11:36 AM
Border Tours

This video: "The Real Deal with the US/Mexico Border"

reminds me of various tours of the border I've organized over the last 20 years.

I grew up in San Diego and lived in Baja from 1992-2001. During that time I was involved in various cross-border projects as a volunteer, university researcher and Presidential appointee. So I often agreed to help introduce people to the "real border" when they visited.

I first did this when I was a Sierra Club Chair for San Diego/Imperial Counties, later when I served on the US/Mexico Border Environmental Cooperation Commission (BECC), and finally as a Research Fellow on cross-border Environmental Policy at UCSD's Center for US/Mexico Studies.

A few memorable experience during tours: During a Sierra Club outing, at the end of the road on Otay Mesa that is now covered with trucks, buildings, etc, I pointed out burrows of ground owls that lived all over that area- but are now under asphalt and concrete. (I hope the owls found a new place to make their homes- I used to love watching them stick their heads up to watch me when I would walk there with my dog.)

On one outing, we had parked as far east on the pavement as we could drive, and were looking over to the Otay Mountains across green fields, covered with tall native plants, to discuss efforts to create a wilderness area on the US side. Suddenly heads began popping up in the field, and a group of people appeared in the tall plants, all dressed in black. Their leader carried a walkie talkie and approached us, then - after determining we were not a threat- waved to the others to come forward.

About a dozen people ran to where we were parked, and an SUV appeared behind us. They jumped in and drove away. No one spoke a word. I turned to the others in the group, smiled, and said: "You wanted a reality tour- there ya' go."

Another time, about 15 years ago, I hosted a group of researchers visiting UCSD from Mexico, Central America and South America. I drove out to the same area at the end of the road, then past the pavement into the field, and unfolded a map of the border region and watershed on the hood of my truck.

As we were looking east, a Border Patrol officer approached our group from the west to ask what we were doing. I explained the circumstances, introduced him to the researchers (professors, graduate students etc.) and he got very excited and told a story of patrolling at night in the mountains we were discussing.

One dark night, he was using infrared goggles and confused the thermal image of a dozing mountain lion for a human hiding in the dense brush. It was pitch black and he snuck up on the sleeping "person" and shouted "manos arriba!" The mountain lion responded with a leap and a swipe that tore deep into his leather field jacket. He told the story with great appreciation for that big cat.

Meanwhile, the researchers from Mexico were delighted he had appeared, and began posing for photos- with arms and legs spread wide- while leaning against the hood of his Border Patrol vehicle. They loved the photos from that tour. I loved their sense of humor about the whole thing.

So... as someone who grew up in San Diego, has crossed the border since I was a child, has lived on both sides, and has waited in line for a few hours (and a few minutes- thank you SENTRI pass)- all I can say is, the border is seriously broken AND seriously beautiful.

Despite the smuggling, security, fences, etc.- it's a wonderful place. Just put aside the fears, keep your eyes and ears open, and appreciate the incredible stories that happen here. The people, wildlife and places are full of amazing stories- be willing to listen to them with an open heart and mind.

\"Probably the airplanes will bring week-enders from Los Angeles before long, and the beautiful poor bedraggled old town will bloom with a Floridian ugliness.\" (John Steinbeck, 1940, discussing the future of La Paz, BCS, Mexico)
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[*] posted on 9-12-2016 at 02:14 AM

"I first did this when I was a Sierra Club Chair for San Diego/Imperial Counties, later when I served on the US/Mexico Border Environmental Cooperation Commission (BECC), and finally as a Research Fellow on cross-border Environmental Policy at UCSD's Center for US/Mexico Studies. ""

could not keep a job,eh.......

I hear the whales song
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[*] posted on 9-12-2016 at 06:19 AM

great stories!

Blanca and Les
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