French version available here. On the edge of Texas’ Big Bend National Park, there is a small border crossing where a paddle boat makes trips for $5 to enter into Mexico. The immigration control is intense on both sides and there is another small fee to obtain a passport stamp. Once across the 50-yard river on Mexican soil, a donkey or a 5-minute Jeep ride will take you to the small town of Boquillas. In a town of about 200 people, tourism keeps food in the mouths of children that run around in the streets chasing dogs. Boquillas is like taking a journey back in time. Men ride horses and women hand make colorful drapery or beaded figurines that are peddled to visitors
Small bars serve good tamales and local beers or tequila. Clotheslines carry colorful textiles, drying in front of the endless landscape of dessert and mountains. The Rio Grande stands as the only boundary between two countries but there’s a cultural gap separated for more than 1,000 miles. Before 9/11, this tiny village was the perfect day-trip destination for many. In fact, its entire economy resided on tourist trade and open borders: the first one provided its residents with jobs, the second allowed them to go grocery shopping in the United States. By simply crossing a river.
From 2002 until 2014, fear took hold and the border closed. Neighbors became strangers. And the once prosperous village soon become a ghost town. Boquillas contradicts the « border effect », where economists often observe regions of neighboring countries trade sometimes 20 times more than regions across countries. Which might explain why Boquillas went from a stable prosperity – despite the 2009 crisis – to a severe depression.
Nevertheless, when the border re-opened in 2014, very little had changed. So little that no official announcement was made. Still, the village does exist. It is even now running by solar panels and has a few phones connected by one power line. Internet isn’t yet an option. And this gem of a place, although ruled by restrictions and passport controls, should be experienced. Because Boquillas might redefine the very essence of what economists witness looking at borders: Boquillas once fell but stands still.