I’ve been watching a very good 2-parter on BBC about the borderland between the US and Mexico, and most specifically the wall which Trump thought was so important to be built, he even said he wanted Mexico to pay for it.
The presenter – Sue Perkins – is a likeable, friendly person who has a knack of getting close in to the people she meets on her trip, and her genuine warmth and interest come across as she explores the real life experience of what it’s like living with the wall, not just for the Mexicans, but the Americans too.
In Mexico, she meets with families, dances in the streets in the festival of the dead, helps prepare food for migrants wanting to cross the border into the US, and spends time with a family who are separated by the wall and can only touch the fingers of their loved ones on the other side through a metal mesh.
Hers is a moving and interesting account seen from both sides of the ugly rusty-brown metal wall and fencing along the boderlands, and it resonated strongly with me as I’ve been to some of the border towns on the US side, crossed (legally) over the Rio Grande to Mexico in a small rowing boat, and have worked as a volunteer in my granddaughter’s Houston school, helping Mexican children – amongst many other ethnicities – with reading and language skills.
Seeing more of Mexican life through the eyes of Sue Perkins, I was struck by how happy and sunny the Mexicans are, often in the face of hardship and emotional challenges. They seemed to want the very best for their children, the family unit was of great importance and in true Latino way, they had music and fire in their souls.
Although drug smuggling across the border was explored, with the help of a Texan sherrif in a Stetson, and with a gun at his hip, the series transcended the tales of drug cartels and focussed of many other aspects of Mexican life. It was fascinating and reminded me of the friendliness and warmth I’d experienced on my day trip to the small villages of Boquillas last year.
Part of Perkin’s journey on the US side covered a section of Big Bend National Park, which is right against the border, which is defined by the Rio Grande (see picture above). She went canoeing along it, down what looked like the Santa Elena canyon; we walked by it last year and it is definitely spectacular. In Big Bend, the mountains provide a natural wall, one which doesn’t prevent the free movement of the wildlife which live in this dramatic desert region.
I was struck by how much happier and sunnier the Mexicans she met were compared to the Americans, some of whom seemed quite dour and focussed on protecting themslves and their land. Now I don’t know if that was a deliberate ploy in the production and editing of the programme, but I do know from experience of road trips in this part of Texas that the people working a living on the land are tough, the womenfolk too, and that guns are a part of everydaylife. The exection to this on the trip was when she visited the town of Marfa. More on this next time, as it’s somewhere I’ve been to where there are mysterious lights to be seen…..