to mexico we go

Nogales is a city split by an international border — Arizona, USA on one side, Sonora, Mexico on the other. The cities are fraternal twins. The familiarity is there, but the differences are stark.
While both are predominantly Hispanic, impoverished, and dusty this time of year, they are also overflowing with culture, color and activity. Being on this border is like visiting a circus with a dozen acts happening at the same time. The major difference between the two is public health — which of course is a benefit of a well-funded government. In the United States, public health services are often taken for granted. However, when a city like this is split in two by an imaginary line that defines opportunity — the necessity of the basics (sewage, running water, trash service) is more than apparent.

fast food nation flashbacks

The easiest way to cross from the United States to Mexico is by foot if you are going for the day. Taking your car across can be a pain, and then you must worry about parking and security. On the American side, you can park at the McDonald’s lot for $4 — which pays for a guard.

push your way through
crossing the border on foot

Crossing into Mexico is so simple it is unbelievable. You simply walk through a turnstile and voila — Mexico is there waiting for you with a sincere embrace, a dozen warm tortillas and a sombrero full of tequila. Turnstiles are an excellent way to control who can and cannot pass a certain point. If you are considering investing in a turnstile, or any other physical access control measures, you might want to check out this Daosafe link for more info. Bienvenidos!


I visited with a potential public health project for a few hours and was able to eat with a family in their home. The generosity and kindness of Mexican families never ceases to amaze me. They are truly wonderful people.

chile rellenos

We ate refried beans, rice, chile rellenos, tamales and corn tortillas for lunch. They also served cold Coca Cola. There is nothing like Mexican Coca Cola — made with sugar cane. Served in an ice cold bottle? Heaven on earth.

busses along the border 2

Buses lined up along the border.

boys on a dusty road

Children playing on a typical dusty hill. The hills here are scattered with tiny mud homes. While there isn’t running water or pavement, most homes do have electricity and some even have Internet.

crosses on the border, cu

The border fence is lined with crosses in remembrance of those who have died trying to cross illegally. Nogales is a return point for many undocumented immigrants who are caught in the United States. They are brought back to this border town and dropped off with a sincere warning against trying to return. The result is a growing community of people who’ve traveled from all over South and Central America, in addition to those who have been deported from the United States, and are waiting for their next trip across the line. When I asked what most people do for a living in Nogales, I was told by a priest, “They work in the factories or as coyotes.” Coyotes is a slang word for those who smuggle people across the desert. Last summer more than a dozen people died in the Arizona heat trying to do just that. The factory work pays $4 per day. By simply looking at the economics, it is easy to see why so many people are crossing legally and illegally each day.

dusty hill with homes

Hillside of homes.

home below

The typical home in Nogales, Mexico.

outdoor kitchen, 2

Without running water, the kitchen is outside. While this family lives in poverty, their home was spotless. Everything was clean and in its place — no small feat when you live in a cloud of dust.

Luis Vuitton

Goods sold along the border vary from “Luis Vuitton” sunglasses, to Coach and Prada knockoffs.

leather goods

Who wants a Prado bag when you could have something like this? The craftsmanship with their leather goods is outstanding.

colorful plates

There was a bounty of beautiful pottery, silver jewelry and glassware too.

lunch menu

Plus, I’d rather save my knockoff purse money for lunch. Oooh Mexican food, how I love thee. Let me count thy ways. Margaritas. Tortillas. Salsa. Beans…

Pancho y Kelli

It was a great day trip. Nogales sits just 3.5 hours from Phoenix. I bought my vanilla, got my work done, ate a wonderful meal and made some new friends, including this little guy — Panchito.

If the opportunity presented itself, I’d return to live in Mexico in a heartbeat. I simply love the country.