WHAT SEPARATES OUR WORLD from that of Boquillas del Carmen, Mexico, is not so much a boundary as a threshold one crosses with the awareness that life will not be the same on the other side. The first hint of this comes twenty miles east of Big Bend National Park headquarters, still a mile inside Texas, where a wooden sign nonetheless announces “Bienvenidos a Boquillas.” A dirt road appears underneath the sign and eventually gives out into an unmarked, unshaded parking lot. Just beyond lies a caliche trail, which cuts a slender and winding swath through the mesquite underbrush for a hundred yards or so before tumbling downhill to the banks of the Rio Grande. A boatman waits there. “You want to go across?” he will ask, his accented voice soft and casual, and yet the question cannot help but compel a wary glance across the river. The view reveals a sleepy tableau: a huddle of men reposed against a pickup at the water’s edge, listening to a Mexican radio station while a couple of shaggy horses and a dozen or so donkeys brood nearby. In any event, no one comes this far only to turn back.
Whether or not the U.S. Government cracks down on illegal trips across the border at Boquillas, the Mexican town will remain what it has always been: a quiet, charming village where the differences between countries—and cultures—are blurred.
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