In our post-9/11 world, this question looms in our consciousness as much as “Is the cost of gasoline up again?” Yet there was a time when it was familiar only to international travelers and especially to those of us who lived along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The border is my home. Both my mother’s and father’s ancestors received Spanish land grants and settled in what is now the southern tip of Texas and northeastern Mexico in the late 1700’s—well before the Rio Grande was even a boundary. When I was growing up in the seventies and eighties, making our way around the region required passing a federal checkpoint every time we crossed from one country to the other. It was a ritual my family rehearsed each Sunday afternoon after having spent the day with my grandmother on a small Mexican ranch thirty minutes from the bridge that joins Brownsville and Matamoros, Tamaulipas. We didn’t refer