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04/23/2013

A high-tech crossing for Big Bend

Earlier this month, after an 11-year wait, a border crossing re-opened that connects Big Bend National Park and the tiny Mexican town of Boquillas.

Visitors who show up there scan their documents in a machine and converse remotely with a Customs and Border Protection agent more than 300 miles away in El Paso. Okay, you get the point, it's kind of an honor system. If there's a problem, apparently rangers from the national park or Border Patrol agents would arrive.

The video above is from Angela Kocherga and gives an idea of the remoteness of the place. You can actually wade across the Rio Grande there at many times of the year. Boquillas isn't much of a place. According to this Texas Monthly article, it's 150 miles (or five hours on a bus) from the nearest larger town, Melchor Muzquiz.

But it does have its charms, including a Mexican gentleman, Victor Valdez, who serenades those crossing the river with Mexican ballads like Cielito Lindo.

The re-opening also drew the attention of John MacCormack, a veteran San Antonio Express News writer, who noted in this article that many of the Mexicans in the village have stronger ties with the United States than with Mexico:

Food, gasoline, mail and hard cash came from the United States, medical emergencies often were treated in American hospitals and friendships with folks in the Big Bend region went back decades.

That all changed in May 2002, when the crossing was closed as part of a dramatic tightening of the border. With the town's lifeblood gone, many people moved away.

MacCormack went on to note that few thought the Boquillas crossing would ever reopen after terrorism came to the fore with the Sept. 11 attacks.

Last week, after years of work by officials in both countries, what many thought impossible in an age when "border security" is a hot-button political issue, quietly became a reality.

Enjoying a couple of cold ones at the Park Bar were two officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection national headquarters who were tasting the fruits of the successful project.

"We've been coming all the way from Washington for the last three years. We basically worked alongside the National Park Service," said Bryan Kegley, a CBP program manager.

"I think it's going to be great for the park and the river outfitters, and it's certainly going to be great for Boquillas," he said.

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pink schnoid

I have always wanted to go there just for the isolation and in addition to see the area that Pablo Acosta, pioneer narco, used to work back in the 70s....back then drugs were literally sold from bank to bank of the Rio Grande (or Colorado, depending how you look at it)...hippies and frat kids would line up like waiting for a popcorn concession....mules were used, literally...the animal kind of mule

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Tim

This blog is written by Tim Johnson, the Mexico bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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