Crossing to Boquillas, Coahuila, Mexico

In the days before 9/11, Big Bend residents and visitors alike used to enjoy the ease of entering Mexico without passports or customs formalities. This was possible at three places, all in or near the Big Bend National Park (Boquillas, Santa Elena and Lajitas). I wrote a book about this in 2000, “Mexico: Unofficial Border Crossings from the Big Bend.”

With a wave of the hand, anyone standing on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande could summon an old row boat from the Mexican shore, which would take him over and back for $2. On the Mexican side, he could drink a beer, eat a meal, buy some souvenirs or even spend the night.
Particularly popular with students during Spring Break, this unconventional cultural experience provided a lot of fun for visitors, and kept the Mexican villagers alive.

From Boquillas, it was also possible to take organized trips into the nearby Sierra del Carmen range, a protected area, or take a twice-weekly bus into the interior. The Del Carmens rise to 9,000 feet and have a different history (of private ownership, and logging) compared to the Big Bend National Park. Aspen trees grow at the higher elevations, and black bear make their home there.

In May 2002, U.S. Border Patrol announced that these unofficial crossings were now illegal. Anyone entering the USA at these places would face a $5,000 fine. This announcement, and the beefed-up enforcement which followed, put an immediate stop to cross-border visits on this stretch of the Rio Grande. Starved of tourist dollars and without much other means of support, the inhabitants of the Mexican villages left to find work elsewhere.

In 2011, to general surprise, the U.S. Government announced a plan to reopen the Boquillas Crossing with a Class B Port of Entry Station, where arrivals would check themselves in via a remote control system. A $3.7 million structure was completed on the U.S. side for this purpose, and an opening date of May 2012 specified. Since then, nothing has happened but the public has been reassured that the opening will take place sometime soon. What will the visitor find on the Mexican side, where two thirds of the residents moved out ten years ago? Time will tell.

It seems increasingly likely that the Boquillas Crossing will reopen at the end of  January 2013. When the news is definitive, we will post it.

 

Jim Glendinning About Jim Glendinning

I am a Footloose Scot who has traveled to 136 countries. "I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." Robert Louis Stevenson
Read about Jim Glendinning and his book Footloose Scot: Travels In A Time Of Change

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