Back to El Paso
Back to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.
It was no fun going back across the border. It never is. The smiles are gone. The welcome is over.
It is good to be back to US soil- it always is. But something very vital and valued is missing. Everything is more official, more abrupt. Less smiles.
Maybe I will walk those welcoming streets again. Next year? Why not. Why not right now?
Maybe I will go to every border town and amble the streets. I would love to!
Or perhaps back here next year with 1,000 gringos and we all walk across the bridge and infiltrate the area. Swarm it with connection and relationships and receive all that Juarez has to give.
And maybe we will include Juarez in our “Sotol Circle” tour and immerse our guests in the rich history, culture, and hospitality of this place.
And just maybe the door of relationship and love will open a bit and a bright flow of conversation and connection will seep across the Rio Grande (Bravo).
Will fear win?
Or fear will win. I am beginning to learn that fear is one of the essential antonyms of love. I think the old book says “Perfect love drives out fear.”
When fear wins along the border, isolation is the default. Fear relies on assumptions to stay alive and the assumptions create a vast ocean across the little Rio Grande. The fear festers in those who do not go there. Ironically there is this huge optimism and commitment to their city in the people of Juarez. And there is resolve to see a difficult situation through. And a little bit of actual amusement at how we nortes think about their city. They shake their heads and smile.
So assumptions grow. Castigation festers. The wall gets fortified and reinforced in every mind. And the only flow across the dry stream bed is the plastic, the apples, the polyester, the silicon, the cocaine and we all remain desperately poor.
Fear makes us build a wall…it is the easiest way out. And it blocks the view of what reality and everyday life is like on the other side.
I think I am beginning to learn to never build a wall against the truth. And absolutely never against a friend.
I remember touching the Berlin wall. I recall vividly walking through it in 1969 at Checkpoint Charlie, and walking those eastern streets for a few hours. And I recall thinking “You foolish East Germans! You crazy communists! Why would you build a wall?
Memory serves that the wall came down rather quickly after some very wise man yelled. “Tear this wall down!”
Welcomed in Juarez.
On the streets of Juarez I was welcomed. At the plaza, in a bar, when I entered a home. People would turn to me with a smile and a hug. Gracious words. Asking about my family. The Mexican way.
I recall this cool Christian preacher I used to know. He would disarm (got to lose that one too) a hostile crowd by walking through it with a smile, arms out welcoming people. Seemed like the Jesus way to do things. I am going to coach my guests- or our Juarez walkers next year to use this approach. Just return a welcome with a welcome and get to know you neighbors. Knock the wall down. Connect.
Actually you know, that special graciousness in Juarez is common in the cities and towns across Chihuahua. Most folks who go to Mexico hit the beach resorts and unfortunately get perhaps just a little taste of rich hospitality that flows in Juarez and across Chihuahua. My guests in Copper Canyon say this is what they remember. It is usually not the vast canyons (deeper that Grand Canyon), the train (86 tunnels and 37 bridges), etc. It is the friendships they make there. Sure many are a bit hesitant when we cross the frontera. But then they affirm that they feel secure and that the people are what lodge in their memories. Only the jaded and self-absorbed miss this.
Is it safe to travel in Mexico?
It is incredibly frustrating as the owner of a tour company in Chihuahua to handle all the flow of negativity about travel in Mexico- including the State Department warnings. I have written and videoed about this quite a bit.
Here is the crux of the frustration: There have been zero incidents with tourists in the vast Copper Canyon area. None. Not a one. So how can we do better than zero?
I have two options: either give into fear and assumption or I can engage this twisted, powerful perception with truth.
That’s why I walked across Juarez.