Building Walls Isn't the Solution
by Jessica Maria Page
The Heart of Big Bend National Park
Let me tell you about one of my many adventures.
My great West Texas adventure. Both of Texas's National Parks, a hike to the highest point in Texas, a drive along the Rio, and a real ghost town. I wanted to take it all in!
I didn't tell many people I was going because I knew what they would say, "Are you crazy?! The drug cartel is patrolling the border. Do you want to be shot and robbed? Have a bag thrown over your head and stolen?"
I had heard all the horror of the border from my family but I had also read of the little visited west Texas and stories of its desert beauty. I had to see it for myself.
So a group of us set off and 8 hours later we arrived in Big Bend National Park. This park did not disappoint and at first, I still heard a small voice of concern in the back of my mind. It soon melted away as we met fellow travelers. We met a couple living in a van down by the hot springs and then talked about the history of the area in the hot spring with an old hippie. I swam in the Rio and starred at Mexico which was only a short swim away. We hiked in a remote area of the park and saw a momma black bear and her cubs. Thousands of butterflies flew around us in the canyon and after a beautiful sunset out in our remote campsite I saw more stars than I had ever seen before.
The next day we drove along the border and once again I heard my family's voices in the back of my mind. We stopped to see a real ghost town and met a local at a dusty old thrift store. The man talked to us and offered us any of the items outside to take for free. One of us bought a book and the man was visibly sad to see it go because he said he was planning to read it one day but the layer of dust said otherwise. We walked around the old town and I stopped to see a cemetery that looked straight out of an old western movie and wondered why anyone would stay here in this ghost town their entire life, like the old man in the store. It was all he knew I told myself and I shrugged the thought off.
As we drove along the scenic Camino del Rio, I pulled over at a picnic spot and I realized I hadn't seen a single soul the entire drive after leaving the park, minus one border patrol that passed us. We climbed upon a large boulder and ate our sandwiches out of the trunk of our vehicle. We were all silent as we took in the scenery.
My whole life this place was a war zone to me, a place never to go, a place of sure death but now I only saw its beauty. The sun was high above us as we soaked in its rays and it glittered on top of the Rio. The mountains surrounding us were red and I had to strain my eyes to see where they ended in Mexico. I tried to decide which side of the river was more beautiful and gave the win to Mexico because it lacked man-made roads. She was still fully wild and free.
We got back in and continued our adventure heading north now to the second national park destination. That's when we were stopped by the border patrol. The man wore a tan uniform and sun glasses. He had a dog on a leash and they circled our vehicle. As he questioned me my hands began to shake and sweat. I stuttered and said my answer backwards to one of his questions. His last question was, "are you all U.S citizens?" I quickly said yes. He nodded and with a quick wave of his hand I was on my way.
As I drove off and my heart stopped pounding I began to realize with a laugh we weren't all US citizens. Two of my friends were from England. We all laughed but then I got to thinking...
This entire trip I had a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me to be fearful of Mexico and the cartel that surely were waiting to steal Americans away but the only thing I had been afraid of was America and its border control law enforcement.
The rest of my trip was lovely and I only continued to meet decent people. As I drove back to central Texas I realized before this trip I had allowed myself to be fearful of the unknown. This picture of the border and the cartel were just scary portraits in my mind, made up by others, who also had never been but had heard stories. We were all missing out on the beauty of the magical mysterious west Texas but now I had seen it with my own eyes.
I think it's important to share this specific story now because it is a lesson that I believe applies to the questionable wall that the trump administration and supporters want to build.
I wish that everyone could experience this place and know what a waste it would be to construct such a pointless, dangerous, environmentally harmful and insulting structure. Since I know that's not possible I hope that hearing my story might shed some small light on the state of our southern border. It's not a place to fear, these people are not people to fear, building a wall won't solve our problems but only create further issues.
This story makes me think that maybe we aren't that different from the man in the book store...maybe fear is all we know.