The US/Mexico Border Daily
Section SEven: El Paso to Fort Hancock
Section 7: El Paso to Fort Hancock
We’ve heard El Paso is not only the safest city on the border but also in the country! It sure was calm today. We blended in with all the other pedestrian-types. With our 40 lb backpacks left far behind at the hotel we could swing our shopping bags and amble down the sidewalks in disguise.
Do we look like normal tourists?
All the usual storefronts were on display, Chipotle, Whole Foods, law firms, Walmart, libraries. A sales guy in a superhero suit stood on the street waving a sign boasting “comida!” Among the heavy traffic streaming along our route was the first Border Patrol vehicle we had seen in a while. He pulled off the main street into a Jimmy John's for lunch. BP has gotta eat too!
At this point we’ve been off the hiking trail for almost two weeks.
Ooof, what effect does this have on the mind and body?
After two weeks of eating like we were still hiking our stomachs felt clogged and uncomfortably full. Our legs were stiff and uncooperative and complained after only a couple miles of hiking. And the overwhelming to-do list that had piled up during our break filled our thoughts with stress and anxiety. In every other way though, the time off had recharged us. Our spirits were definitely higher and we had a renewed sense of energy and purpose. The congestion of our minds and bodies is nothing that a little hiking can’t clear up!
Our hiking led us down the highway on a gradual decline towards the city center. The scene changed from strip malls to residential neighborhoods to skyscrapers and city buildings all staggered along a hill down to the river and US/Mexico border. I-10 runs directly through the city creating a maze of traffic and overlapping lanes and bridges. After navigating through the mess we entered downtown El Paso, a brief but cool little space of wide sidewalks and green spaces and fellow pedestrians. We blended! Exciting stuff.
Among the enormous sleek buildings with hundreds of feet of shiny windows was a little bird bath. It was one of the many sculptures in the city center and an older woman stood admiring it, amused by the pigeon population it attracted.
Birds swarmed. It wasn't clear, was she entertained by the flocks or they were entertained by her?
We were startled by a little black pigeon that hopped by our feet. Unlike the other showy pigeons, it was frazzled, white tufts stuck out everywhere, some coated with an oily sheen. His beady eyes rolled in bewildered dismay. What happened little guy? You look like you’ve been electrocuted!
It was fantastic how well the city center incorporated a southwest motif. Earth-tone colors, rough textures, adobe, geometric shapes piled in with skyscrapers. A statue stood tall on the horizon, a giant red X with an observatory on top. We had seen it in the morning and as we moved closer our perspective changed. We had assumed it was in El Paso (definitely some bias there) but realized it was actually in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. It’s almost impossible to see the border from far away unless you know what you’re looking for; the two sprawling cities are built right up to double-walled fence that marks the dry river’s boundary. As usual, the Mexican sister-city is far bigger and more populated. It’s also supposedly one of the more violent and crime-ridden areas in Mexico, a strange juxtaposition to the “safest city in America” just to the north.