The Ranchero who shut down a border

Growing up on the border, I crossed the bridges between the Eagle Pass, Tx, and Piedras Negras, Coah. probably over 1,500 times. (twice a day for every day of school). My grandpa was even immigration chief for my Mexican home district.

Despite this, I had very rarely seen an trouble with the system, that is to say I had only seen the border shut down once in my life and I don’t really remember it. It was during 9/11. Despite my many border crossings, about 99% of them have been through a legal port of entry where each country agreed to set up formal customs and immigration authorities. (1% swimming in the Rio Grande, sometime even with friends whose parents are US border patrol). When we saw the San Gabriel gate my reaction was originally to be freaked out. What the hell is a gate doing that is unguarded from one side?


Hot take- when I heard about the man who owned the property and had actually welded the gate shut to prevent the movement through it, I thought I would have done the same if this were the case on our ranch on the border. I would not have tried to sell them the ranch through,  I just don’t want my home to serve as a hub for illegal crossings.


Did anyone ask him what he thought of having an unofficial border crossing on his property, especially one under the turf of the Sinaloa Cartel? (El Chapo’s people) I would be scared shitless. My ranch is one of the two places where people can cross the usually 100 ft. wide and strong currented Rio Grande on foot and we have the same problem, but with the Los Zetas Cartel.


While the Tohno are right in saying this was their land first, I find the argument of their right to free and unrestricted movement to Mexico absurd as a Mexican citizen claiming they have a right to move to Houston or San Antonio. (Both previously Mexican territory). The land was conquered and they should have no claim to it in Mexico and therefore no unrestricted access to an actual  sovereign country. Mexico for this reason does not recognize the sovereignty of indigenous lands.


We also have to take into consideration the sad fact that the living conditions of the Tohono coupled with their American recognized status have made them prime targets to be recruited as human and drug smugglers. I have met some back home in Texas- can you really blame anyone for not wanting that in your backyard?


I do not think that closing the gate was a solution, or even an attempt at one, but rather an unfortunate side effect of a broken immigration system and a bi-national failure on the war on drugs, with the Tohono caught in the middle. It wasn’t their fault, it wasn’t the rancher’s fault. Everyone acted rationally, can you really blame anyone for that?

2 Replies to “The Ranchero who shut down a border”

  1. Since the Tohono O’dham people have such a strong connection, I is hard for me to agree with cutting them off from traveling their native grounds. But, I also do not blame the rancher for not wanting people crossing through their lands. Despite all the barriers standing in their way, it is amazing how resilient the Tohono O’odham are in staying connected to their culture and land. When an elder wanted to be buried in Mexico, they walked the coffin over the fence standing in their way rather than backing down.

  2. I have also touched on and agree that the O’odham are unfortunately caught in the middle of the border issue and they suffer the detriments of both smuggling crimes and deteriorating police relations. Listening to O’odham members speak, it mainly seemed to me that they were open to security and cooperation with border patrol and security but also wanted to have a say in what happened on their land. I think this is by far the best way to address this issue, with the support of the O’odham in securing the border for crime issues but with acknowledgement and understanding of O’odham desires the border issue can be better addressed.

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