El Paso, the West Texan city along the waters of the Rio Grande, is a real frontier town: the land itself feels scarred from past battles and the people have that hardened look gained from a life on the edge.
Right in the heart of the city is the Concordia cemetery – a vast, open history lesson with some 60,000 crosses casting shadows over the last resting places of gunslingers, buffalo soldiers, Texas Rangers and war veterans. The sheer loss of human life here hits you like a slap as the afternoon sun blazes with no shade for respite.
Concordia is less than a kilometer from the Mexican border and El Paso’s streets would spill into the neighboring city of Ciudad Juárez if the Rio Grande, all cordoned off with high barbed wire fences, were not in the way to stop illegal immigrants from flooding over the border. Judging from the work trucks that pick up Mexicans in town for a day’s labor, the smart money would be on it being a failed policy – although as a visitor to the USA, you can cross over to Mexico for lunch if you wish.
I wouldn’t recommend it, however. On a previous trip, it took me five minutes to get over the border and five hours to get back, thanks to America’s overzealous Homeland Security Officers.
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