An Essayby William Fleeson
I paid the fifty-cent fee and advanced. Around me dozens of pedestrians, not necessarily Mexican, hustled through the turnstiles on their way up the bridge. The walkway ran parallel to the two-way traffic, where cars with US and Mexican license plates waited, idling. Treading up through the cool air, sheltered from the cold spitting rain by a cheap wood roof, I did as the others were doing, walking from El Paso across a short divide that belied its civilizational importance. Beyond us soared a raised highway, running exactly along the border. Below us trickled the Rio Grande—or the Rio Bravo, to use the Mexican name. Its waters descended a cement culvert that shredded any semblance of a natural river.
A line in the pavement at the top of the incline meant more than anyone said. Walking down the slope, amid the others, past the chatting Mexican guards with their boots and pump-action shotguns, we flushed out to the avenue. Free to go where we liked. For its cold and rain, Juárez didn’t feel at all like the desert town I expected.