We entered Texas at El Paso, where Texas, New Mexico and Mexico itself meet.
Speeding along through the city along Interstate 10, we could plainly see Ciudad Juarez across the Rio Grande, looking very much like another country with its slanted roofed houses sitting precariously on hills traversed by dirt roads.
We had been close to the border since Arizona, listening to Mexican radio for some time and knowing that just over the mountains lay a very different place.
Having intended to spend Christmas in Baja California, we were swiftly discouraged against entering Mexico by everyone from my parents to the newspapers and fellow travelers.
Mexico is in the midst of a quasi-war between rival drug cartels based in Ciudad Juarez and Sinaloa, with additional cartels from Tijuana and the Gulf mixed in – plus the Mexican state’s own army. The battle for hegemony has led to the murders of thousands of Mexicans, many of them civilians. There have been countless muggings, beheadings and kidnappings.
So we decided not to go.
Later in Texas, we met a couple – one spouse from El Paso and the other from Ciudad Juarez. In the past, they’d just walk over the bridge between the two without a second thought. Now, they avoid going across for all but the most important family engagements. The wife spoke of her sister’s neighborhood constructing a fence around itself, her cleaner’s husband being murdered in broad daylight and the sadness she felt seeing her country destroyed.
Claire – On maternity leave from career as editor of monthly finance trade magazines, and occasionally a freelance translator. Half-American/half-English, raised in the suburbs of New York, has lived in London for almost nine years.
Daniel – Furniture designer/maker based on London’s Columbia Road flower market, for ten years, also an aspiring painter and DIY supremo. On one-year career break to reconsider options. English by birth, but mother is half-American and spent part of her childhood in Bronxville, New York.
Sophia – 3.5-year old spitfire who loves school, singing, swimming and being a big sister
Lulu – Born May 8 of this year, a model baby who eats, sleeps and gurgles.
Special guests – American, British and international friends and family who drop in along our trip to see whatever part of the country they fancy. They’re welcome to travel in the car with us and sleep in an adjoining tent.