I made it home. This is a photo of how the wall ends in the Pacific Ocean, south of San Diego and north of Tijuana. I had seen a photo on what was a much calmer ocean day. The photo made it look like it could be swam around, at least take a small boat around it. This day the waves were slamming into it and any thought of trying to circumvent the thing seemed like a death wish.
This photo also represents the end-cap of the project. I had only mentioned it once i think before leaving and maybe I didn't really spell out what i was down south doing. I wanted to travel the length of the Mexican American border form Gulf to Pacific.
i took a little over 5 weeks to driving as close to the border as possible, exploring as much of the land within 50 miles of the wall as i could. And most photos that have been shown are from inside that with a few exceptions. 90% would be within 80miles of the border with only a couple around 100 miles away. Some places were too enticing to pass up. If i was showing the land and an interesting opportunity was right there, it was too hard to pass up (White Sands New Mexico)
I crossed the border a good 15 times always at a border town but did most of my traveling north of the wall in the United States.
There was a period of a couple weeks in western Texas, New Mexico and America where the only people i was talking to were border guards. All of whom being very nice.
Even when i was pulled over for looking suspicious, and i understood that i did look suspicious... (Big white van from states away; longer hair, beardy, derelict looking guy coming out of dirt roads near the border) usually after a couple minutes of talking they were making recommendations for places to see that i possibly didn't know about, not highlights on my map.
It was a given, every time i was entering back into America my van was getting thoroughly searched, many times x-rayed as i was put with guards who continued to question what i was up to. Other than that, another 25-30 times of just being pulled over to see if i was carrying anything illegal either in the form of people or goods. Sometime with dogs, sometimes without.
I play by the rules when out on these trips, so to their dismay, there was never anything to find and i would be sent on my way.
One day when coming out of Native American lands, i didn't know i was in them because i was actually sent there as a recommendation from a border guard. A series of backroads to take to see some petroglyphs got me turned around and on these roads that crossed ravines and got me stuck in sand. It was getting late, the sun had set and i did think i was getting out of there until things became full dark of night. I figured my bearings and was able to get to a more major paved road with little light left only to be instantly pulled over by 4 border patrol vehicles.
All i can assume is they had been watching me fumble around back there for a bit and had talked themselves into believing i was up to no good and pumped their adrenaline up to 100 in preparation for what would be the bust of the year or something.
"Sir, how are you this evening. Do you have anything in here you should declare. Please exit the vehicle. Stand over there sir..." They really were polite...
They continued to tear my van apart including separating the internal walls and insulation from the metal frame in search of my contraband. I made small talk, none of em would really have it this time and just asked me to continue standing over there and please be patient. Finally when it was clear there was nothing illegal going on they started admitting to me they were a little let down. How they really thought they had a big one, but then ultimately accepting that they wouldn't be spending the rest of the night booking me and being fine with avoiding all the paperwork that would have followed. They asked me where i was planning on going and they escorted me to the next gas station explaining i had been in one of the most used corridors for trafficking along the whole border. I get it.
I don't have the statistics yet. How many people are actually employed to be border guards. The percentage that have military training, if that's a prerequisite. I was hardly ever out of vision of one. The entire time. It was impressive. So many hiding behind bushes, so many posted up in obvious places like hilltops. So many cruising the roads there close to the wall. I don't know how anyone ever gets through. From what i can tell the wall travels the entire distance of New Mexico west of Juarez/El Paso, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. But there are many places in Texas it doesn't exist at all, or would be there for a series of miles and then a gap. I saw places where there would be gaps and dirt roads from fields that were obviously being farmed by the same people on either side. There are places without wall that would require a pretty grueling walk through formidable land where America has white flags on poles attached to water barrels if you are in need.
I saw towns where there would be a little bit of town on both sides of the fence and people obviously going home from their day of work in America and crossing over to go home in Mexico. I saw towns that were barely there on the American side but had a decent population on the Mexican side with every box store and fast food restaurant you can imagine (Walmart, Target, McDonalds, Wendy's...) lined up against the border and people carrying bags and bags and sometimes shopping carts full of goods back over to Mexico. (Douglas, Arizona / Calexico, California)
All these people and this wall from what i can figure is a visual representation of our efforts on the War on Drugs. Something we all know doesn't work, the cartels have found other ways. This notion of keeping hoards of people coming over to take jobs. By and large the people that are over here illegally are here by overstaying visas and didn't make this death-defying journey through the desert.... While i'm still processing my fuller thoughts on the subject i can say i've settled my mind on the wall being a ridiculous notion, unneeded, ineffective symbol that can compared to a scarecrow and as a fuck you to some people in some serious need. It only breed contempt. I think it needs to go away.
When Trump was campaigning, his first figures, that he said boastfully because after all he is a good business man and savvy dealer, were that he could build the entire wall for 4 billion dollars. As time went on his speech changed to 6 million, 10 million, 12 million etc.
Now they are figuring the wall would cost approximately 1 billion dollars per mile. The infrastructure that would need to be made to get the equipment and people out to the remote lands is the most expensive element, not the materials for the wall itself.
Like i said, i'm still processing things. Among them this fear i had about border towns before going down there. All we ever hear is horror stories... X amount of heads found in ditches. Families kidnapped etc... I was driving through Missouri and saw a sign saying buckle up: more than 600 deaths on this road last year. By the same logic why am i not deathly afraid to be on this road. I think there has been some good negative PR and demonizing of our brothers to the south. As of now i am looking forward to spending more time down there.
I took a billion pictures, and am inching towards saying there will probably be a book in the works with some of the billion photos and a few words from along the way. Thanks to everyone who has been following along, especially the people who have opened conversations on posts that have helped inform me in some way about where i was or what i was getting into.