Thursday, May 13, 2010

The road out of Monahans is Euclidian in its simplicity – a straight line going due west. The surveying could have been accomplished with nothing more than a compass and a long rope. The only breaks in the plain are the grasshopper-like oil pumpers.

The road finally turns when it approaches the first of the western mountains, and it is at that point that I begin to feel at home. Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas at nine thousand feet, is eighty miles away but clearly visible, its massive vertical wall next to a smaller peak that seems to be kneeling before it, hence the name Guadalupe.

We finally get within radio range of El Paso and discover that eight of the eleven FM stations that the seek button on the radio finds are in Spanish. We listen as two cheery voices tell us about the weather, the traffic (there’s an accident being cleared on Zaragosa Road), and the news. Their Spanish – more Spanglish, actually – is fun to hear.

Our home town is the largest bi-lingual border town in the world, three million people in what was once a single city called El Paso del Norte because it was the northernmost snow-free pass through the Rockies. After Texas became an independent country in 1836, the Rio Grande became the border. Mexico eventually renamed their side of the city in honor of their revolutionary hero, Benito Juarez, but the two cities remained essentially one. People freely passed back and forth daily to shop, work, and visit family and friends.

Then the drug wars began. Juarez now has more killings than Bagdad. News reports of this tragedy usually put the blame on a weak and corrupt Mexican Government, but I can’t escape the feeling that the United States is ultimately to blame. If we had not allowed drug used to become so common in our self-indulgent society, there would be no demand. That doesn’t excuse the brutal Mexican cartels, but before we started taking drugs, they didn’t exist.

I clear my mind of this thought, and aim the car through the pass. The city limits of El Paso and the Welcome to New Mexico signs are at the same point as we clear the pass.

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