– What’s that noise?
– It’s the chopper, órale! Run!
– Hide by those bushes.
– I can’t, their too low, and there isn’t much to hide in.
– Chale homes! You got the cast light on you…
– What? I can’t hear you? What did you say? It’s too bright!
– Damn, here comes the migra now… fuck! just lie low…
The barren soil didn’t have much of anything on it. It’s famous for its arid terrain and the refusal of the US government to allow any building to be built there. For years the only thing in sight from this side of the border was what seemed to be a car lot. As the years went by my imagination concocted more serious and credible theories, drug smugglers came in handy to depict that parking space, maybe even crooked INS agents dealing in smuggled and stolen cars, who knows.
Between the thin wire netting, no-man’s land, were littered sniff-glue bags, filled with dried yellow glue popular back in the 80’s an d90’s. Broken bottles and rags strewn about covered with hundreds of cigarette butts lay strewn. The soil is dry, and the wire that separates the countries was full of holes; the marines set up other measures now. Tortilla curtain was the response from indignant neighbours. I was born less than a kilometer from this other country, Tijuana.
– State your citizenship. – American
Our eyes met, usually they looked at you from the very depths of their eyes to see whether you lied. Sniff, sniff seemed more like it. Bean sweat, not hamburger or saurkraut nor cole slaw, anything smelling near like maize was suspicious. “American Citizen”. The badge on his shirt spelled his name, I noticed there was an absent accent in the o of his last name. I laid my eyes on it, to see if he was raza, my lips uttered some words: ‘American Citizen’. The hand waved me away not seeing another citizen such as he, but rather more like a nuisance, laws must be abided, an undesired though with ‘rights’. I slid across, like always, my xicano look helped me over. ‘Go ahead’, the migra said, ‘pásale,’ I heard. I took a leak by the nearby toilets, like every time, my confident act; the luggage detector passed countless of bagage. I veered off and left my mark in those prison like toilets, metal urinators and metal toilet seats. They seemed like nice bathrooms, clean. I took a drink of water, something you can’t do in México’s government buildings. The hospitality greets you even when they’re assholes. I never looked back. I smiled, the red San Diego Trolley pulled in. It’s a wonderful view, like coming home. I walked forward but voices could still be heard from where I was: state your citizenship; what was the purpose of your visit to Mexico?; Are these papers for real? I went in to Mickey D’s as the voices drowned in the background
I always wondered why was it that the INS allowed, for what my suspicious eyes detected as criminals, to thrive so near the border, la línea, right next to them. I spotted them right away, you knew those people weren’t up to no good, there they were, pulling in people right smack in the middle of their faces to board buses towards Los Angeles or selling fake papers with the right connection. I mean I even sold papers there my self! I’m sure that doesn’t happen anymore, but that’s how it was, right next to them, those light green colored vehicles couldn’t figure out what those thicked mustached people were talking about or doing standing there all day and yet dress so nicely, so Mexican. Stereotypes and what people want see, that’s what made it possible, preconceived notions of what other races are like. Off course the INS was a federal institution but come on! Couldn’t they at least observe a little what was going on right there? So I grew suspicious with time, you know, the lonely citizen that watches its surroundings but is powerless to do anything about it? That’s me, not that I would rat on my own brethren mind you.
I never payed to travel on the Trolley back then. It used to be that one would declare itself illegal rather than pay those hefty fines and best yet, back then the gringos bought one’s name no questions asked, so many files on illegal immigrants in the archives of the old INS bear names like Pedro Infante, Vicente Fernandez, José Alfredo Jímenez, Chapulin Colorado, Lola Beltrán, Juana Inez de la Cruz or Paquita del Barrio, you never knew what the raza might come up with to avoid giving in one’s real name. So I travelled for free, whilst I wondered whether I should stop and visit my Aunt who lived on 8th and National or whether one should by a refeer in Chula Vista, mostly though one would rather go to San Diego’s porn shops. Though Tijuana is a sin city it had very little or not at all porn shops in the 80’s, off course why visit those shops when you can be part of a real live sex scene? It made sense for some, though for the likes of me, sex went beyond the flesh and fornication of the open prostitution markets of Tijuana’s Coahuila sector. I wanted to see naked güeras and best of all, those fancy underwear that look so delicious and tempting, lingerie. Now that was worth a run for the border.