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Mexico

Over the Line [private]

On the evening on February 22, 2017, people disembarking Delta flight 1583 from San Francisco International Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, were met at the plane door by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, who required the passengers to show their identification before being allowed down the jetway. This was strange: It was a domestic flight, and JFK is more than 250 air miles from the nearest international border crossing. Some passengers tweeted about the encounter, and their posts were quickly absorbed into the waves of fear that had been breaking for weeks. In late January, Donald J. Trump had consummated his new presidency by signing several executive orders on immigration and border security, including his embattled so-called “Muslim travel ban”; on February 17, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) produced two memos calling for a massive hiring push, broadening deportation criteria, and laying out plans to empower local law enforcement to help with immigration-related arrests. To many nervous observers, the treatment of Americans on flight 1583 seemed like a harbinger of darker troubles to come. “Welcome to Germany circa 1943,” one especially gloomy Twitter user replied to a passenger’s post. “And it’s just getting started.”

Later, a CBP statement said the agents were helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement look for a man who was facing deportation for incurring a number of criminal charges. (He wasn’t on the flight.) While it wasn’t the immigration ambush some people feared, it was easy enough to speculate about Immigration and Customs Enforcement and CBP feeling emboldened by the white nationalist authoritarianism of the West Wing’s new occupants. But federal immigration agents questioning American citizens making no attempt to enter or leave the country, while unnerving and of dubious legality, is hardly a sui generis phenomenon of Trump’s America. Since the 1950s, Queens—along with most of New York state—has been within what’s now commonly called “the 100-mile-zone,” a massive swath of the United States in which Customs and Border Protection in general and Border Patrol agents in particular are empowered by federal law and Supreme Court precedent to operate far beyond the bounds of typical law enforcement.


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Photography by Mary Anne Andrei

Ted Genoways’ Notes to Self [private]

Mexico’s undocumented migrants have a patron saint: Father Toribio Romo González, a parish priest who, in the late 1920s, delivered mass in a distillery outside the village of Tequila, at a time when religion had been banned outright by the Mexican government. After he was ratted out, Romo fled, but was eventually discovered by federales in his valley hideout, where they roused him from his sleep and shot him on the spot. His murder was never reported in the local papers, and church records on this particular case are hard to come by. But as Ted Genoways discovered while researching the history of Tequila and its eponymous drink, Romo’s murder remains a vivid, practically tactile legend.

“With a bit of asking around, you can find the physical spaces where these things happened—and very often find people who are connected to those places,” Genoways says. “I saw Romo’s hiding place, the bed where he was killed, with the daughter of the man who was hiding him. That seems like an impossible gap of time, but then you realize that something that happened ninety years ago didn’t happen all that long ago after all.”


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Illustration by Corey Brickley

Dixon

A star-smeared night, the usual briny and humid haze of the brush country in August, and Dixon was hauling twenty cases of stolen toys up from the Rio Grande valley. If the border patrol at the Sarita checkpoint asked, he’d claim a delivery mix-up.

Illustration by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Travel Journals

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is well known as a poet and artist, publisher of fellow Beat writers, and cofounder of City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. But his extensive notebooks in the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, cast [...]

Fishing for blue shark near Baja California.

An Ocean Apart

Can two forces threatening the sustainability of sharks—the fishermen of Mexico and consumers in China—help the fish survive?

Orozco throwing boomerangs at his Pennsylvania farm, 2013. (Oskar Landi)

Circling Back

Artist Gabriel Orozco doesn’t necessarily want to disappoint, nor does he want to fail, not in a literal sense. Rather, he wants to protect his right to be a beginner.

Are We Losing the War on Drugs?

Thousands of deaths in Mexico are chiefly the result of traffic in high-potency pot smuggled across the border with ruthless resolve. But when marijuana legalization came up as one of the most requested questions during a presidential town hall meeting early in Obama’s presidency, he laughed it off.

Saint Francisco de Paola floating across the water on his cloak. A saint of good works—charitas bonitas—he is carrying flames against his chest, a physical manifestation of his passion for the word of God.

The Stories of Strangers: Mexican Ex-Voto Paintings

While visiting a church in Guadalupe in 1917, David Alfaro Siquieros, the great muralist painter of the Mexican Revolution, found, “along with broken candelabras and other typical church adornments,” a “true mountain” of small paintings tossed carelessly on the floor. He picked one up. It was “made of paper . . . painted with colored pencils but especially interesting, perhaps more primitive than the others, almost as if executed by a child.” And, thinking he was doing nothing wrong, he took it. A priest, witnessing the scene, shouted, “Thief!”—and armed sacristans dragged him off to the station.

 

Juárez: City of Death

He is taking me on a tour of Juárez, but we won’t be visiting any museums or historic sights. We are going to tour the City of Death—Juárez’s slums, or colonias.