Today we are going to walk into Mexico. The town of Juarez is right across the border, with a population of about 1.8 million! According to Connor they have several Walmarts there, even though we see lots of cars with Mexican plates shopping here.
It is a bit tricky trying to find the place; we are all in one truck and try to read the road signs to find the bridge to Mexico. At one point we are at the spot where you have to take your car across, no walking access and we turn around before it is too late. Finally, we find the place and we park close to the bridge that will take us across the river into Mexico; there is a $3.00 charge for parking. This is the only place in North America where you see an actual fence with barbed wire on top separating the 2 countries. There are more border patrol trucks than police cars in this town; they are everywhere, and drive up and down the fence continually. There are 2 bridges, one takes traffic into Mexico and the other takes traffic out of Mexico. We are at the exit from Mexico and the traffic is lined up from Mexico all the way to the US border, all across the bridge, 3 to 4 lanes deep. We thought our border was bad! There were 'squeegy people' trying to wash windows, people selling CD's to the cars etc. There were large signs explaining the do's and don'ts to us, no weapons allowed into Mexico and there was a 35 cents (US) charge per person to get in, why is not clear. We paid the lady at the booth and walked across the bridge; underneath the bridge you can see the fences and how people have cut through them to get to the US illegally. There are people with large 'to go' cups under the bridge begging for change, there was a bit of a breeze, so if anyone threw any, you would sure hope it would end up in your cup! At the halfway point 2 Mexican police or border guards were watching everyone with the largest rifles we have ever seen up close! Evan's eyes grew to about twice the size and he immediately informed his mother he was scared and did we have to go there? They did not look too friendly to him and he was not sure that he should turn his back on them.
Once we got to the bottom of the bridge, we were in Mexico. There was no sign welcoming us, and no customs officers looking for a passport. Once we got into Mexico, things most definitely looked different. The houses were much poorer looking than in El Paso, which is not the nicest looking town, and people immediately wanted to sell us things and offer us taxi rides, which we politely declined. The first thing you notice is the large holes in the street as well as the sidewalk, either parking meters or trees were there before, had been taken away and no one had bothered to fill the holes. You really had to keep your eyes on the road in front of you. The people on the street looked at us, since we are obvious tourists in shorts in January. There were not a lot of tourists here; most of the stores sold either liquor, cowboy boots or medications. We looked in some of the windows; the cowboy boots were very interesting, every colour of the rainbow was represented, from pink to orange, and they had very narrow, pointy toes. Lots of snakeskin ; prices were very reasonable, most were under $50.00. The Mexican pesos is about 10 cents US, so it is an easy conversion. We walk about 10 blocks down the main street, and cross over to check out a covered market place. At the end, there is a small sign on a not so sanitary looking building that says 'Banos, $200' (bathroom 200 pesos).
We turn to the right to go around the block, and it looks like a bomb went off in this part of town! Buildings have crumbled to the ground, while other parts of the same building are still being inhabited. It does not look like a safe area, so we quickly head back to the main street; we stop at the liquor store closest to the bridge and buy our bottle of Kaluha for only $11.00.
The return to the US cost 30 cents (US) per person, which you can only pay with coins. The traffic jam has not improved any, and people are still begging under the bridge.
At the end of the bridge, we have to go through US Customs, we show our passports and have to declare our bottle; we are charged $1.25 in some form of excise tax, which is based on bottle size, not price paid.
It was an interesting experience and a definite eye opener for the boys.