New Mexico’s Bootheel is a historical accident, the legacy of bad maps, the Apache Wars and the demands of railroad engineers. The Guadalupe-Hidalgo treatymakers relied on an inaccurate map, the Army couldn’t keep los Indio Bravos from crossing the new line, and the railroad builders needed a gentle incline to breast the Continental Divide. And so we made the Mexicans an offer they couldn’t refuse for one last chunk of la Patria. Now it’s becoming the focus of the Border Wars.
When I first saw Antelope Wells back in the ‘70s, it was literally a gateway to nowhere. A narrow paved road led south from somnolent Lordsburg to a lonely little building beside the sort of wooden pole you might find at a rural railroad crossing. Beyond was a rough track that would eventually (with luck) connect you with the sole paved road linking Chihuahua and Sonora.
I’m told the Mexican road has since been paved, but haven’t seen it myself. (Road work, at least in northern Mexico, proceeds at so glacial a pace it’s hard to avoid the perception that the workers look forward to passing the job on to their grandchildren.)
Paved or not, it’s a long, hard road from Guatemala across the length of Mexico to appear after midnight at the most remote and inaccessible point along a 2,000 mile border. How and why?