They told us to bring our passports, "you never know, you might need them", they said. Cue Boquillas, Mexico. Tucked neatly inside Big Bend National Park is a very unique international border crossing to a tiny village known as Boquillas, Mexico. Isolated with mountains on one side and the Rio Grande River and US border on the other, this tiny town only thrives on guests such as us, as the nearest Mexican village is 2 hours away.
To get to the border we pass through a National Park building where we are greeted by US park rangers (who look like gladiators). Nice as can be, they shake each of our hands firmly and give us a quick heads up on what we can and cannot bring from Mexico into the US. They also warn us not to arrive later than 5:00pm as the border closes early and we'll be left to spend the night in Mexico.
The kids were so excited, they have never needed passports before, and they were heading to explore Mexico! We were sure to capture every moment of entering Mexico, knowing what a privilege it is to be welcomed over.
A short walk down to the river and we pay a man $5 (per person) for a round trip boat ride across the Rio Grande (you can swim across for free if you’d prefer.)
We travelled across the Rio Grande in a row boat manned by a Mexican National. We used what little Spanish we knew,he could tell were trying and appreciated our courage. "Okay-Dokey, we are here" he said with a huge smile.
Once on land we are offered a guide and were given three options to get to the town: Walk, ride a mule, or ride in a truck. Of course we took the mule!
A quick check-in with customs and we’re free to roam about.
We love using local guides - you get great perspective on the culture and way more facts about the land. If you choose to have a guide, it's expected to tip - for a world of knowledge on Boquillas - we were a-ok with paying for wisdom! Our guide Edwardo spoke broken English, but being self-taught we were quite impressed and quickly felt ashamed at our Spanish speaking skills... It quickly humbled us and made us appreciate our teachers! We got the scoop on the town: visiting the brand new hospital, the kindergarten and elementary school and of course the tiny Catholic Church.
Edwardo was very proud of his town and his family - He showed us his home and introduced us to his parents who were making art for sale, probably their primary source of income. We were more than happy to purchase some keepsakes and support them.
There are 2 main restaurants in town, we ended up at the one on the left as you’re coming into town!
It was nice to grab a few cold sodas and experience real guacamole!
Grand total for 5 people, drinks included: $30 + tip! The best part of this stop was meeting the owner. He spoke of his beautiful daughters and his hope for them to complete college soon. When we looked around for our guide, we saw that he quickly made himself useful and was waiting tables at this establishment - again, putting our work ethic and all that we take for granted to task.
We explored some more of this this tiny town. Edwardo continued to tell the stories of what once was a thriving town of 300, was almost exstinguished after 9/11.
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks on the US this border crossing was closed. This poor town was no longer, businesses collapsed and people were forced to leave as there was no longer any work, and no guarantee when the US would open the border back up.
April 2013, the border crossing re-opens and people begin to move back to Boquillas, it's not what it use to be, but it's making it's way back, slowly.
It was time to head back, but we didn't want to - we loved experiencing Boquillas and learning its history, triumphs and it's almost defeat.
Crossing back into the US you are again greeted by park rangers that lead you to a computer screen. A quick scan of our passports and the phone rings, we are each asked, "Are you bringing anything back from Mexico?” (We said "Yes, trinkets"). “Thank you, have a good day.” And there we are, back in the US. It's impossible to think of all we have here, just a river cross away, from what they don't have access to in Boquillas. We are grateful to have been welcomed to their country. We appreciate their hard work and devotion to all they hold sacred. We hope to not take for granted all that we have here in the US.