BATTLE OF AMBOS NOGALES
THE MOTHER OF ALL WALLS
Since 1918 the border wall has continued to evolve in Ambos Nogales. Before the battle, only temporary fences, and a solitary border monument marked where the U.S. and Mexico met. But afterwards, a chain link fence went up along International Avenue to direct people to newly created “Legal Points of Entry.” As the years passed, the fence slowly sprouted lampposts, all the better to illuminate illicit passages. When prohibition created demand for alcohol in the U.S. and guns in Mexico, the fence started to snake further out towards the hills around town. Two seedling trees grew to maturity between the old guard posts on Morley Avenue, and larger checkpoints went up a block west to handle the new influx of automobile traffic between the countries. Chinese immigrants, banned from citizenship in the U.S. since 1892 cut holes through the fence, and started venturing even further out into the deserts and canyons to evade detection, finding work in the agricultural fields and construction sites of the Southwest. But even after 1943, when the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed, workers from elsewhere still crossed. So a new, even taller fence was built, and soon barbed wire topped it, and the two trees growing between the guard towers were cut down for better visual control. As Nogales became the largest site of cross border commerce in Arizona, the Mariposa Port of Entry was built further west, and a concerted effort to divert extra legal border crossings led the government to install a new steel bollard fence. The World Trade Center attacks on September 11th, 2001, brought a massive influx of new recruits into the revamped Customs and Border Patrol. More rigorous inspection protocols turned away tourists, and kept the semi-trucks carrying goods across the border idling for hours, or heading to other ports of entry. Fewer people come to the old Morley Avenue crossing and updated guard posts have been built. But the buildings on either side have remained the same, older now, and with more wear, barely visible over the security cameras and razor wire. Tunnels have built into the Nogales sewer systems and ultralights fly north over border ranches carrying drugs for the cartels. People come by foot, bicycle, and truck to cross the rugged hills west of town, and the wall continues to stretch out, slithering across the canyons of the Atascosa Highlands.
Historical postcards of International Avenue in Ambos Nogales