The Border Town

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There are two border towns in every border town. There’s the one I’ve recently discovered, which is deeply involved in local schools, has air conditioning and Wi-Fi, and drives comfortably appointed tanks that pass as cars. It has Snapchat for the kids who do their homework, all the cable in the world and so, so much food.

In this town, every Sunday is reason enough for barbecue, guacamole and limes picked fresh from the tree, squeezed right into your beer.

Then there is the other border town, where I was raised back in the 1970s. It lives directly behind the first. It avoids eye contact. It cooks in the kitchens and manicures your St. Augustine grass and is paid — not much — by the hour. Those people — not your criminals or rapists or “bad hombres” — are waiting and waiting to take a swipe at that golden lie of the “American dream” they endured thousands of treacherous miles worthy of a Tolkien novel to reach.

And while they wait, they work. Any work. They struggle through tertiary economies — reselling clothes, furniture or appliances at roadside stands, making tamales or tortillas in garages, setting up hair salons in living rooms (men’s cuts $7), cleaning houses and offices and schools, mowing, cutting, picking. They always work. The work is compulsory.

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