Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: Part 1: Borderlands

The lands bordering this national monument to the east are Native American land, belonging to the Tohono O’Odham, and to the south the nation of Mexico. In 1937, this land in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert was established a national monument by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1976, the United Nations designated it an International Biosphere Reserve. Scientific research studies are done of human impact on it. During our last US president’s term a border wall between the USA and Mexico was built and quite obvious from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. 

I drove to Lukeville, Arizona, a port-of-entry between USA and Mexico. Only essential travel is supposedly happening. There were few vehicles, but many young people with backpacks and others arriving by shuttle from Phoenix or Tucson walking across the pedestrian bridge to Mexico. I understand going across the border takes little time; however, returning to the USA can take 3 hours! I stopped at one of 2 stores on this border to buy an additional gallon of water. Most people were hanging out at the store to use their wifi. Cellular service is limited here. Another day, Friday afternoon about 2:30pm, I was a mile from the international border and traffic was backed up to this point. Maybe many travelers were visiting Rocky Point, Puerto Peñasco, a resort city on the Gulf of California for the weekend. 

I then drove a 2 mile dirt road east of Lukeville, Arizona, arriving at the Gachado Line Camp; an old adobe building with some wooden fences and downed barb-wire fencing. Driving to this point, one sees the border wall and at the camp you can walk up to the wall. You can hear Mexicans speaking; their homes are just on the other side of the wall. It was an eerie feeling and sad to think a barrier existed between us. Few people were driving this road, but a young man from Florida stopped at the adobe building too and we got talking about borders, walls, and the future of humanity. 

I then drove west of Lukeville, another dirt, wash-board road that parallels the border wall. Here one sees a highly trafficked road with truck trailers on Mexican Highway 2 also running parallel to the wall but on the other side of the wall. Again at certain spots I could walk up to the wall and the same eerie feeling descended on me. 

The Tohono O’Odham Indian Reservation is to the east of Organ Pipe National Monument and, my understanding is, a 62 mile border wall exists with gates for people to walk through. While people of this tribe tried to educate others about the importance of protecting their ancestral lands and the migratory paths of the people and animals between Mexico and the USA, Border Patrol has jurisdiction 100 miles inland from US borders, giving it access to most of the reservation. One could spend time just studying the dynamics of the vehicle barriers and surveillance cameras in this area, but I will leave that to those who know more than me.

I wonder how neighborly we really are with the people of Tohona O’Odham Indian Reservation and Mexico? Are we doing the right things: respecting Native American culture, Mexican culture and understanding the plight of those who are escaping their homeland to travel thousands of miles to enter the USA? I am not sure. 

About 20 miles north of the national monument is Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range. The bombing range is between the US-Mexican border and Interstate 8 straddling the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife area and the Tohono O’odham Nation. As I write this post, I hear planes in the distance. I have no idea if this is usual or increased air activity. I hope for no world war, especially as we all continue to be concerned about the current Ukrainian – Russian war. Let there be peace!

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