February 26, 2012
Thanks to Arizona Ranger, Ed Suckley, I had my fifth border crossing. We had heard horrible tales about how dangerous this crossing was and Jim was reluctant to go there with the recent drug wars and problems. Ed put him at ease and assured us that a tourist crossing into Nogales, Sonora, Mexico for an afternoon was as safe as in Nogales, AZ, US. He even recommended a nice restaurant. Ed had a Boston accent and I got a kick out of listening to he and Jim reminisce about familiar experiences back in Massachusetts. And Ed’s story of how he came to be an Arizona Ranger after living pretty much all of his life on the East Coast? He was still kind of stunned it seemed that he and his wife had made an enormous change in their lives, were warned about living in an “awful” place like Nogales, and they both love it.
Ed’s partner, Ernesto, explained to me how the Rangers work and how much they enjoy this volunteer job. The rangers were formed in 1901 to combat cattle rustling and wild lawlessness. They did such a good job, they were abolished in 1909. This small museum in the Old County Courthouse is where they preside.
Today, the rangers, reformed into a volunteer group in 1957, still carry colts like those the old-timers used. Between 1901 and 1909, the official rangers only numbered 26 men, a grizzly bunch who preferred to go about their business operating as cowpokes. Her is a description of them from a newspaper article in 1942:
A colorful part of the old west is now a colorful part of the new west. The current rangers are a legal law enforcement assistant organization. Ernesto explained that their volunteer services probably save the State of Arizona a million dollars a year. When they are not called upon to help the Border Patrol, the Sheriff’s Department or other law agencies, they hold two major fund-raisers that raise money for charities that benefit children. They are deputized and legal law enforcement assistance. There is a lot of history in this little room. They have a website at with several short links at : http://www.azrangers.us/
We left the Courthouse and stopped in to the Pimeria Alta Historical Society Museum. The building is chock full of good stuff. A large collection of wonderful old black and white photos. All volunteer run, no charge, they ask for (and need) a donation. The highlight here was the docent who explained how the local Indian lands stretch across the border but she now has to have a passport to enter her native lands on the other side of a fence. It was quite an education to learn that the names applied to Indian peoples, such as Pima, Yaqui, and others I didn’t retain, all mean nothing or nothingness. When invaders arrive in your land, you tell them nothing. Eventually, they are working on getting their true Indian tribal names changed.
Herman “Ace” Lawson, a Nogales resident, was a Tuskegee Airman and wrote a book about his experiences. He was scheduled to speak at the Museum but we left before he arrived, headed for the border.
This is the only crossing I’ve made where you can actually see Mexico and the fence that divides residents that used to move freely between cities as neighbors. It serves its purpose of keeping aliens from crossing but also keeps animals that one time used territory in both countries from crossing. It seems offensive to me, like the Berlin wall. I haven’t read the link about this fence but Jim has a link to it in his blog.
We walked through the gates. I’ve crossed at Tijuana, San Luis, Algodones, Las Palomas and now Nogales.
Normally, we eat at a hole in the wall “joint” when we’ve visited Mexico, so this was quite a change. The beautiful lobby of the Hotel Fray Marcos De Niza.
The food was good and economical, and the comfort was more like home. But, we kind of missed the charm of the hole in the wall “joints”.
Nogales, Sonora is a much more “westernized” city; obviously more affluent. The town is huge and is the major port for truck shipping into the U.S.
We stopped and looked into this 122 year old church.
A beautiful stained glass window.
And yes, the boulevards were modern, but we still found those junky alleys with all that fascinating “stuff” I like to see. I love doing it, but never buy since we have so little room to carry anything in the motor home.
A fun day.