“So you’re el mesajero? You want me to call the jefe?” That’s what a border patrol agent asked me at a checkpoint, just outside Comstock, Texas. He suspected I was trying to find border weak points, and test what documents I could cross the border with. It all started when I asked if I could use a Driver’s License to cross the border. Wrong question apparently. Border Patrol thought I worked for the Messajero’s, or the runners. The runner’s job is to find out how border patrol operates, find the weak points and exploit them.
Being in south Texas is a little like being at a family function when something bad, embarrassing and very public, has happened to one of the family members. Everybody knows it, but nobody is going to talk about it. Crime, drugs and illegal immigration has become part of the norm along the border in south Texas. Immigration, however, isn’t really something that anyone cares about here. For one, the net number of illegal immigrants per year is way down. Secondly, who cares about that when Los Zetas are killing people on both sides of the border?
I’m not a journalist. I’m just a documentary photographer, and a student, trying to find my way through this foreign environment. It isn’t foreign in the traditional sense. The border patrol, for example, is foreign to me. Perhaps the US/Mexican border has always been surreal, but I’d argue that it has gotten more so over the last decade. People are warm and welcoming. The authorities are stern and a little bit scary. But what is it really like here? I’m going to find out over the next several weeks.