Remote Cross-Border Towns Assist Each Other with Services

Deep in the Texas borderland, isolated communities depend on each other no matter which side of the border they're located.

Presidio, Texas, is a tiny border town tucked in the Big Bend region of West Texas and several hours from the nearest big city.

There are more cattle than people, and life is a blend of American and Mexican culture.

Presidio Mayor John Ferguson is also the director of the middle school mariachi band.

"Out here, if we don't kind of take care of each other we're in a world of hurt, because we're so far away from anybody else," Ferguson said.

The nearest major Texas city is Odessa, which is a 320-mile roundtrip. El Paso is a 500-mile roundtrip. So the closest neighbors are across the border in Mexico.

"We have an agreement with Ojinaga to help each other out with fire, like extreme emergency services, both our EMS can go over there if needed and vice-versa," Ferguson said.

People cross back and forth daily to Ojinaga, which is six times the size of Presidio. Putting up a border wall is not popular with many people in the area.

"For us, to build a big wall and wall off ourselves specifically from Ojinaga, is really, wow, that's just really embarrassing just to think about it," Ferguson said.

As it is, few people cross the border illegally in this remote area.

Natural barriers, like mountain ranges and other rugged terrain, keep this part of West Texas from becoming a busy smuggling corridor. If someone does make it across the border, they easily stand out in the isolated area and could be spotted by Border Patrol agents, who only caught about 600 people in the Big Bend area last year.

Agents patrol Terry Bishop's land along the Rio Grande, which defines the Texas-Mexico border.

"Whenever you'd have a major flow, many times land that was over in Mexico would end up over here or vice-versa. And so the government needed, we all needed, a permanent boundary between the nations. This way the boundary no longer changes," Bishop explained.

The solution was a levee.

Bishop favors a strong border but does not want a wall. He's worried landowners will lose their property along the river and access to the water. Much of the borderland in Texas is privately owned.

"The government is such a big entity and so powerful that I think to do this right there's no reason that they can't make an effort to take the land owners' concerns into consideration," Bishop said. "Have a little respect for their heritage and traditions. It would make it more palatable."

Spring in Presidio means baseball practice and sudden electrical storms, but if the town loses power, the mayor says there's an easy assist.

"Somebody can flip a switch, so to speak, and we can get Mexican power and vice-versa," Ferguson said.

It's what neighbors do along this remote stretch of Texas borderland.

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