A REST STOP ON THE JOURNADA DE MUERTO

YOU ARE HERE: The Dead Man's Walk.   Roughly 50 miles north of  Las Cruces, New Mexico on Hwy. 40,  the arrow on this relatively prominent historic marker makes sure that travelers who stop to pee know where the Camino Real veers  away from the Rio Grande. Centuries of  constant movement back and forth along the route taught travelers not to count on surviving the 90 mile stretch of  waterless desert that lay ahead - and plenty did not. / O'Brien 2012

YOU ARE HERE: The Dead Man’s Walk. Roughly 50 miles north of Las Cruces, New Mexico on Hwy. 40, the arrow on this relatively prominent historic marker makes sure that travelers who stop to pee know where the Camino Real veers away from the Rio Grande. Centuries of constant movement back and forth along the route taught travelers not to count on surviving the 90 mile stretch of waterless desert that lay ahead – and plenty did not. / O’Brien 2012

 Rest. Here.

.

Sky, mountain, desert. Coyotes. Far from home.
CLAIRE O’BRIEN 2012

Few things are more difficult to persude people of than the legitimacy of a border that  contradicts the reality of their lives – and they never change their behavior to accomodate it unless  monitored by constant force.  The closer one gets to the border, the more difficult it becomes to sustain it as a concept requiring any specific action, let alone as the basis upon which social identity is assigned.  I assert that for Anglos, the border’s looming proximity produces the opposite effect, an acute contradiction accomodated  only by a kind of  mass cognitive blunting.  Literally  living  exactly where the very people  you are excluding  used to live is not easy.

  .First of all, they haven’t gone away. They go back and forth across the border, utilizing networks of family and work, as people here have done for centuries.  Secondly, regardless of whether one sees them in person, their presence is so strong  that it defines this place as a specific world. It’s a world that speaks for them whether they are in Juarez or  passing  silently through the primarily Anglo towns of New Mexico’s rural interior .

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And it speaks for them when they are right down the road,  harvesting chile peppers and walnuts. In fact, the roads themselves tell a tale that Anglos can’t ignore, and actually don’t, as this is impossible to do.  Consider  the remarkable fact of  living on what was essentially  the equivalent of a modern highway for centuries – while treating as outsiders  the descendents of the people who created the  route with their own  feet.

You have to know the way / Claire O’Brien 2012

 One must at least put up a  marker. And while one is at it, there should be a place to rest – never mind that nobody driving north from Las Cruces needs to rest  an hour later.  The most Mexican thing to do right here is to make a place for the dead, who are not far away and  need some shade. So plant some trees for them, leave plenty of water in fountains, and build a few shelters . Add some tables, with seating, as the dead will most certainly want to sit down.Right  at this moment,  the dead are picnicing under the trees, and that’s how the living know where they are.

T H E   S U N   S E T S   A T    T H E    R E S T    S T O P

Now there’s a place to rest on the Journada de Muerto. Water, too!/O’Brien 2012

xx

The landscape is made of light / ‘Brien 2012

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