This is Jesus, a Mexican national we met while at Big Bend. When he isn’t busy saving people from their sins, Jesus is on the banks of the Rio Grande selling trinkets and singing songs for passers-by in hopes of getting a little cash in return for his efforts. He also poses for portraits. And maybe he performs a baptism or two. I don’t know. I wasn’t there for that part. Every morning, at the crack of dawn, Jesus hops in his canoe and paddles across the river to a location frequented by visitors to Big Bend. To me, he represents so much of what is right about the free exchange of goods with willing parties and so much of what is wrong with immigration policy.
We bought a little hand made scorpion trinket from him for around $5 and gave him some money for posing for the photo because it isn’t everyday you get a willing party to pose for a photo with a mustache that gnarley. Upon leaving Big Bend, we were stopped by US Border Patrol agents on the road leading back to Marfa. If you don’t know, the US Border Patrol have set up checkpoints all along the Southwest on main roads that are inside of 100 miles from the border. When you stop at one of these you are asked whether you’re a citizen of the US and whether you crossed into Mexico or came in contact with any foreign nationals on that day. Unconstitutional as hell. You can read more about this bullshit here and here. I was asked whether I’d come in contact with any foreign national that day and answered truthfully. To me, Jesus isn’t a foreign national. He’s a fellow human with moral agency and dignity. That he crossed an invisible line in the sand (or river in this case) doesn’t bestow him a special status no matter how hard xenophobes, nationalists and mercantilists stomp their feet in the “hallowed” halls of the American Congress. Jesus is as deserving of my money in exchange for his trinkets and a photo as is Terry who lives over the border of Texas in New Mexico deserves my money for a sticker I find at a gas station. Why there should be laws against exchanging with other fellow humans in mutually beneficial, peaceful and agreeable ways is beyond me. Maybe this Jesus can work a miracle and get these laws changed. With as many people in our country, Left and Right, who think they have a say over peaceful exchange, I’m not holding my breath.