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Full Circle

Day 226: Tijuana, Baja California

Michael Palin - Full CircleOver a thousand miles north-west of Tlacote, at the northern end of the narrow desiccated peninsula of Baja California, is the border town of Tijuana. Separating it from the USA is a twenty-seven mile, ten foot-high steel barrier known as the Tortilla Curtain. It was put up by the US authorities in the 1970s to curb illegal immigration. Such is the economic inequality between the two countries that ninety per cent of the illegal immigrants who entered the States in 1994 were from Mexico. In 1995 1.2 million were apprehended trying to cross the border illegally. Even today, as we stand and watch at a point where the Tortilla Curtain runs only yards from the main entrance to Tijuana Airport, there are a dozen people preparing to cross, without papers or passports, in broad daylight.

Huddled beneath a low bridge, in the gully of a dried up river bed, shaken periodically by great dusty trucks thundering in and out of Tijuana and the desert that lies beyond, is a largely silent group of Mexicans, or, quite possibly, Guatemalans, Venezuelans, even Peruvians, waiting to slip under the fence and into the Promised Land. The hard brown earth around them is dotted with the remains of small fires and strewn with cigarette packets, plastic cups, discarded Coke bottles, cardboard sheets and even an old sprung bedstead. There are young men, girls, old women. If they are related you wouldn't know it. The mood is muted and watchful. A mile or so ahead of us, across the border, a helicopter turns lazily, high in the sky over the United States.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 226
  • Country/sea: Mexico
  • Place: Tijuana
  • Book page no: 291

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