Tales from the border: 2 weeks along the US-Mexico frontier

The smells and sounds of Tijuana smack us as soon as we open the doors of our bug-splattered rental, a Jeep Renegade: food stalls selling roasted corn, churros and hot dogs; a near-empty bar blaring the oompa-oompas of norteno, Mexico's answer to polka.

This is our last stop. We have just logged 3,000 miles from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean, crisscrossing back and forth across the world's 10th-longest border 22 times over two weeks and blogging about the experience . We have traversed the terrain through which President Donald Trump would build a 30-foot-high wall; we have talked to anyone and everyone who was willing to open up to us.

We've seen a father and daughter speak through the bars of the border fence, and talked to an Arizona rancher who supports the wall but who has installed taps at every well on his desert property so migrants can drink. In Ciudad Juarez, we watched Mexican children throw rocks across the fence at railroad maintenance vehicles in the U.S. In Tijuana, we met a U.S. Army veteran who crossed the border, in her words, to "hide" from life for a few hours.

What we've found, from the near-empty migrant shelters of Tamaulipas state in Mexico to the drug-running corridors of the Sonoran desert, is a region convulsed by uncertainty and angst, but rooted in a shared culture and history unlikely to be transformed by any politician, or any barrier man can construct.

Border life "is not going to change," said Ramon Alberto Orrantia, a 54-year-old restaurant parking attendant who was drawn from the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca to Tijuana for work and for its cosmopolitan mix of people. "People continue doing the same thing. Life is normal."

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