Page 8


Is the Land of Milk and Honey Really Just Across the Border? When something is taken without love or respect, without concern for despoliation, the taking constitutes rape. That is what happens at the Texas-Mexican border. The voice of the paunchy American trumpets across two tables in a plush restaurant in McAllen that he consumed a ten-course dinner in Reynosa the night before, and the food was wonderful. He proceeds to eat the dinner twice, enjoying it better this second, vicarious time. A divan-ful of urbane ladies broadcast their familiarity with the Ladies Cocktail Lounge in Reynosa. \(The “Ladies Cocktail Lounge” means that ladies are welcome there, not that the establishment is for ladies only perish the thought. Mexican ladies middle-aged couple defend taking their adolescent nephew to watch the striptease floorsho in a nightclub, even though no one is arguing with them. The motel patio stretches through plateglass walls and around two swimming pools. People sit here and there to be waited on during their vacations, writing postcards. talking 8 The Texas Observer Georgia Earnest Klipple desultorily to passersby or continuously and loudly to members of their own crowd, somehow reducing their entire life experience to conversation. This is the land of milk and honey. Orderly irrigation ditches form nutritious links between the Rio Grande and the waxy citrus. Crates of bright red tomatoes and dark green spinach make a holiday display under the cooperative sheds. Horizons of palm trees enclose the scene. This fertile river bottom soil and year-round summer and irrigation have produced a prosperous paradise of chrome, terrazzo, and plateglass. THE HIGHWAY rises to meet the banks of the river at the international bridge. Bright red and green signs on dazzling white walls proclaim in two languages the last chances at benefits one may obtain on this side of the border, one of which is “Hamburgers.” Battered busses, their many-dented fenders hanging crazily, clatter up to the bus stop filled to great crowding with Mexican passengers.. In steady streams pedestrians go across the bridge in both directions. Some are headed for Mexico carrying groceries bought at Texas supermarkets: blue and white checkered ButterKrust bread wrappers show at the tops of sacks. Some are evidently braceros, their new shirts, trousers, and shoes proclaiming recent paydays. They carry sacks of presents to their families. They walk proudly. If you are blond and drive a car made in the last five years, at the customs you are waved on with little ceremony. If you look like you had Indian forebears, you may be stopped and questioned, even asked for your birth certificate. Once you are beyond the strong steel mesh fence on the Texas side and across the bridge, you are in an entirely different world, a world as remote as the one conjured by eating the mescal cactus button. Nothing is the same, despite the constant interchange. A SELF COMMISSIONED policeman directs you, with elaborate by the public square, where people sit sleeve to sleeve under the eagle and serpent and the green and white of the flag of Mexico. The dust rises under your feet. \(Why was there no man blows his whistle many times at a three-car tangle in the narrow street. But he does not go to the scene, he lets them work it out for themselves. Something is pulling at your sleeve. A small boy. “Shine, senor?” And another. “Like to buy pretty ring?” And another. “I watch your car, senor.” And another. “I show you.” And another and another and another. A beautiful girl with a tiny infant on her shoulder reiterates, “Hey, senorita, gimme a leetle something for the leetle baby.” Gimme, gimme. Have these people no pride? you think. Eventually, however, you get the message that you are the one for whom they have no, respect. They don’t mind asking you for what you have because they have contempt for you for having it and for giving it away. You can be gypped. You are to be conned into playing the part of the benevolent tourist. You haven’t got discretion enough to keep from being exploited. And there are your. vices that you and they cater to. They take you down as far as you will go, with bland-faced mockery. They want your money” and to hell with you. Deeper you go into the smells and filth and thronged humanity in the back streets. A half dozen carcasses of goats hang in the window of an eating place. A smiling major-domo in black trousers and white shirt with a napkin . over his arm bows to