Up (and Down) the Devil’s Highway

Here is the Devil’s Highway, the land that has to be crossed to reach the cities of Tucson or Phoenix, the land that must be crossed to reach Interstate 8–a ride, water, and safety.  But first a Crosser must get across the fence, the wall, the Border.


This is the San Miguel Gate.  There are Ports of Entry on the border, and then there are gates.  The border crosses Tohono O’odam land.  The gate allows tribal members to access their land in both Mexico and the United States.  They cross freely at this point.ImageThere is beauty here.  But it is covered with thornsImageWalkers leave their tracks on the desert floor crossing a road, working their way north.ImageDesert, always more desert as far as the eye can see.ImageSaguaro buds are beautiful.  The Thorn O’odam harvest the fruit.  Crossers have been found with their mouth and lips full of stickers.  Desperate for water they gnaw at the saguaro.  But the saguaro and barrel cactus are not full of water as many believe.ImageIn “Up the Devil’s Highway”, by Karen Hopkins Bernard Joaquin and his wife stop for gas and hotdogs at a trading post similar to this one.ImageMo Black looks for information at a small house out on the Res.  The wind and sand come in through every crack and crevice.ImageThe Saguaro thrive in their desert ecosystem.ImageMother and child walk single file.ImageA rest stop in the desert without comfort or shade.ImageEverything has thorns.  This little cholla is about six inches high, just big enough to catch your foot if you don’t watch where you step.  Notice the long yellow thorns.ImageI ate cholla bud salad at the Desert Rain Cafe.  These buds are too far along to eat, but they are a good source of vitamin C. In the spring when they are still tender and spineless they are a delicious food source.ImagePlayground bleaching in the sun.  I wonder where the kids are who used to slide down the white-hot slide.ImageAt the border.  Mexico is on the left side of the posts, the US is on the right side.  The gate in the fence can only be used by Native Americans with a valid Tribal ID.  Everyone else has to duck under the barbed wire.ImageBaboquiviri Peak is always in the background.  This is the Tohono O’oddam’s most sacred spot, the Peak where the Man in the Maze lives. ImageSorry little guy. There’s not much shade out here, and no place to hide.Image

About Karen Hopkins

Karen Hopkins (1949-) was born in Los Angeles and raised in Martinez, California. At seventeen she moved to Talcahuano, Chile. After completing her university degree she worked in London, England for Pan American Airlines and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India. For twenty-six years Karen taught Spanish and English as a Second Language in a variety of settings including a private school in Panama, the "most remote school in the United States" in Ticaboo, Utah, the Navajo Reservation, and a teacher exchange in Hermosillo, Mexico. Karen and her husband traveled extensively throughout Mexico and Central America, spending many summers in the highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala . Karen currently lives in Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border.
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