South Padre Island is where Texas college kids go to party on the beach during spring break. Do I look like a college kid? I didn't think so.
So our group of four retired couples went on a cold, windy week in February. (The pool was heated the pink margarita was not.) I think this palm tree outside our rented condo balcony sums up the weather we enjoyed. I’m not sure if ‘Mr. Palm’ was guarding us or waiting to eat us.
One day we visited the Battle of Palo Alto National Military Park located just north of the Rio Grande River. Palo Alto was the first battle of the little war fought from 1846 to 1848 between the United States and Mexico. The two-year war was the concluding act of fifty years of fighting over land that now constitutes Texas, and much, much more soil that is now part of the United States. Like almost half the United States. In that part of Texas, the conflict stemmed over Mexico’s claim that Texas ended at the Nueces River, about a hundred miles north of the Rio Grande, versus Texas’ claim to all land north of the Rio Grande River, not the Nueces River. That includes the fertile strip of farm land we Texans now call ‘The Valley.’
The battlefield at Palo Alto for the first hundred and fifty years after the war remained as privately-owned ranch land where cattle grazed and local folks picnicked and hunted for cannon balls. It wasn’t until the presidency of George Bush I that the Department of the Interior acquired the land. It was not until the presidency of George W Bush that the visitor center, complete with a fine short explanatory film, museum and book store, and the interpretive battlefield walks were built. I’m sure it’s just coincidence that the father and son presidents haled from Texas when the land was bought and the site developed.
The landscape reminded me very much of the grassy, marshy landscape at Culloden battlefield in Scotland, where English soldiers, musketry and cannons destroyed the Highlander warrior clans.
At Palo Alto, eighty years after Culloden, I suspect many of the U.S. Army soldiers were recent immigrants from England. And the same combination of superior firepower and training sent the Mexican army reeling at Palo Alto.
Finally, because we were just north of the U.S.-Mexican border—the Rio Grande River—we were all curious to see ‘The Wall’ which is so dominating the news these days. From a state highway we were close enough to take this photo in a tiny crossroads hamlet.
Yes, the wall already goes this close to houses where people live. By the way, we also saw a few big tethered blimps floating above the river, I suppose providing airborne video border surveillance where the wall is not built. We also saw an endless number of white and green Border Patrol vehicles and black ‘Task Force’ SUV’s everywhere we went. Our nation’s ongoing efforts to guard the border we won (some would say took, others would say saved) by force of arms back in 1846 at Palo Alto, right in the same neighborhood, is highly evident.
I am a Texan who views building more miles of wall along the Rio Grande as an expensive waste of money that would be better spent on services to detox and provide job training to those Americans whose lives are being shattered by Mexican drugs. Nonetheless, I have now seen a bit of the Great American Border Wall, and have shared a photo with you.
I promise that my next blog post will focus on the serendipitous outcomes of my research efforts for my new novel.