Austin-based Julia Robinson recently traveled to Boquillas del Carmen, Mexico for The New York Times travel section. She shared her experience with ILTP:
(all photos © Julia Robinson, more photos after the jump)
“I recently had one of those dream assignments to photograph Boquillas del Carmen, Mexico for the New York Times travel section. The writer took a first-person, travelogue approach to the story which gave me a blank canvas to fill in the sweeping vistas of the tiny village just across the border from Big Bend National Park. The border had recently reopened to tourists after a 11-year closure after 9/11.
I visited the town as a kid, mucking through the shallow Rio Grande with a childhood friend and her family. I don’t remember much from that trip – enchiladas with a warm bottle of Mexican coke, an onyx horse statue I bought from the restaurant, colorful buildings, dusty streets, and the sing song tone of Spanish that I had yet to learn.
Twenty years later, little has changed. The streets are still unpaved, many houses have spotty electricity, though some sport new solar panels. The colors have different, but remain variations of wow.
I walked up the hill into town, into Falcon’s and found a row of onyx horses in the window, just as I remembered them. The owner, Lilia, had taken over the restaurant from her father, Boquillas’ most famous resident, after he died in 2000. We talked for a few hours on the patio of the restaurant facing the main street through town.
The handful of tourists were gone for the day (the border closes at 6pm), and I was staying overnight in the room of a local I met on the horse ride up from the river. For all the pretty and empty travel pictures to be made in a place like Boquillas, it was this connection to Lilia that made the trip for me. Her uncle had just arrived from Midland, Texas – his first trip back since the border closed in 2002.
In a few hours, I was standing with Lilia and her uncle in a family cemetery, visiting her father’s grave and listening to them telling stories in the fading twilight. The photos of Lilia and her uncle didn’t run in the travel piece. Too emotional? Too specific? Too off-topic from the easy, breezy travelogue from the writer? The east-coast editors never say, but these are the photos that fulfill me as a journalist.
You better believe I’m going back.”