The Border Region
Any where you are in Cochise or Santa Cruz Counties, you’re never more than a few miles from Mexico. Small towns like Bisbee and Douglas each have a Mexican twin right across the line (though they are fraternal twins—the Mexican counterparts are larger and more populous), and traffic between the two generally flows pretty easy.
The easiest, and in a sense the safest, way to visit our neighbors to the south for the day is to walk across the border at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales, Arizona, about an hour south of Tucson on I-19. The Arizona side of what locals call Ambos Nogales (“both Nogales”) is a somewhat sleepy government and produce-warehousing town with about 25,000 souls, while the sprawling industrial city just across the border teems with more than 500,000 residents.
Most visitors stick to the tourist-friendly blocks just beyond the port of entry. A good portion of the nation’s produce passes through the port of entry in Nogales, Arizona, as does a large amount of illegal drugs.
Getting to the Border Region
You need a car to get to Nogales and the border region, but I wouldn’t recommend driving into Mexico—it takes too long to get back across the border and there’s limited parking around the tourist district anyway. Take I-19 south to Nogales and follow the signs to the port of entry, then park at one of the safe and secure parking lots on the Arizona side (about $4 a day) and walk across.
To get to the Mountain Empire, take I-19 to Nogales and then take Highway 82 northwest into the grasslands.
Crossing the Border
Although it’s hassle-free to enter Mexico, coming back can present problems if you do not have a passport. American citizens now need a passport—no exceptions. There’s a U.S. Consulate (Mexico tel. 01/631-311- 8150 or 01/631-313-4797, from U.S. 011/52- 631-313-4820, Mon.–Fri. 8 a.m.–5 p.m.) in Nogales, Sonora, on Calle San Jose, about five miles south of the border.
If you get in trouble on the weekend you’ll be stuck until Monday, since a consulate officer checks the Nogales, Mexico jail Monday through Friday only.
© Tim Hull from Moon Tucson, 1st Edition