Road trip news, rants, and ruminations by the Editors of RoadsideAmerica.com
February 28, 2011
In what would turn out to be a small victory for our southern neighbor, the U.S. may soon abandon its border-straddling “Friendship Monument” to Mexico in Border Field State Park, San Diego.
The obelisk was raised by the U.S. in 1851 to celebrate Mexico’s loss of California in the Mexican-American War. It wasn’t until 1971 that it was officially re-branded the “Friendship Monument” by First Lady Pat Nixon, even though by then it had been bisected by an unfriendly border fence. Still, tourists from both countries could walk up to the fence, read half of the words on the east and west sides of monument (trying to guess the rest), and exchange pleasantries with people on the other side.
That changed in 2009. The U.S. Border Patrol built a second, bigger fence on our side of the border with a little door. Now people who want to see the monument — or chat with Mexicans — are let through into a little holding pen on the other side of the big fence. They can no longer get close enough to touch the Friendship Monument, but at least they can get within a couple of feet of it.
Maybe not for much longer. This summer the Border Patrol reportedly plans to build yet another fence, replacing the old, Friendship-bisecting barrier with a new one several feet north. It will be completely on U.S. soil, so it can be repaired without technically crossing into Mexico, and it will have mesh so fine that no contraband can pass through. Even snapshots of the Friendship Monument — abandoned on the Tijuana side — will probably be impossible. And at that point who would care anyway?
The Border Patrol needs to rethink this. Maybe it could built a plexiglass airlock around the monument, like one of those grab-as-many-dollars-as-you-can booths, and charge a couple of bucks for admission. When the door to America is open, the door to Mexico is locked, and vice-versa. The symbolism may not be great, and our friendship with Mexico may be strained, but that’s no reason to throw away our Friendship Monument.
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