Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Weekend in Douglas

I had wanted to poke around southeast Arizona over toward New Mexico for a long time. There are some interesting cacti down there, including Escobaria robbinsorum and some other unusual distributions. The habitat is not at all Sonoran Desert, but neither is it Chihuahuan, exactly. It is yet another transition zone where several different types of habitat slide together. These kinds of soupy biogeographical regions often have the most interesting flora.

Two of the main quarries for southeast AZ, I have yet to find: the above-mentioned E. robbinsorum and a population of Peniocereus greggii somewhere outside Douglas.

This autumnal trip last year was marked by repeated encounters with US Customs and Border Patrol. Southeast AZ is a major corridor for drug and human smuggling. It's slightly more accessible and hospitable than areas farther west and the wide open spaces are probably almost impossible to police effectively. A few months before I had gone down to this area, a rancher was killed on his property and everyone was quick to blame an undocumented immigrant, although no evidence to that effect exists and there has never been a suspect apprehended, I don't think. But it is very remote out there, east of Douglas. Geronimo Trail heads east right out of the small town over toward New Mexico and is unpaved nearly all the way.

Some shots of the habitat to the east of Douglas:

Aptly named "shin daggers"

The flats just on the American side of the border.

The controversial and hideous border fence.

Opuntia macrocentra

Some kind of beautiful phaeacantha or phaeacantha hybrid

Escobaria vivipara bisbeeana

Echinocereus arizonicus nigrihorridispinus. What a name.

Escobaria species, I think. Maybe orcuttii.

One of the pancake Mammillaria.


This ridiculous and ineffective fence along the US/Mexico border.

Agave schottii:

I fell in love with the bizarre, anachronistic, nearly Mexican ambiance of Douglas itself. I don't think I would stay very sane if I lived in a town like this, but I love visiting. Wandering through dark western small towns in mid-autumn is heart breaking and healing at the same time. In particular, I noticed that this small town used to be a lot more proud of its Mexican roots. The effects of the US economic and immigration policies are obvious everywhere, with abandoned buildings, empty streets, for sale signs on every other property and ghosts of a once vital trans-national community.

Most of the highway signs in the US pointing one toward particular Mexican towns or cities (Agua Prieta, in this case) just say "Mexico." It is probably unintentional, but it lends a xenophobic, dumbass quality to US border areas.

I don;t think I want a singing butcher. Really.


Fabulous color combo.

The Grand Theater, under renovations.

Technology Today. 20 years ago.


The busiest businesses were right down by the border, patronized by Mexican families buying Dia de los Muertos doodads.

Te puede ayudar.

The surreal, completely restored lobby of the Hotel Gadsden.

The brand most people prefer.

The only way out of town.

Inexpensive, quiet and comfortable. A fairly decent Indian restaurant, also. On another visit later, I had pretty good chicken vindaloo.

I didn't go all the way over to New Mexico this time. The next time I visited down here, I did. But this time, I got a feel for this odd outpost. Flashes of grounding solitude mixed with crashing nostalgia and loneliness. What fun. At least the habitat outside town was welcoming, as it always is.

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