Beside tourism, the major employment in the Big Bend region is in cattle ranching. The ranches are huge for a relatively small amount of cows as the land is not very rich. Ranches are completely enclosed in fences with barbed wires of course, and there are no trespassing signs everywhere. Big Bend National Park is therefore a blessing for hikers as the majority of the land in Texas is private and off-limit. There are ranches that combine tourism (lodging, horse-back riding) and ranching, however.
One of the main result of intense cattle ranching is the impoverishment of the land, to the point where it dies with not a single plant left! The cows eat all up. I have seen signs of overgrazing everywhere. Even the land of Big Bend National Park, which used to be ranches 50 years ago is barely recovering from the assault of too much cattle! I am not sure how these ranches expect to survive if they are so hard on the land that supports them, this is a mystery to me!
On the picture you can see the contrast between the rich grass bordering the road with the field behind the fence where nothing grows anymore.
Friendly locals around here! Every single time we have crossed path with another vehicle on the road, they waved at us (and we waved back of course!). If you really want to blend in, put your hands on your wheel near the top, and lift only your index finger to say hi!
The picture illustrate the fact that there are lots of pick-up trucks in the Big Bend area, driven by men with cowboy hats.
Cowboy hats seems to be on fashion for most local men here, from the white Mexican type to the leather brown one like John Wayne had. This picture was taken at the Reata restaurant in Alpine, where at the 3 tables with customers besides us men wore cowboy hats.
This picture is so typical of the Big Bend region...and of all of central and western Texas. It is so dry here and so little rain falls that the only way to get water is to dig deep into the aquifer, with wind giving the power! Windmills are found in villages, next to ranchers houses and in the midle of ranches for getting water for the cattle
Speaking of water supply, I am very concerned about a building project going on in Lajitas, a small town a few miles West of Big Bend National Park. A super-rich guy there has bought most of the land and is building a luxury resort. And what goes with that, besides the airport for private jets, the big houses with fountains and green lawns, and the conference center??? Well, a golf course of course, in the middle of the desert with bright green lawns being watered all day!! How irresponsible is that I ask? So my concern is that this guy is going to deplete the aquifer completely and kill everybody else's chance to live there.
Well, we are at the Mexican border here. Besides the fact that Texas used to be Mexican in the early XIXth century, the recent immigration from Mexico and Central american countries is strongly felt here everywhere: signs in spanish, numerous mexican restaurants, lots of people of obvious Mexican descent, catholic churches in each town, art and craft... This picture shows a church with "Christ Church" written on one building (left), and Iglesia de Christo on the other (right) in Presidio.
I put this picture to show you what a typical little town in the Big Bend region looks like: ugly trailer houses scattered in the desert. Most people living there are not rich. I am sure most of them would love to have that quaint abobe house blending into the landscape, but how many can afford it?
When you take hikes to the Rio Grand River Mexican nationals may approach you from across the river to purchase items such as handmade walking sticks, bracelets, and other crafts. It is illegal to purchase these items and the park tells us that the Mexicans that cross the river may be arrested for entering the U.S. illegally. Hopefully they will just be given a warning, but in some case they may be deported back to Mexico through Presidio, which is 100 miles away from their home near Big Bend. Border patrol officers may also take items you purchase from you. We saw these venders in a number of places along the river. Besides selling items they also had jars for donations saying We need to feed our families. How can one not help but to feel sorry for these people who have lost their livelihoods when the border along Big Bend was closed. Sometimes they will leave their wares on the U.S. side of the river, then wait on the Mexican side of the river for hikers to come along. They will then either yell at you across the river to see if you are interested in purchasing something or come across to sell you an item. An example of this is that when we hiked the Boquillas Trail we saw two young men on the Mexican side of the river. When they saw us coming they came across together on one horse. One man was dropped off to show their wares, and the other rode back across the river to keep watch. In the photo my husband snapped, you see an area where Mexicans had their wares covered up.