Border Tour: Naco, Sonora

Cochise County, Arizona

I’ve been visiting here for over twenty years, since my parents left the Sierra Nevada foothills community we shared and started a new life here in Abbey Country. For many years, my dad would take us down to Agua Prieta for a fun walk and lunch in Mexico. He died right after 9/11, and the changes in the country at that point included a general opinion that the border towns were unsafe. The media encouraged this conception, and even now Americans are afraid to visit the border. As I’ve made friends down here the last few years, I’ve heard a much different story. This week my friend Tony drove down with me and we walked across the border into Naco, Sonora. As I crossed over, I felt as I always have when I’ve been in Mexico, whether it has been a border town or the natives’ district in Cancun, during the WTO in ’03. There is something so appealing,so genuine, so homey to me about Mexico that I wish I could stay. I feel more at home there, in a way, than I do in Cali. I have no explanation for this. I might be tempted to cross over and stay, except that unfortunately Mexico’s treatment of illegals is not as compassionate as ours. Maybe some day I’ll get a visa and live the ex-pat life for awhile, as so many of my friends now do. The afternoon we visited Naco, a monsoon-like storm had graced the border. It helped put out a fire west of us and gave the May desert a rare, plump drink. Here are some photos of our hour in Mexico.

crossing the border

Naco, Arizona is a ghost town compared to Naco, Sonora.

This handmade sign weathered the rain storm, and speaks to the “homespun” vibe I appreciate about Mexico.

Many, many US cop vehicles on the U.S. side of the border.

The first thing you see after crossing: this mural painted on corrugated steel.

a collective signature

The main drag: Naco, Sonora

One of the few residences on the main drag.

The street sports a large median and walkway with dilapidated statues and parklets.

apartments above, boarded up businesses below

One of the two types of businesses that are prolific in Naco, Sonora. Can you guess what the other type is?

city park

police station

Wide medians–even on the side streets.

Que es esta?

This business is just reopening after siesta. We toured Naco around 3 p.m.

We navigated the streets via the medians.

Two universals: water and politics.

The Catholic church was locked up tight.

CAFO burgers? Who knows.

One of several buildings that spoke of better days in Naco, Sonora.

Another universal: video rentals and sales.

Another residence. No sign of life inside. Siesta?

still another universal

Three p.m. on a Wednesday in May; the school was deserted.

An old building that has stood the test of time: adobe walls and a tin roof.

yet another universal….

…and another…

Feliz Navidad en Mayo. And yes, this is the other thriving business: dental offices. Three on the few blocks we walked.

a typical street corner

Behind a serious chain link fence…

This tile piece tells the history of Naco.

The tile timeline spans from B.C. to contemporary times.

Adios, Naco!

From there we went through the labyrinth of turnstiles and fences, back to the border. Three U.S. border patrol greeted us with serious intensity, reminding me for the tenth time that day of Abbey’s Good News. “You didn’t take pictures of us, did you?” one of them asked without smiling. We shook our heads and made our way back to the van.



Filed under Abbey Country, photographs, politics

8 responses to “Border Tour: Naco, Sonora

  1. …”The Gateway to the Rio Sonora” is the new slogan to promote economic development thru tourism of this tiny little border town with a rich history from Spanish Colonial times thru the drama that plays out today…GR8 photo essay, Carolyn!

  2. “GREAT NEWS for tourism!

    The White House announced the creation of a National Strategy to increase travel to and within the U.S. The strategy includes increasing tourism industry-related jobs by attracting 100 million international visitors annually by the end of 2021—a 50% increase over this year’s expectations.

    See the White House news release at

  3. Thoughtful and helpful article, hope many people take your lead~!

  4. A most pleasant read and useful insight of an outsider’s (but regular visitor) view of my adopted territory. Keep in touch with what’s happening (that you won’t read elsewhere) at the Thank, DM Morgan, Editor/Publisher

    • Thanks, David! It’s an honor to hear from Cochise County press. I’ll be down there again over the holidays and I look forward to more exploring and reporting.

      • veronica

        Thanks a bunch, I’m moving from california to Naco Sonora, I’ll be working in Bisbee, AZ. The information and photos have given me the peace of mind I needed to know that my move is not a mistake

      • I am very glad I could be of help to you, Veronica. Have fun in Abbey Country–so much good stuff there for you to explore.

  5. Phyllis Griffiths

    Who did the murals on the corrugated steel?

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