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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The towns and cities where Mexicans are objecting to U.S. policies — no border wall

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At the entrance to Albuquerque’s International Airport, visitors are welcomed with statues of the great Western names of the plains: Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, Oscar Romero.

Next door, pictures of Lech Walesa and Frida Kahlo adorn the walls of the Casa Los Angeles, the iconic residence the Polish dissident dedicated to his Russian-born lover.

Neither of these places draw very many people these days.

The reason is pretty simple: Their respective presidents think their city’s governments haven’t been paying enough attention to their backyard.

U.S. President Donald Trump wants to pipe water across the border to make Mexico pay for a border wall. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, meanwhile, shut down a portion of the border last month after the U.S. government announced plans to take over the border’s ports of entry.

Both policies — involving the transfer of water from one country to another — have provoked deep resentment from parts of each country. At a rally in Rosarito, Mexico, on Saturday, Mr. Peña Nieto accused U.S. authorities of “attempting to deny the only thing that enriches our society: friendship and cooperation with our neighbors, in no small measure since we began to study.”

“I will not sign any international agreement or bilateral treaty giving up our territorial sovereignty, which is now and will remain,” he said.

Mr. Trump’s tactic — aimed at building support for his so-called border wall — has also sparked particular outrage in Mexico. Like the United States, Mexico has seen immense growth in its construction industry over the past several decades, with money funneled into many of the same communities that in the United States build the neighborhood skyscrapers and the interstate highways that border cities in Mexico border.

Now, residents in many of those neighborhoods are not happy to see newly arriving bricklayers, masons and concrete mixers.

In the port of entry at the village of Rosarito, home to a burgeoning furniture manufacturing industry, the new arrivals have turned the streets into a construction zone. At night, immigrants can be heard yelling at passing construction vehicles that break “the bed-spring rule,” which requires drivers to pause halfway into the street to allow pedestrians to cross.

In Los Moutonos, a border town in the northern state of Chihuahua, where storefronts are being rebuilt on the pavement that once served as a literal border, residents are incensed.

“Lately, people in America ask us, ‘Where did you get those Mexicans from? They’re just lazy. They don’t have skills,’” said Alejandro Gurrola, owner of a tavern called the Bojangles. “Well, my brother and sister-in-law immigrated from our town here and work here in the United States as welders.”

Mr. Gurrola said his employees, like many others in the industrial area, had been fighting their new boss, who has raised their wages substantially.

“With three of his workers now having just graduated from high school, the boss says they shouldn’t get paid in cash because then they would have to go out and sell on the street or on the corner,” Mr. Gurrola said. “We tried to explain to him that this would destroy our entire town.”

In Mexico, an unfinished border wall has often provided images of biblical wrath on posters and in parodies. But few complaints seem to have been made before. On Friday, the state government of Chihuahua went to court in an attempt to stop the operation of the border crossing at Rosarito, calling the border’s closure “illegal and unconstitutional.” The border is operating normally.

Across the border, the townspeople of Nogales, Ariz., were not waiting for the United States to blame their misery on migrants. One street in Nogales features a large mural that depicts jilted lovers, in the style of paintings from 17th-century churches in Italy. Each is holding up a sign that reads: “No more Nogales.”

And in Anapra, the old port of entry, residents hope to see more of the U.S. on Friday nights.

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