Synopsis: In West Texas Bourdain spends time with people whose way of life is threatened by the possibility of a border wall going up between the United States and Mexico. He dines with a ranching family in the isolated town of Valentine and visits Marfa to learn how the artist Donald Judd transformed it. In the twin cities of Presidio, Texas, and Ojinaga, Mexico, Bourdain witnesses firsthand how a border wall could divide friends and family. He also speaks to individuals who are working to demystify the border for Americans who may fear it.
On the quality of Texas beef:
“Is there any beef better in the world than American beef? No, there is absolutely not. I say this as a chef, not as an American.”
On what aliens could learn about us:
“What will the half-alien cyborgs of the future who stumble across a Banksy or a Keith Haring buried under nuclear waste and the charred corpses of generations of Americans— What will they think? Do you think they’ll get us right?…
…I don’t know, I think they’re gonna have a tough time interpreting what life was like on this planet. They’ll be left with, like, Betamax copies of Three’s Company and Who’s the Boss? [They’ll wonder,] Who lived on this planet and what went horribly wrong?”
On fears about Mexican immigration:
“What about the Canadians? They’re actually pouring over the border and taking our jobs. Find a non-Canadian comedian!”
“I’ve been to a few places where they do have a wall. Few things are uglier in the entire world. Few things have been an indication of utter failure of otherwise smart people to figure s*** out.”
Guests weigh in:
Ty Mitchell (on the possibility of a border wall): “My ranch is on the river; it’s on the border. We can’t survive without the river, and we can’t survive without the people on that side of a river. They can’t survive without us. They’re our friends for God’s sakes. Loyalty is a big thing in Texas, and you ain’t gonna build a fence between me and my old friend.”
Roger D. Hodge (on why many Texans are against the border wall): “Everyone down here knows that the border is not a line. It’s a zone, it’s a community, it’s a region. It’s not a line. And putting a wall down, it’s a joke. People have lived in this landscape for 14,000 years through all these different nation-states and empires that have swept over it. They persist.”
Rainer Judd (on growing up in Marfa): “I was able, as a young kid, to open up to the natural world, which I don’t think I would have as a New York kid. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on understanding how much bigger the world is than just people.”
Sandro Canovas (on why adobe is political): “When I think about adobe, it’s probably the oldest tangible representation of the local aboriginal culture that we have. At the rate [things are] going … Marfa is gonna be just a suburb of Austin.”
Photos by Jessica Lutz, IWMF Fellow for the Adelante Latin American Reporting Initiative.