As a journalism student, you worship the news. Unfortunately for places like my hometown, Nogales, Arizona, and recently Mexico, the only news is bad news. I don’t blame story editors, it’s not their jobs to make people feel sympathy for my town – it’s mine. I first realized this responsibility when I came to Arizona State University; “Oh, you’re from Nogales?” they said with furrowed eyebrows, “What was that like?” “Uhh… it was fine” I responded. Was it not supposed to be?
Nogales is its own country; I can’t describe it any better. Some people might think it’s strange to live on the border of a third world country, but we got the best of both worlds: Mexican culture with American benefits. I think only Nogalians realize this advantage, as the rest of the country knows Nogales as a town riddled with drugs, illegal immigrants and an allegedly corrupt Mayor. We have our fair share of problems and people who make bad choices, every town does. Nogales’ issues just tend to be a national problem, and what can you do? Blog about it I suppose.
If you do decide to visit Nogales, enjoy it with an open mind and an empty belly. I command you to eat. Eat like a hobbit. Mexican food is obviously the prominent choice of restaurants, and they cook it damn well. Go to Los Jardines on Grand Avenue and order tortilla soup and a torta ahogada. Then cross the street and go to the Michoacana and eat absolutely everything. If that’s too overwhelming, I strongly recommend Tostitos (the Mexican kind) with vegetables and melted cheese (I told you to have an open mind), coctel de elote or fresas con crema. Afterwards, roll about a mile or so to get a Finito – I know you’re asking what that is – like a frosty or a slurpee or an Icee, but completely different. Of course, you couldn’t get close to the border without eating tacos as well! I love Adrian’s tacos and tacos from the Paricutin, but the most obvious taco target is Los Tacos (creative name)… just down the street from the Michoacana and Los Jardines. If tacos aren’t your thing, try a Sonoran style hot dog – wrapped in bacon and topped with mayonnaise, tomato, cheese, avocado, chips, I can’t even list what all you could put on that thing. That belly isn’t so empty anymore, is it?
After awakening from your food coma, work off some calories and take a walk downtown. The historic 1904 courthouse (no longer in use), is topped with the only non-blindfolded statue of Lady Justice in the United States (that we know of). My mother told me that the saying goes “Justice isn’t blind in Santa Cruz County.” The Primeria Alta Historical Society and museum documents most of Nogales’ history and offers a walking tour to see history through architecture. Crawford, Noon and Sierra streets have beautiful homes built in different times and styles. I wish there was a more appropriate name for “Los Chinos,” the largely Korean-owned businesses downtown, but… well I don’t. “Los Chinos” sell everything from stereo equipment to hair barrettes, for cheap… although I won’t vouch for their quality. Quality I will vouch for is sold at Bracker’s, a clothing store with name brands and beautiful dresses. Unfortunately, downtown has been hit by SB1070, and it struggles to keep customers as a large amount came from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.
Santa Cruz County also has an abundance of outdoor activities: hiking, fishing lakes, golf and horseback riding are offered in many areas of southern Arizona, and there are a variety of birds that attract a variety of bird watchers. Do not honk at them, they will not appreciate it.
Of course, most people who come through Nogales are only on their way to the other Nogales, in Mexico, so it would be inappropriate to not talk about Mexico as well. I wish the glory of the Nogales I knew as an 18-year-old, who just became legal to drink and took full advantage, still existed. I can’t strongly recommend any restaurants or bars, as these days, the lack of business and prominence of assassinations keeps more than a few people away. It’s difficult to not be frightened when traveling through Mexico, but the safety recommendations from the U.S. Department of State provide great tips on avoiding getting involved with any of the problems terrorizing our neighbor to the south.Follow @ivymorris