Friday, October 05, 2012

Why did the pedestrian cross the highway?

Have I really not blogged yet about the highway crossers? I meant to blog about them the first week I was here!

Here in Mexico, I drive or ride as a passenger for nearly 200 kilometers a day, mostly on the highway outskirts of Queretaro to go to a couple of different industrial parks. On the way to said industrial parks, one passes suburbs, gas stations, little towns, a church or two, and various businesses, and there  are many, many, many pedestrian bridges over the highway so that people can go back and forth.Despite this, there are still many, many, many, many, many people who cross the highway. On foot. On the asphalt. The highway. The highway on which cars are driving 120km per hour, or maybe even faster. DESPITE THE FACT that there is a pedestrian bridge probably 20 meters away, and another 100 meters in the other direction. Naturally, having lived for seven years in Southern California, I immediately thought of this:
In California, we basically called these the "immigrant crossing" signs. You see the signs when you're driving on Interstate 5, from San Diego to L.A.  Like many in So Cal, I always figured the problem was Camp Pendleton right by the highway there, and the checkpoint on the freeway.  Naturally, we assumed, undocumented border crossers would have to dodge the military base and maybe cross the highway, then cross back to the beach, or whatever.

Now, I'm not so sure calling them the "illegal immigrant crossing" signs is at all accurate. (Well, first of all, the colloquial term "illegal immigrant" is not accurate, because it should be "undocumented alien," because the word immigrant means an intention to immigrate, as in permanently, as in legally, and technically there's no such thing as an illegal immigrant, but I digress.)  I mean, I'm here to tell you that in Mexico, darting across the freeway is apparently normal behavior. Or at least not at all surprising to drivers. I now see that it could have nothing to do with Camp Pendleton or evading checkpoint authorities.  Apparently, the 5 is just another road to cross. It was really eye opening for me to come here and realize that it maybe wasn't entirely about being undocumented, but just about the complete and total culture clash, where most U.S. natives would be bewildered by the mere idea of running across a freeway.

But I suppose calling it a "Mexican crossing" sign would be even more offensive than an "illegal immigrant crossing" sign, eh?

Here's a link to a very interesting San Diego Tribune article about the signs, the illustrator, and the various meanings the sign has come to have to different people.


Anonymous said...

Do you see Children near the intersections selling news papers or anything? I did not see much of that in Mexico City or La Paz, BCS, but it is quite prevalent in Mexicali.

linda said...

Children and adults, actually. We also have windshield washers and performers, often break dancing or juggling fire in the crosswalks while the light is red and then collecting money from drivers before it turns green. I heard that some of the random sellers of newspapers and things are Central American migrants making their way north.