On Wednesday, Zion national park in Utah, one of the most popular natural attractions in the US, received its first visitors in more than a month as the Trump administration continued its push to reopen the nation’s outdoors as well as it cities and businesses. More than 4,000 people poured into the beauty spot from numerous states.
Unlike the rest of the US, the sleepy border community of Ajo, Arizona, is busier than ever these days, as hundreds of border wall construction workers pass through each day. “The rest of us are staying at home just the way the governor has ordered,” said Susan Guinn-Lahm, an Ajo resident in her 60s.
“The first time I went, I wanted to cry,” said Lucía, a mother of three, describing how her economic situation would compel her to do the journey from her home in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez to line up outside a blood plasma donation center in El Paso, Texas. There are more than 800 such facilities in the US and they have been expanding around the southern border in recent years, harvesting plasma of a growing number of Mexicans traveling across the border on temporary visas, in need of cash.
Soil is carefully dug and then brushed away and the bags removed from the ground. Inside are bones but also small items that give a touch of humanity and threads of stories where flesh – and names – are missing. A little note. A half-drunk bottle of water. Prayer beads, a soft toy. These are the items that university experts and students from the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State have found when painstakingly exhuming the bodies of migrants who died on their journeys to the United States and ended up in graves at remote county cemeteries on the US-Mexico border.
The Trump administration is sending a new “surge” of rangers from US national parks such as Zion, Yosemite and the National Mall to patrol the southern border for crossings by illegal immigrants. Continuing a controversial policy initiated in 2018, rangers who work in law enforcement will be dispatched to Organ Pipe Cactus national monument on the Arizona and Mexico border as well as Big Bend national park on the border in south-west Texas.
Three months after one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern US history, the Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, where 22 were killed in an August rampage reopened on Thursday amid tears and smiles from customers and staff as the border city continues to reel from the racially-driven tragedy. The 9am opening began with the raising of the American flag – which had been flown at half-staff since the attack – and the unfurling of an “El Paso Strong” banner, a slogan which is now found on bumper stickers, shirts and buildings throughout the city.
Construction of a 30ft-high section of Donald Trump’s border barrier has begun in the Organ Pipe Cactus national monument in southern Arizona, a federally protected wilderness area and Unesco-recognized international biosphere reserve. In the face of protests by environmental groups, the wall will traverse the entirety of the southern edge of the monument.
This article appears in VICE Magazine's Borders Issue. The edition is a global exploration of both physical and invisible borders and examines who is affected by these lines and why we've imbued them with so much power. Click HERE to subscribe to the print edition. One March night last year, two teenagers briefly sneaked away from a hotel party in Albuquerque, New Mexico, intent on murdering a Native American homeless man before returning to the festivities.
Early in the summer of 1979, Larry King, an underground surveyor at the United Nuclear Corporation's Church Rock Uranium mine in New Mexico, began noticing something unusual when looking at the south side of the tailings dam. That massive earthen wall was responsible for holding back thousands of tons of toxic water and waste produced by the mine and the nearby mill that extracted uranium from raw ore.
The past decade has seen an explosion of craft beer breweries in the US as small businesses tap into growing demand for food and drink rooted in local traditions and ingredients. Nowhere is this consumer movement more apparent, and unique, than at Bow & Arrow brewery in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The first and only brewery in the US owned by Native American women, it has carved a space in the predominantly white and male-dominated industry by showcasing elements of their tribal identities, communities and ingredients through beer.
On any given day at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, visitors can to see more than 60 varieties of butterflies. In the spring and fall, monarchs and other species can blanket the center’s 100 acres of subtropical bushlands that extend from the visitor center to to the banks of the Rio Grande river, where their property, and US sovereignty, end.
When the US banned alcohol production and importation in 1920, spirits from Mexico began illegally crossing the border. Alongside mass quantities of tequila was the lesser-known sotol: a north Mexican moonshine with a similar flavor profile. “We exported 300,000 liters during prohibition,” said Ricardo Pico, of the Chihuahua-based distillery Sotol Clande, who has spent years studying the drink.
The first memory Hilda Ramírez has of the United States is the sound of helicopters. Four years ago, she, her eight-year-old son, Iván, and five other migrants from Central America piled into a small raft on the southern bank of the Rio Grande, the final step in a perilous trip through Mexico that she had begun one week before.
Sacha Johnston was inching along a dirt road in a narrow canyon in northern New Mexico. “Just guide me,” Johnston said to her search partner, Cory Napier, who directed Johnston and her white Toyota 4Runner. “This road can be brutal.”. The pair had come to this starkly beautiful place, at the base of the Sangre De Cristo mountains, to hunt for a treasure rumored to be worth upwards of $2m.
Astro-artist Jon Lomberg, a longtime friend and colleague of Carl Sagan, on protecting future humans from America’s atomic past. This story appears in VICE magazine's Dystopia and Utopia Issue. Click HERE to subscribe to VICE magazine. At first, Jon Lomberg thought it was a joke. When the late Carl Sagan, his friend and mentor, told him about a US Department of Energy plan to future-proof an atomic waste site for 10,000 years, he wasn’t sure it could be real.