Postcards From the Edge

Hi, Mom! I'm crossing the border!

Galleries in Scottsdale and Tucson have already shown interest -- more than they've yet received from any potential distributors on the film.

"It's been an easier sell," Adler says. "It's amazing how just the simple idea of passing out cameras to migrants seems to capture everyone's imagination."

An assortment of photos taken by both migrants and Minutemen, to be included in an upcoming art exhibit.
An assortment of photos taken by both migrants and Minutemen, to be included in an upcoming art exhibit.
The crew of the Border Film Project (, from left: Rudy Adler, Victoria Criado and Brett Huneycutt.
courtesy of Rudy Adler
The crew of the Border Film Project (, from left: Rudy Adler, Victoria Criado and Brett Huneycutt.

The first few times the team passed out cameras to the brave souls preparing their trek across the border, Huneycutt says there was something "magical" about the empowered look in their eyes.

Take pictures of the people going with you, they'd tell the migrants. The challenging parts of the trip. The obstacles, and the victorious moments. Whatever seems important to you.

"Just seeing the migrant pick up the camera," Huneycutt says, driving away from the Casa Juan Bosco, "and look at it, and take his first picture . . ."

From the back seat of the car, Criado interrupts his reverie. "Yeah, but after you give the spiel 500 times," she grumbles, "it's not so 'magical' anymore."

While Adler, Huneycutt and Criado may have started this project full of brilliant, exhaustively educated views on the complex issues surrounding border relations and impassioned ideals regarding what their own artistic efforts might contribute to the debate, at this point in the game, any traces of pretense seem to have evaporated.

Over some late-night tostadas at one of the bigger outdoor food stands in Nogales after leaving the migrant house, Huneycutt and Criado barely exchange a word about politics or economics or even the heart-rending social conditions they've just seen.

Instead, they talk and cut up about some of the characters they met tonight, a group Huneycutt warmly characterizes as "some interesting dudes."

"There were a couple of crazies tonight," Huneycutt says, smiling. "Like that one guy who tried to speak English? At first, I thought he just couldn't get anything out of his mouth in English that made sense. But then when he switched to Spanish, he still didn't say anything that made sense!"

They both laugh. "Of course, he had just gotten back from being deported," Huneycutt says, taking a swig of his Coca-Cola Light. "It usually takes a while to get their minds clear."

While Huneycutt has been searching for the next Che Guevara between the bunks in the sweaty migrant houses and instead finding Cheech Marin, Victoria Criado has learned she can't wear a skirt to a visit with even the noblest-sounding of migrant's-rights groups south of the border.

Earlier today, at the tiny border town of Sasabe -- population 32 -- about 40 miles west of Nogales, Huneycutt and Criado delivered cameras to the little office building run by Grupo Beta, a group sponsored by the Mexican government that tries to discourage migrants from crossing and offers food and water to those who insist on trying anyway.

As group member Juan Quintero gives Huneycutt his own spiel on the humanitarian efforts of the organization -- "It's really hard to talk people out of going," Huneycutt translates. "We tell them that thousands of people are dying in the desert, but a lot of them do it anyway" -- the five other men crowded into the small building laugh and make crude sexual comments about Criado as if none of them realizes she speaks perfect Spanish.

"They're just a bunch of clowns," Criado says afterward, walking back toward the border station while the Grupo Beta men laugh loudly in the distance. "I find that a lot with Latin American men when they get in groups. It's like they never really mature. With American men, at least they're not so obvious."

Back home, Adler admits the team has knowingly used Criado's eye-candy appeal -- which today is shown off by a V-necked turquoise blouse and a long, flowing hair style -- to gain entry into the predominantly male-run migrant houses and border agencies they've visited this summer. "Brett and I can only be so charming," Adler says. "But having a cute girl just opens up a lot of doors."

Now, however, Criado -- who says her relationships with both Adler and Huneycutt are so platonic, she's been able to sleep undisturbed with them in the same hotel rooms -- is clearly tired of playing the sex-kitten role. Not to mention dealing with the machismo she encounters constantly from the men in the border towns.

"The whole time we were there, they were saying really vulgar things around me," she says just after leaving Grupo Beta. "And now they're all joking, because when they said goodbye to me, they were all watching me walking away. Ugh!"

Just past the border inspection station on the Arizona side of Sasabe, sitting on the front patio of the quaint red brick customs house that looks out over the desert, U.S. customs agent Tina Hurley, taking a break from her novel (S.M. Stirling's The Protector's War), shares some peppery girl talk with Criado about the Grupo Beta men, whom Hurley suspects might be doing some moonlighting as coyotes on the side.

"Once in a while, I see their wives come down, wearing perfect fingernails, like they never work, and driving brand spankin' new Explorers," she says. "And I'm looking at these guys thinking, 'Let's see: Your salary is, what, $250 a month? Uh-huh!'"

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