by Cameron Dodd
LAJITAS — For one afternoon, there was no border. People from both sides of the Rio Grande waded across the river, sharing music and company without the burden of presenting permits or passports.
Together, Americans and Mexicans celebrated the fourth annual Voices From Both Sides festival at the former site of the river crossing at Paso Lajitas on Saturday, May 22.
From stages on each riverbank, Mexican and American bands took turns playing sets. Music drifted across the river without distinguishing any frontiers. Likewise, adults and children enjoyed swimming in the muddy water of the Rio Grande without concern for border restrictions. Organizers from the US side had the consent of Border Patrol, and from the Mexican side, a few armed police officers just stood watch.
Jeff Haislip, one of the festival organizers, said the annual party started four years ago when he and others were frustrated with restrictions on the formerly open border crossing. Haislip lives in Terlingua, but said he has visited Lajitas for years and has seen the culture change since the longtime crossing was closed.
“We wanted people to experience how it used to be,” Haislip said.