In the morning we left the ranch, hit the main roads, and a sandstorm on the way to Mexicali. The run-off from the now mostly dry Laguna Salada caught wind and sailed across our route for hours; probably not much help to the jack-knifed truck in the road, or the squinting federales. We were trailing around the giant, mostly dry Laguna, first north into Mexicali, and then south, back toward the Sierra Juarez and into the canyon perimeters of Parque Nacional Constitucion de 1857.
The rocky road to Cañón Guadalupe is some thirty-five miles, first along the shore of the Salada, then sandy flats. High enough in the canyon, we find the two-thousand or so California fan palms lining the creek and blue mineral pools that dance down the canyon.
These palms are oddly the only major species endemic to the Californias. But the fan palms are magnificent in their natural state; forming dark, cool canopies of mosque-like interiors, '…and a giant rattlesnake too', Vance would say later.
But I was higher up by then, where the canyon narrowed and waterfalls formed blue pools of water. I swam in the cool water, watching a lizard make it down the cliff to drink from the pool. It had no idea I was there, and when it noticed me, it lost its grip, and hung by one hand off the wall, finally making a pounce for a nearby ledge and escaping to the drink. I thought, now that is a bajacaliforniado. Vance was stewing the whole time over 'should'a killed that rattlesnake and ate it' until we crossed the border. It seems that perhaps being out-of-touch had overcome him; he had in a sense adapted to a faraway place. But what being out-of-touch can do is bring perspective to the shriveled newspapers in the driveway. "Zedillo Ousted!"
It had been good news, maybe the most significant event for Mexico in seventy years. Not because Zedillo was a bad president: he was honest, and free-market, and pro-NAFTA, doing great things for the country. But he was part of a long-established political monarchy; that had ties, ultimately to corruption and 'old ways.' A monarchy that turned the other way at Baja California's nightmarish murder rate, and cocaine running, and to the drugs that 'nothing can penetrate.'
It seems his successor, who Zedillo quickly heralded, is himself an outsider, somewhat out-of-touch with the 'way Mexico was.' President-elect Fox has sworn to make the corruption his enemy, and NAFTA his objective. Bert and Screwface may be upset, but who cares about frigate birds anyway? Baja, in a sense, is a symbol of Mexico's future.
Perhaps Baja - lawless, separated, out-of-touch, is the way places should be; after all, Baja is Northern Mexico's most unregulated region, and is leading the way in development, despite years of near-abandonment from Mexico City. It is no coincidence that the 1990's did great things for Mexico, the United States and Canada. It is no coincidence that despite 'squawking about immigration', California is the world's sixth largest economy in part because of immigration - legal and illegal.
Freedom from everything but one's own path - this holds true for Tijuana, as it does for the Baja outback, and immigration, economies, and Coco - rejected by order.
The state of Baja California is expected to benefit by the rise of Mr. Fox, who intends to decentralize federal rule and hand more over to the individual states. Less laws, fewer borders, more freedom for a booming state to rise and meet a new century on its own terms. The fact that Fox has many potential key cabinet members in the state of Baja California will help too; and all of them understand the border.
Borders, it is shown time and again, are largely nonsense, and culture, anyways, is geographical, not political. Someday, borders between Mexico and America will be like those between Minnesota and Canada, or North Dakota and South Dakota. And because of all this, Mexico will soon be seen as America's equal, and maybe the world's fastest growing economy. Out of Mexicali, we played Eyes of the World driving home underneath the date palms along the Salton Sea.