April 19, 2008 -- The footbridge between Candelaria, Texas and San Antonio del Bravo, Chihuahua may be one of the last "informal" crossings along the eastern U.S.-Mexico border.

The two communities connected by the bridge, which crosses a diminutive Rio Grande on gapped wooden planks suspended by repurposed car chassis, are situated, literally, at the end of the road.

Texas Highway 170 dissolves into rough dirt ranch tracks at Candelaria, leaving the river unaccompanied by road for a 200-mile stretch upstream known as the forgotten Rio Grande. On the other side, San Antonio del Bravo is a bumpy three-hour ride on an unmaintained dirt road from Ojinaga, a bustling outpost for Mexican ranchers.

Dr. Maribel Aquino, 32, works alone in San Antonio del Bravo's rural medical clinic with no phone or internet connection. She describes how the majority of San Antonio's women and children spend the week in Candelaria in order to send their American-born children to the school in Presidio. San Antonio del Bravo's schoolhouse sits empty; most women in the community decide to give birth across the border so that their children become American citizens.

A sign near the footbridge advises crossers that it is illegal to enter the United States at Candelaria, but residents of the community say the warning is un-enforced. If it were, says Dr. Aquino, the community would not survive.


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