A group of migrants runs into the brush after being spotted by the U.S. Border Patrol. (Dominic Bracco II/ Prime For The Washington Post)
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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT
My Republic is a personal exploration of the South Texas border region where I was raised.
The Republica Del Rio Grande lasted only a year. The new nation’s commanders were executed by Mexican troops, (one of which was a distant – ok very distant relative,) and their legacy was largely forgotten. Turmoil didn’t end with the fall of the Republic. The Nueces Strip, South Texas, whatever you might want to call it, has always been a place in conflict. It was a front line between Native Americans and foreign settlers, The Mexican Independence, The Mexican Revolution, The Civil War, The Texas Revolution, The Mexican American War, and now the conflict that has gripped northern Mexico for almost a decade.
South Texas is where the ‘Tex meets the Mex’. The highways of ‘el Valle’ are filled with trucks heading north to bring products to the U.S., both legal and illegal, and the ranches have long been smuggling routes for people, guns, and money. It is the front door to America.
This first set of images are the beginning of a long term project on the region, highlighting current and past events that have created the abrasive culture that exists there.
A family waits on their front porch while the Brooks County Sheriff’s Department searches their property after three men came to their door. The men apparently asked for coats, after a norther had brought heavy rain and dropped temperatures.
Deputies of the Brooks County Sheriff’s Department track three migrants who were reported trespassing.
Carlos Jose Cruz, a 42-year-old Honduran migrant, shows bruises on his body, at a migrant shelter in Matamoros, Mexico, where a group of armed men kidnapped and beat him and his friend with wooden boards. After torturing the two victims, the assailants bound their hands and feet and threw them in a drainage ditch to drown. Cruz was able to free himself and pull himself and his friend to safety.
Deputy Brett Zable clears an abandoned house frequented by human traffickers on a ranch in Brooks County.
A row of graves of unidentified persons found deceased on ranches in Brooks County.
A two year drought has made conditions more difficult for migrants.
Mike Vickers checks his rifle outside his house. Vickers carries several weapons with him at all time. (Dominic Bracco II/ Prime For The Washington Post)
Ranchers have placed ladders like this along their fences to avoid damage made by migrants passing through their land. Often the migrants will not use the ladders for fear that they are covered with sensors.
Detained migrants are processed at the Border Patrol check point near Falfurrias, Texas.
Clothes discarded by migrants are seen at a pickup point on the El Tule Ranch.
Avelo Pinada, 28, of Honduras, shows where he was beaten by a group of armed men and left for dead in Matamoros, Mexico. Organized crime has made crossing even more dangerous in recent years.
Local landowner, Mike Vickers looks through binoculars for illegal immigrants. He and his wife started the Texas Volunteers in 2009 after they saw an increase in “criminal trespassing,” on their property.
Brooks County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Benny Martinez rests agains bails of marijuana the department confiscated. The bails are attached with backpack straps and carried through the brush for miles. (Dominic Bracco II/ Prime For The Washington Post)
“Coyotes,” or human smugglers, often use the cover of darkness and move quickly, but if individuals loose their guides, they are often lost for days in the wilderness.
Dominic Bracco II explores the effects of global economics on local communities. Although he works internationally, Dominic’s work often returns to document the effects of Mexican and North American policies on the Texas / Mexico border region where he was raised. He has degrees in journalism and Spanish literature from The University of Texas at Arlington. Past clients include The New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. Dominic is also a founding member of the collective Prime. He is based in Mexico City.
Dominic Bracco II