Leaving Mission, Texas and heading toward Laredo on Route 83, we passed through Los Ebanos, a small town in Texas that is host to the only hand-drawn ferry on the Rio Grande.

A legitimate border crossing sanctioned by both governments, Los Ebanos is amongst the few crossings that could be considered peaceful.

In contrast, the Laredo/Nuevo Laredo crossing is anything but tranquil. Here, amongst the chaos of thousands of cars and pedestrians squeezing through narrow chutes, everyone is required to show their papers, as police dogs prowl for drugs and immigration agents patrol with automatic weapons at the ready.

The Cadillac Bar, perhaps the most popular tourist site in Nuevo Laredo, was closed in 2010 due to the drop in clientele caused by fears of border violence.

Known for their centrality to border issues, the Laredo twin cities are home to a number of border-related NGOs, including La Casa Misericordia and Rio Grande International Study Center.