On the Trail of Mexican Boat Smugglers

We had one week to document illicit sea trade

On the Trail of Mexican Boat Smugglers On the Trail of Mexican Boat Smugglers

Uncategorized September 26, 2013 0

Derren Ohanian photo On the Trail of Mexican Boat Smugglers We had one week to document illicit sea trade by JESSE AIZENSTAT Living in... On the Trail of Mexican Boat Smugglers
Derren Ohanian photo

On the Trail of Mexican Boat Smugglers

We had one week to document illicit sea trade

by JESSE AIZENSTAT

Living in California, you often hear about these small fishing boats called “pangas” that take off from northern Baja and go on all-night trips into the United Sates.Last March I successfully convinced my two friends—one an interpreter, the other a videographer—to go on a weeklong journey to document this Mexican side of smuggling.

Usually, the cargo is migrant workers … and marijuana.

The goal of our endeavor was to see where these panga boats take off from. Along the way we also discovered that the real money in the smuggling economy flows not to the traffickers, but to the U.S. defense industry, which earns billions of dollars supplying the services and equipment that the American government uses to try to stop the smugglers.

As the documentary’s director, host, producer and pretty much everything else, I knew we would have only one chance to get it right.

First off, getting a week off work was a big deal.

Second, we only had that one week to shoot everything we needed. Once we crossed the border, we’d have to capture an interview with a local journalist, experience the wild times in a smuggling seaport, check out a lawless desert where the marijuana is grown and interview someone who had actually been in the smuggling business.

It was daunting, to say the least. They say the freedom to fail is the best part about America. I like that. It motivated us.

Drugs are smuggled into the U.S. in many ways: through the desert, in tunnels, airplanes, cars.

We thought that if we focused on what many California newspapers call “the panga story,” we could create a visually striking adventure that to the untrained eye looked like three California dudes going down to Baja on a surf trip. We went in my ‘91 White Ford Bronco, too. O.J. style.

But it wasn’t all thrills and fun. We were trying to make a point—that Americans have become all too willing to just go along with grand military solutions to our immigration and drug problems. In part two of our docu, Dr. David Shirk of the Trans Border Institute at the University of San Diego calls this the “Border Industrial Complex.”

Instead of taking a hard look at our immigration and drug problems and their causes, the United States through the Immigration Reform Act could spend another $50 billion dollars to militarize the border. All this spending on military equipment with no measurement of effectiveness. No system in place to see if any of that spending is actually making us safer.

Watch our documentary Baja Smugglers below.

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