M ost recently, a number of newspapers reported on a very special tourist attraction offered in the small village of El Alberto, Hidalgo, Mexico (“Das ist kein Spiel”; Lomoth; Rodríguezenviado). Here, about one thousand miles south of the actual location, locals offer realistic reenactments of the illegal crossing of the border between Mexico and the United States. For a small fee, tourists can participate in the role play: crossing riverbeds, hills, and fields, stumbling between cacti, being chased by la migra, the US border patrol, being ‘arrested,’ shouted at, and pushed around. The ‘tour’ is offered weekly, taking from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Interestingly, almost all reports on El Alberto struggle with the ethics of such playful reenactments of a situation that kills hundreds of Mexican migrants every year. Is this play cynical? Permissible? Educational? On this, most papers remain ambivalent. But more questions abound: In a way, the villagers’ performance doubles and displaces an otherwise highly guarded space. What are the pleasures and politics of such a displacement? For the organizers? For the participants? What does such a displacement tell us about the mobility of highly localized experiences? How does the US-Mexico border experience translate into other cultures? What is the topic’s fascination that makes international newspapers take an interest in these tours?

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