Nestled in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, the Altar Valley Corridor spans the Mexican-U.S. border in two distinct portions in northwestern Sonora and southwestern Arizona. Despite its aridity, the Altar Valley Corridor hosts a variety of plant and animal life adapted to the desert’s summer heat and winter chills. It is here at the Tohono O’odham people (historically called “Papagos” by Spaniards and Mexicans) have their most sacred mountain – the bell-shaped Baboquivari Peak. Separated from the desert cities of Hermosillo, Caborca, Tucson, Phoenix, and their busy highways, the Altar Valley is still an important (and irregular) corridor for the movement of people and contraband between the two neighboring countries. It is in the remote Altar Valley Corridor that most of the land crossings into the U.S. by undocumented immigrants (as well as a significant amount of narcotics smuggling) took place in the first decades of the 21st Century. In this photo essay, we will take a tour of this corridor, from the town of Altar in Sonora to the forgotten bordertowns at Sásabe and the northern edge of the Altar Valley in Arizona as a way of understanding one of the most important settings in conversations about the U.S.-Mexican border.
U.S.-Mexican, Latino, and Border Historian