AGUA PRIETA, SONORA
Agua Prieta is a community of about 120,000 people located in the far northern region of Sonora, Mexico. Situated on the U.S.-Mexico border, Agua Prieta is immediately south of Douglas, Arizona.
This community began as a cattle watering and crossing location between the U.S. and Mexico. Agua Prieta expanded due to the activity of the nearby mines and copper smelter in Douglas. In the 1970s Agua Prieta became a center for the Maquiladora industry which continued to expand until the late 1990s. This contributed to the overall growth of the city during this time.
In the 1990s Agua Prieta saw further growth as a result of the increase of U.S. border enforcement activities. As fences and other technologies were employed in other areas of the border, would-be border crossers were funneled into Agua Prieta. The small cattle, mining and blue collar factory town became the main staging ground for many border crossers. At one point in the late 1990’s, up to 1,000 people were arrested each day in Douglas, Arizona and the surrounding area and returned to Mexico through Agua Prieta.
Currently there are 500 U.S. Border Patrol agents stationed in Douglas, Arizona. The fencing, cameras, additional Border Patrol agents, and infrastructure have influenced many migrants to cross in much more more dangerous locations and, as a result, the number of migrant crossing in Agua Prieta has decreased.
More than 50 families from the coffee growing community of Salvadora Urbina are working and living in Agua Prieta. However, most of these families would prefer to find suitable work engaged with their own communities, lands, and traditions.