Nogales is a community that is located on the southern boundary of Arizona, borders Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. It is a major international gateway along the Mexico-United States border. Because of its border location, Nogales has members of the same family living on both sides of the border, some in Mexico and some in the United States. Although with the correct papers, visitors can go back and forth between the two cities it is still two separate countries working together to bring a smooth transition for the visitors.
Nogales has the border fence running right through it to keep illegals from crossing the border. Standing on either side of the fence you can see the people on the other side, people shout back and forth to each other if they are not crossing the border. With illegal immigration a major problem for Arizona the Border Patrol is busy trying to maintain legal crossings and keep illegals out of the US. It was reported that the road that runs alongside the fence in Nogales, through the residential area, had approximately 38 tunnels dug on the Mexican side of the border to the basements of homes on the US side of the border. The Border Patrol found them and closed them down.
Now, although this sounds like a bad movie, the community itself is a charming place to shop, have lunch, and cross into Mexico for the day. Referred to as Ambos Nogales, the communities of Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico comprise the largest international border community in Arizona with a combined population of 177,732 inhabitants according to the 2000 censuses.
Known in O’odham as Nowa:l, the name “Nogales” is derived from the Spanish word for “walnut” or “walnut tree.” It refers to the large stands of walnut trees which once grew abundantly in the mountain pass between Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Sonora. Walnut trees can still be found around the city.
The community will have architectural buffs thrilled with the options of different houses in Nogales. There are, of course, the Sonoran Style but there are also Queen Anne Cottages, Second Empire, Spanish Colonial, Pueblo Revival, Mediterranean Style, and Bungalow Style houses for you to see all within the downtown area. Bring along a good pair of walking shoes and enjoy the walk and discovery.
While in the area of Nogales you may want to venture out a bit and see some of the other sites close to Nogales. There are over 15 ghost towns near Nogales. One of the better-known towns is Lochiel’s post office, originally established on August 23, 1880. There were two smelters, three saloons, a butcher, bakery, livery stables, five stores, a boardinghouse, and Pancho Villa. Yes, this was a favorite place for Pancho to cattle rustle and take the stock into Mexico. Lochiel is also the spot where the first European went west of the Rockies, Fray Marcos de Niza on April 12, 1539.
Just take Hwy 19 south from Tucson and you will come to Nogales. It’s about 65 miles but the drive is beautiful.