In a simulated escape, tourists can now get the "illegal" immigrant experience with an group that allows tourists to act as migrants attempting to cross the border from Mexico to the U.S.
Caminata Nocturna, is a group formed in the town of El Alberto, Mexico that gives tourists the real immigrant experience. For four hours on a Saturday night trek, participants simulate crossing the border and must evade immigration officers and border patrol all while hiking in the pitch blackness.
Since the inception of Caminata Nocturna, which started in 2004, thousands of tourists have come to experience the border crossing, without the harsh reality of what it actually takes to cross the border like many have faced.
The group includes residents who act as border guards and smugglers (guides). Filmmaker Jamie Meltzer documented the experience in his film "La Caminata." One of the guides in the film said, "Most people come out of curiosity. We tell them that we don't want it to be an adventure but a way to raise consciousness." He added, "The idea is to put them into this situation to truly experience what a migrant experiences."
The hike is 7 ½ miles and starts with border agents in trucks with sirens trying to find immigrants. Participants must then climb under fences, run away and hide.
The town of El Alberto is comprised of almost all migrants and the tour has been a substantial source of revenue for many of its residents. When the Caminata started, one of the tour guides, Poncho said according to The Huffington Post that about 90 percent of the community was migrating. At the beginning the city was desolate and filled with half-finished houses and now the population is on the rise due to Caminata.
The city's population dropped from 1235 in 2000 to 540 in 2005 but has grown to 834 by 2010.