Posted on March 22, 2012 at 4:01 PM
OJINAGA, Mexico-- While many Americans avoid crossing the border, a group of Texans led a parade into Mexico to strengthen ties with their neighbors. The parade started in the tiny border town of Presidio where residents lined the streets.
Many were amazed by the 80-foot bicycle that looked like a rattlesnake, powered by six riders.
It's one of several colorful characters from the Austin Bike Zoo, a non-profit organization "dedicated to inspiring communities through the creation of unique human powered vehicles, bicycle-based theatrical performances and educational programs for youth."
Butterfly bikes also floated down the street, an homage to the migrating monarchs that spend winters in Mexico each spring.
It’s too early to celebrate Spring and too late for Mardi Gras, but that did not matter to the families in masks and costumes who cheered and snapped photographs as the snake slithered toward the border.
At dusk the parade crossed the International Bridge and one of the riders cheered “Ojinaga, Mexico!”
Mexican customs officers greeted the group led by the rattlesnake bike. Parents and children on the Mexican side waved as the parade made its way down the street.
“It feels good to bring joy to this community because there’s not really a long line of people looking to come over here, so we enjoy it," said Jeremy Rosen, creator of the Austin Bike Zoo.
Few Americans are willing to cross the border these days because of drug violence in some regions. But that didn’t worry rider Pavielle Barbai-Pirouz,.
“As soon as I got the opportunity, I knew I had to come,” she said.
Barbai-Pirouz was riding at the front of the snake and used pedals to open and close the reptile’s huge mouth to the delight of children, their parents and even police officers who escorted the parade.
“We needed this,” said Petra Uranga as she snapped a cell phone picture. The grandmother spotted the giant butterflies crossing the International Bridge and brought her grandchildren to the border to see what was happening.
Ojinaga residents have lived through a reign of terror. A Mexican general and 29 of his soldiers sent to protect the border town are in military court facing kidnapping, murder, and drug trafficking charges that span several years dating back to 2008.
When the parade reached the town square, children climbed on some of the colorful bikes for a ride.
“I love seeing the reaction from everybody and its fun," said rider Sandi Turvan. "It’s a butterfly bike!”
“It’s cool,” said 11-year old Felix Armendariz who rode in the rattlesnake bike. “I hope they come back next year."