Ambos Nogales in History

Nogales is the name shared by the two largest border towns between Arizona and Sonora, and in Spanish, the towns are nicknamed Ambos Nogales or “both Nogales.” Before the physical border was laid down after the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, Nogales was a single city nestled among green hills around 70 miles south of Tucson. The shared legacy is clear, as the border line runs straight down the bustling center of the towns. These postcards, ca. 1920s, show the proximity between towns and the accessible nature of the actual border crossings that was very common at the time.

Since then, the two towns have developed quite differently because of the economic factors affecting them. Nogales, Sonora has seen a significant increase in population due to people moving from rural areas in Mexico to find jobs in the city and also due to the increase in population of homeless migrants that have been recently deported. Nogales, Arizona, which is nearly ten times smaller than its neighbor, with a population of around 20,000, has seen many of its residents move to larger towns in Arizona and to other states. Despite the fact that crossing the border has become much more tedious since the 1920s, people from Ambos Nogales still cross the border every day.

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