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Pay to play a border crosser in bizarre tourist attraction

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Ixmiquilpan, MEXICO -- We heard about a strange thing when we came to Mexico: an attraction in the country's central region where tourists pay 20 bucks each to pretend they're illegal immigrants and make a run for a "make believe" border.
We couldn't believe it.

Everybody I told about the story before we went was horrified or deeply offended. We were even more surprised to see who was running this attraction -- the indigenous Nanu Indians who live near this national park and operate the mock border crossing.

They're also making a lot of money. The night we did the tour, there were more than 50 people in the group, including some 7-year-old kids in a Scout troop. So, for that night alone, they cleared about $1,000!

It's a strange attraction. We started the night with Poncho, our guide and leader. He spoke for about 45 minutes and said the program honors the treks made by immigrants. For part of the journey, he wore a mask to make him anonymous like the real-life guides, which was supposed to add to the drama.

Poncho yelled "Corre, corre, corre ..." and we were on our way. We made it down a hill, through 6 inches of mud, crawled across a ledge, across a river and through a scary tunnel to get to the other side.

For a decorative touch, fires were lit in the background. And to make the experience more bizarre, we were blindfolded when we reached the fictional border around 2 a.m. The grueling trek took about four hours, but, as Poncho reminded us, the journey across the real border is much more difficult.

Poncho's Mexican tribe has been decimated; he estimates that 90 percent of his people have left for the north.


People pay to pretend they are illegal immigrants running for the U.S. border in a tourist activity in Mexico.

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