The book - Riding Behind the Padre: Horseback Views from Both Sides of the Border - 2014
An altogether fresh approach to borderland issues. —Gary Paul Nabhan, Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems at the University of Arizona Southwest Center
Borderland immigration and drug trafficking are heated issues for most people living in the Southwest. But for Arizona rancher-author Richard Collins, who operates a 13,000 acre ranch near the Mexican border, they are a daily occurrence. Wanting to hear firsthand from those living and working in the middle of the action, Collins embarks on a horseback pilgrimage along the Arizona-Sonoran borderlands described in Riding Behind the Padre: Horseback Views from Both Sides of the Border.
In this true story, set between 2008 and 2011, Collins joins up with a congenial group of Mexican riders retracing the pathways of Eusebio Francisco Kino, the pioneering Jesuit priest who explored the same borderlands three hundred years prior. The riders, members of Los Camino de Kino, include a cross-section of Mexico's growing middle class, bonded by faith in the Catholic Church, love of family and their country, and dedicated to the cause of Kino's sainthood. Like most of their peers, they are also troubled by America's failed war on drugs and its outdated immigration policies. And they often wonder if the United States is their ally or adversary.
Each ride, called a cabalgata, takes place over a different section of Kino’s trails, and contains a unique set of problems that mirror the challenges Father Kino had to overcome– native guides to keep from getting lost, feed for horses, long stretches with no water, cooking over camp fires, and sleeping on the ground. Cowboy Kino, according to historians, rode for more than 8000 miles over today’s borderlands, often covering 30 miles each day, a pace matched by the cabalgata requiring 10-12 hours per day in the saddle. Each journey presents a new aspect of the multifaceted Jesuit: explorer, mission builder, horseman, farmer, rancher, map maker, diplomat, as well as Catholic apostle to the native people.
Along the way, each cabalgata bumps into the realities of today’s borderlands. We see the tragedies of illegal immigration and drug violence driven by Mexico’s institutionalized poverty and its criminal drug cartels that feed on America’s insatiable appetite for illegal drugs and cheap labor. The reader receives balanced views of today’s situation from both sides of the border, set against Father Kino’s legacy and the Spanish incursions, both good and bad.
By sharing Collins’ perceptions and insights, the reader comes away with a better understanding of borderland complexities and his suggestion for a difficult but workable road map for the future. With a passion for landscape, horses, and history, this modern-day cowboy adventure unfolds in the Sonoran Desert where the dangers are fewer than advertised, beauty far outweighs ugliness, and most people are still friendly and caring.
Richard Collins has worked on the ecology and control of infectious diseases in Latin America at the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Arizona. He lived in El Salvador and Guatemala from 1974-1982. He writes from the Collins C6 family ranch in Sonoita, Arizona, near the border with Sonora where he has lived with his family for the past twenty years.
Since 2017, the Collins C6 Ranch and the author have donated all proceeds from book sales to the Kino Border Initiative.
Praise for Riding Behind the Padre: Horseback Views from Both Sides of the Border, (Wheatmark, 2014)
“A history lesson of the borderland life. Our group, Los Caminos de Kino, is not formed by Mexicans or Americans; it is formed by families who share land, ecosystem, economy, and dreams. While we do have differences between both sides of the border, all people have the same dream; that their families develop in a peaceful environment. Reading Riding Behind the Padre could help governments from both countries make laws that could contribute with keeping the border’s peace and harmony.”
José Luis Salgado B., Co-author of Por Los Caminos de Kino, Hermosillo, Sonora.
“For all the [mostly negative] attention the borderlands gets these days, we have few seasoned, balanced voices speaking to us who know the terrain like the back of their hands. Forget God’s Middle Finger and No Country for Old Men, the borderland dystopias that distort realities more than seeking them out. Riding Behind the Padre has writing in it as eloquent as Cormac McCarthy and Graham Greene, but it is not a drive-by shooting of border cultures, it is an immersion in the richly nuanced and often contradictory lives embedded in this region.”
Gary Paul Nabhan, Author of Cultures of Habitat, The Southwest Center, University of Arizona, Tucson.
“I found Riding Behind the Padre: Horseback Views from Both Sides of the Border to be a significant work, weaving the history of Anglo involvement in the Pimería Alta through the legacy of Father Kino, with contemporary accounts of border life, both exhilarating and tragic. The book is culturally and environmentally astute, blending the author’s own remarkable knowledge of landscapes and ranching with sensitive observations on humans, nature, and of course, horses.”
George B. Ruyle, Professor and Extension Specialist, Range Management. Marley Endowed Chair for Sustainable Rangeland Stewardship, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Arizona.
Diane and Richard Collins giving a book and check to Father Pete Neeley of the Kino Border Initiative
At the Caborca Corrals - 2008
Sand River at Noon - 2008
At the trailhead - 2010
Cabalgantos sharing a meal - 2010