Cross Border Tours

Nonprofit BCA offers cross-border intercultural experiences from Arizona into Sonora, Mexico and beyond for anyone interested in learning first-hand about the diverse heritage and realities of contemporary life in the shared border region.


Why take a Cross Border Tour?

Border Community Alliance is dedicated to championing public literacy in current borderlands issues, anthropology, economics, history and geography - taking those subjects and learning in the field - rather than dusty libraries and classrooms.  This is in fulfillment of the nonprofit's mission of education and in affirmation that context is vital to understanding.

Since 2010 many people have learned first-hand about the dynamics of the borderlands by taking a BCA Cross Border Tour. After going on one of our tours, Dan Shearer, editor of the Green Valley News wrote, “…it changed my whole perspective on the border and our relationship with Mexico!” BCA’s cross border tour program has been also privileged to have been featured in the New York Times.

Consider joining us for one of our other cultural exchange excursions listed below. Check the schedule and register online through our secure website.  In recognizing BCA’s commitment to fostering international community, please know that part of the proceeds from your registration go directly to grassroots civil society projects in the BCA/FESAC network. Learn more. 

Please remember to bring your passport.


A Day in Mexico

Day tours typically begin with an orientation where you will have a chance to meet your fellow travelers and gain some context on Mexico. To provide an intimate and safe experience, groups are limited in size, traveling together in transportation with a professional driver and your guides. Your tour registration fee includes transportation, lunch, expert guidance, and tax. Returning to the US, participants often recognize and reflect on the significant intercultural learning experience. Schedules vary but most tours start at 9:00 in Tubac and Nogales, AZ, returning to those communities between 5:00 and 5:30 pm.

What to wear and bring

  • Please remember to bring your valid passport!

  • An eco-friendly reusable bottle of cold water, sunscreen, and/or hat.

  • While there is not a lot of walking, we suggest comfortable shoes.

  • Long pants or slacks are ideal for both men and women, especially if missions or churches are to be visited.

For additional information, please see: Frequently Asked Questions

Membership and support of nonprofit BCA also entitle members to special rates for tours and programming.


Tour Descriptions


Nogales Cross Border Tour

BCA’s initial introductory tour is built around offering guests a chance to see for themselves what Nogales is really like - beyond the wall - and incorporating an overview of the region, historically and contextually. The tour begins on the US side with a brief orientation, followed by travel through the dynamic city of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Gain a sense of the astonishing economic development and the ascendant civil sector.

After a meal at a classic Sonoran lunch spot, the tour continues with a final stop at La Roca, the historic Nogales restaurant/institution for debriefing over flan and coffee. The tour is led by BCA staff and by Alma Cota de Yanez, Executive Director of FESAC, BCA’s Nogales, Sonora partner organization and community foundation.


Gastronomic Tour of Nogales

For the last thirty years people from all over Mexico have relocated to Nogales in economic pursuits while also contributing to making the community a gastronomic destination. They have brought their respective cuisines from throughout Latin America and with surprising variety of options to consider.

If you are curious to learn what exactly is Sonoran food and how it differs from wider Mexican cuisine, this gastronomic tour of Nogales will clarify the regional characteristics of our vibrant southern neighbor while providing a background in cultural heritage. Visitors to Nogales, Sonora are often geographically limited to walking distance in the main tourist zones for dining options while visiting south of the border. This tour takes you off that beaten path and deeper into Nogales to the modern gastronomic zone of local Nogalenses.  This tour is your chance to taste and see for yourself.


Magdalena de Kino

Nationally recognized Magdalena de Kino, Sonora lies only sixty miles south of Nogales, yet it embodies a remarkably different world of colonial buildings and a rustic feel of the traditional vaquero heartland.  The northern Sonoran community was awarded by the Mexican government with the the title of recognition of Pueblo Magico for the outstanding cultural heritage the Sonoran pilgrimage terminus expresses.

Located here is the crypt of Padre Eusebio Kino (1645-1711), the Jesuit explorer and missionary credited with founding churches throughout the Sonoran region like San Xavier del Bac near Tucson. Beginning at the border in Nogales, this tour includes an overview of the rich and complex history of the region with stops at Imuris and San Ignacio before reaching Magdalena. Magdalena’s beautiful plaza and memorial to Kino is surrounded by an artful promenade where shoppers stroll in the shaded walkway. The chapel and church are moving tributes to the faith of the region. After lunch, the tour continues with a visit to a local coffee house and roaster in a traditional historic Sonoran casona to dialogue about the local context.


Rio Sonora

This rural tourism experience presents a chance to immerse in traditional Northern Mexican agricultural life. We will be traveling to the heritage rich Sonora River valley which bestowed its name to this northern Mexican state. This river valley was also the conduit route for the first European explorers of the area such as Cabeza de Vaca, Esteban ‘the Moor’, Fray Marcos de Niza, and Coronado. This two-night tour will be based out of the mid-valley town of Banamichi, where guests will stay at the boutique hotel, La Posada del Rio Sonora. Tour highlights include an upriver trip to Arizpe with its outstanding Jesuit cathedral, Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.  Arizpe is a community that was once the capital of the entire north of colonial New Spain. Downriver communities of Huepac and Aconchi and their respective missions dating back to the 17th century will also be a part of the itinerary. Also included in this curated trip is visit to natural building homestead Los Paredones along the river to learn about traditional earthen architecture and the Sonoran Desert ecology. We will enjoy and be surrounded by the local gastronomy, la cocina sonorense.


Hermosillo: Capital of Sonora

Travel with us to the burgeoning capital of our neighboring state of Sonora, Hermosillo to take part in the cultural and cosmopolitan opportunities the city has to offer. This two-night experience will provide guests with an overview of the city’s history and its significant sights, making the case that Hermosillo is a unique destination rather than just a stop on the way to Gulf  beaches. Guests will experience the Mexican muralist art tradition at the Palacio de Gobierno, the seat of the state of Sonora’s government as well as observe the Sonoran sunset from the top of the city’s emblematic Cerro de la Campana. Also included are visits the historic old quarter of town - Villa de Seris - world renown for its coyotas pastries and classic central marketplace. Hermosillo’s modern gastronomy will also be highlighted, one representative of the state’s famous ranching and Sea of Cortez fishing economies.


Alamos, Sonora

Alamos, Sonora is one of the most fascinating places to visit in northern Mexico due to its unique intersection of history, climate and geography. Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental range, Alamos was originally founded as a silver mine in the late 17th century. The Sonoran community inhabits a remarkable but endangered biome known as the dry tropics.  Historically, Alamos represents the northern outpost of urban Spanish colonial centers with mining centered economies such as Guanajuato, Zacatecas and Durango. This 5 day tour includes an overnight in San Carlos on the way down and Hermosillo on the return north.


Classes & Workshops

Borderlands Forum

The Borderlands Forum series of classes and workshops offered by BCA seeks to promote understanding and appreciation of the borderlands as a cross-cultural, binational resource. The forum provides focus, energy and quality to the educational mission of Border Community Alliance. Our aim is to be a clear, strong voice advocating mutual respect for the cultural diversity of the US-Mexico border region, thereby moderating the forces of xenophobia and racism that affect our region.


A Range of Offerings

The Borderlands Forum offers a wide variety of classes and forums on topics such as:

  • History and culture of Mexico and of the region

  • Social investment

  • Art, photography, music, cinema

  • Economics

  • Cuisine

  • Nature and environmental concerns

  • Diplomacy and immigration

  • Architecture

Class Locations

Classes are held in various locations in southern Arizona.

The location of your class is listed with the class description on the registration page.


Examples of Borderlands Forum Programming



The Borderlands Forum started with the help of a grant from the Greater Green Valley Community Foundation. Our gratitude goes to the Foundation for spurring us on!

We are fortunate to have had partners in hosting Borderlands Forum including: the Mexican Consulate in Nogales (AZ); the US Consulate in Nogales Sonora (MX); Tumacacori National Historical Park; Tubac Presidio; Tubac Center for the Arts; Green Valley-Sahuarita Samaritans; Pimeria Alta Museum (Nogales, Arizona); the University of Arizona (Tucson); and others. We welcome others who share similar interests and perspectives.

Policies and procedures

Class and workshop participants are encouraged to register online for classes and forums, even when they are free. Logistically, this is important for organizers to know how many to plan for and whether a class meets the minimum requirement for enrollment requested by the instructors.

 Walk-up registrants are welcome, so long as space is available. If a fee is involved, please plan to pay with cash or check. BCA members receive a discount for most classes; membership is a minimum of $50 per year for individuals or $75 for families (up to three persons). If you are not able to come to a class you registered for, we appreciate your letting us know; however, because the fees are so low, we do not refund registration fees for Borderlands Forum events.


Join us and become a member!

Experience the Border


Internship Program


BCA Internship Program

The BCA Internship Program seeks to give participants broad exposure and provide hands-on experience to the realities of border life. Interns will experience perspectives from both sides of the border—politically, culturally, socially, and environmentally. Living close to the border is more than textbook theory. It is like having one foot in Mexico, and the other in the United States. BCA interns will have unique opportunities to dialogue with borderland writers, teachers, politicians, artists, migrants, social activists, environmentalists, and attorneys. And friendships are often forged for life.


BCA/FESAC Partnership

Border Community Alliance, (BCA) partners with FESAC (Fundación del Empresariado Sonorense, A.C.), a non-governmental organization (NGO) on the Mexico side that functions like a community foundation in offering this internship program. FESAC operates throughout the state of Sonora and we connect with them through their Nogales chapter. The BCA/FESAC partnership is an important and unique aspect of this internship program.

Participants will have an experience they will never forget. This immersion program changes lives with the opportunity to experience the traditions and generosity of the people of the borderlands.

“My internship with the BCA was one of the most memorable and influential times of my life.“
– Marty Ethington, Muskingum University Graduate, Ohio, Peace Corp Volunteer



Internship Brochure

Click Here for a pdf of the Internship Brochure.

Internship Information

Click Here for the Internship Information document.

Internship Application

Click Here for the Intern Application.
2020 Deadline to Apply: March 15, 2020

Contact Information

BCA Internship Coordination

Mailing Address:
Border Community Alliance
PO Box 1863
Tubac, AZ 85646

BCA Offices:


BCA Internship Alumni


Andrew Hirsch

2017 BCA Intern, Wesleyan University

My experience as an intern for Border Community Alliance in the summer of 2017 was entirely transformative. I received the opportunity to meet with, learn about and volunteer for many different non-profits, NGOs, religious organizations, businesses, anthropologists, journalists and government agencies operating on both sides of the border. We were empowered with the freedom and connections to explore the professional world as it related to both the borderlands and our own personal interests.


Angela Gervasi

2017 BCA Intern, Temple University

Through Border Community Alliance, I had the incredible opportunity to live for six weeks in Nogales, Arizona– a border town that sits adjacent to Nogales, Mexico. The experience was eye-opening, filled with daily conversations in Spanish and English and constant lessons about the border. I’ll never forget those conversations– with an artist, a taxi driver, a musician– and I’ll always be grateful to the friendliness and openness present in the Nogales community.

While separated by a fence, the two towns share such a strong bond that they’re often referred to as Ambos– “both”– Nogales. Each day, hundreds of people push through creaky, metal turnstiles that separate Mexico from the United States. They cross to visit family and friends, to shop for clothes and groceries, or simply to visit and explore. Meanwhile, migrants from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras lack visas, passports, documents. Many of them would– and do– risk their lives to set foot in Arizona, Texas or California. The borderlands are complex: a concoction of cultures, a hub of contradiction and confusion, a focal point of the beautiful humanity and unspeakable pain that ensues when two countries are divided by a fence.

Since I returned to my hometown of Philadelphia, Nogales has crossed my mind at least daily. I hope and plan to return soon, and I’m grateful for my summer with BCA.


Natalie Leach

2016 BCA Intern, Kent State University

My studies in International Relations and Spanish have led me to become very interested in and passionate about development in Central America and Mexico, especially certain aspects of development like poverty, access to education, and the gang violence that compounds these issues within the region. This led me to become interested in how these factors drive some people to migrate to the United States, how others seek asylum there – and so it became important to me to pursue an internship that dealt, in some way, with these issues. I also wanted to learn more about the border from many different aspects, in order to experience firsthand how the U.S. and Mexico are critically linked, and how border policy affects life for people living on both sides as well as those who migrate. Most significantly for me, interning with Border Community Alliance allowed me to learn more about the astounding community initiatives on the Mexican side; about migrants and their experiences; about immigration within the United States’ legal system; and about the importance of changing the narrative of the border. And equally as impactful was that in doing this, I had the privilege of meeting and volunteering with some of the most dedicated and incredible organizations and individuals I came to know during my experience.


Natalie Somerson

2016 BCA Intern, University of Minnesota

BCA’s internship was a refreshing 6 weeks of well-rounded views — whether economic, political, humanitarian, or social justice stances. It allowed me to learn first hand about border issues and draw my own conclusion after being presented with all the facts, which is incredibly unique. Ambos Nogales invited us interns to hear as much as we could and learn from those affected by the issues on both sides of the wall.


Daniel McDermott

2016 BCA Intern, University of Arizona

A summer in Nogales opened my eyes to the incredible activist presence on the U.S.-Mexico border. The BCA consists of, and will introduce you to, a collection of passionate and creative community members on both sides of the wall working in conjunction to promote regional self-determination and basic human rights.


Charlie Cutler

2015 BCA Intern, University of San Francisco

Charlie’s experience as a BCA intern so greatly impacted his life that he developed a cross border youth project with Border Community Alliance as the fiscal agent and sponsor and is moving from San Francisco to Southern Arizona to implement and oversee the program as the project Executive Director.Border Youth Tennis Exchange, BYTE, provides athletic training and a specialized learning (NJTL) educational curriculum to youth on both sides of the US/Mexico Border.  By empowering Children and young adults as international cultural ambassadors, BYTE strengthens border communities and bridges social, economic, and political gaps.


Alexandria Arriaga

2015 BCA Intern, University of Wisconsin

“BCA’s internship gave me insight into the reality of the border. As I continue to study the political and historical relations between the U.S. and Mexico, I had the privilege of witnessing first-hand how the border impacts lives.” –Alex Arriaga


Private Tours

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Private Tours

Nonprofit Border Community Alliance is delighted to host private and/or customized group tours as well as borderlands immersion experiences and retreats as schedule allows.

Please feel free to contact us with your proposal at info@bordercommunityalliance.org or give us call at (520) 398-3229.


 Learn More

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Experience the Border

Learn About the Borderlands


Visit the Region

The following are recommended cultural sites for visiting while you are in southern Arizona/Sonora, Mexico:

Historic Canoa Ranch, a Pima County historic site near Green Valley, Arizona where Congressman Raul Grijalva was born and portions of the movie “Oklahoma” were filmed.

Tumacacori Mission, a National Historical Park south of Tubac, Arizona connects you with the history of Spanish colonization dating back to 17th century.

Tubac Center of the Arts in Tubac, Arizona offers a wide variety of performance and visual arts.

Tubac Presidio in Tubac, Arizona gives you an excellent feeling for the 18th century challenges of the area.

Imfoculta Art Center in Nogales, Sonora Mexico is an active center for the arts of all kinds.


Suggested Reading List

1.) The Country Just Over the Fence, Paul Theroux, article NYT 2/26/2012

2.) A Culture of Cruelty: Abuse and Impunity in Short-Term U.S. Border Patrol Custody, No More Deaths, 2011

3.) The Devil’s Highway: A True Story, Luis Alberto Urrea, Bay Back Books 2005

4.) Documented Failures: The Consequences of Immigration Policy on the U.S.-Mexico Border, Michael S. Danielson, American University, Report prepared for the Kino Border Initiative Nogales, Arizona, U.S.A. and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico with funding from Catholic Relief Services of Mexico.

5.) “La Frontera: The Border,” blog by BCA advisor, Peg Bowden.

6.) Manifest Destiny | Luis Alberto Urrea | Orion Magazine

7.) Mexico: What Everyone Needs to Know, Roderic AI Camp, Oxford University Press 2011

8.) Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070: A Case Study for State-Sponsored Immigration Policy, an honors thesis by USF graduate student and BCA/FESAC Summer 2012 intern Ryan Murphy is available by contacting mail@bordercommunityalliance.org.

9.) Why Walls Won’t Work – repairing the US-Mexico divide, Michael Dear, Oxford University Press, 2013

10.) Two Nations Indivisible: Mexico, The United States, And The Road Ahead By Shannon K. O’Neil, Oxford University Press, Inc. 2013



Why Walls Won’t Work

Nancy Montoya of Arizona Public Mediainterviews author, Michael Dear, on “Why Walls Won’t Work.”  Dear suggests that people must experience the border to have a true understanding of the situation.


Arizona Public Media

In the spring of 2016 Arizona Public Media dedicated two of its weekly half-hour television programs on issues related to the border and everyday life and trade.