AMBOS NOGALES — It’s been nearly two years since I wrote the article on “Border Life,” a new reality show coming to MTV in the fall of 2019 about the lives of several 20-somethings living in Ambos Nogales, a unique region inhabiting two countries, split right down the middle by a massive border fence.
The premise was meant to shine a spotlight on a border town that had become the center of conversation regarding immigration and former President Trump’s wall. The relatively small community was thrust even more into the spotlight following the sudden, unexpected installation of razor wire along the already existing fence in certain high traffic areas of the city. The Mayor and City Council on the Arizona side of the fence made international headlines when they demanded answers for not having been consulted prior to the installation.
There was a lot of excitement built up around the series and the town, causing a major influx of travelers, including journalists from all over the world (some coming from places as far as Europe and Asia), all looking to get a glimpse of the community that everyone was suddenly talking about. Eventually, as these things often go, the public’s attention was diverted elsewhere and people began to forget about Ambos Nogales. That, along with the show being delayed for mostly unspecified reasons, left the fate of “Border Life” cloaked in uncertainty. Just as people had lost interest in Nogales, they began to lose interest in the show.
Since 2019, little to no information has been released about the fate of “Border Life” or its cast members. Multiple inquiries to Viacom, the media juggernaut that owns MTV, as well as messages and emails sent out to members of the cast and production team, have proven fruitless. The only recent updates on the show are from a message board on the website vevmo.com where users suggested it had undergone multiple delays —including the COVID-19 pandemic— and had been recast more than once, with the latest release date set for October 2020, a deadline which has come and gone.
The lack of up-to-date information has been disappointing to those looking forward to insight into life in a community as unique as Ambos Nogales. A number of readers have reached out to me personally, hoping that perhaps I had some info that wasn’t available to the general public. Now, even those who had so openly discussed the show when the original article was published are now tightlipped.
Not everyone was excited about the spotlight this reality show would shine on the border town. There were skeptics, of course. I, myself, was wary as to how a pop culture machine like MTV might portray a place like Ambos Nogales. It seemed likely to me that the heart of the community would be upstaged by the juicy drama of a Laguna Beach-style premise. I had made the assumption that filmmakers would choose to focus on the interpersonal relationships of the privileged cast, ignoring all that which makes the border town so special. However skeptical I may have been, though, I was eager —even hopeful— to be proven wrong.
It now appears that I may never get the chance. No one involved in the project seems interested in discussing the show. In fact, the only proof the show was ever in the works is the original casting call, a few articles, and the fact that members of the original production staff are still listing it on their resumés. The evidence suggests MTV would rather move past the show that could have been, preferring everyone simply forget that “Border Life” ever almost existed.
Joseph Paul Wright is a freelance journalist based in Nogales, Arizona. He tweets from @joewrightwrites.