UA Filmmaking Student Captures Life in His Backyard: the Border
Luis Carlos Romero Davis was inspired by a life of dualities: two languages, two currencies and two cultures.

By Rebecca Ruiz-McGill, University Communications
March 6, 2008

“The border is my stage, my backyard,” says Luis Carlos Romero Davis, a filmmaker and University of Arizona student whose feature documentary "389 Miles: 'Living the Border'" brings to life the diurnal yet unique environment he grew up in: the border between the U.S and Mexico.

Romero Davis grew up in Ambos Nogales, the sister cities of Nogales, Ariz., and Nogales, Sonora. Until he left, he never thought there was anything aberrant about his upbringing or address. “I was sitting at a café in Barcelona and watched the way a Spanish news agency covered a story on Arizona immigration and border issues. As I watched, it occurred to me that my perspective – my experience on the border, what was normal for me – was and is extraordinary,” he said.

“I began absorbing what was being said about the U.S. Arizona-Mexico border by people who had never lived there and knew what I wanted to do,” Romero Davis said.

In "389 Miles," Romero Davis walks, drives and hikes around the fenced area in the Mexico-Arizona desert surrounding Nogales, Douglas, Agua Prieta, Naco, Tombstone, Lochile, Sasabe, San Luis, Tucson and some parts of California to illustrate what is and has become a daily way of life for those living there.

Along the way he interviews lifelong residents like himself who grew up with two languages, two currencies and two cultures as well as members of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, human transporters, border agents and immigrants from Central and South America – all relative newcomers to the area.

Romero Davis, who will graduate this May with a master’s in Latin American studies with a focus on International journalism, border studies and media arts, was able to plan some interviews for the film well in advance but some happened without much notice.

In one interview a human smuggler gives Romero Davis a two-hour window to meet him in Sasabe, Ariz., with the condition that his face not be shown. Leaving Nogales in a rush, Romero Davis had enough time and forethought to dig up his brother’s Mexican wrestler mask, which ensured the smuggler’s face was covered so that the interview could be conducted.

Another interview happened even more spontaneously when a lost immigrant man jumped out of the bushes somewhere deep in the desert near Sansabe as Romero Davis interviewed another man who had led him to an abandoned site that was converted to a “convenience store” that sold immigrants plastic bags for protection against rain as well as water and duffel bags as they passed through.

The experience has left Romero Davis thrilled about the possibilities of filmmaking. He credits UA professor Jennifer Jenkins from the School of Media Arts for access to cameras, other film equipment and for the encouragement and guidance to help him fulfill a lifelong dream.

“Ever since I was 6 years old I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker but I derailed from following my dream because I didn’t think I would ever have a means to do it. I even tried pursuing a degree in business. That experience helped to fortify my resolve to be a filmmaker,” Romero Davis said.

He is currently working on a documentary film on the life and work of former Arizona Gov. Raul Castro and is co-writing his first screenplay. Upon graduation, Romero Davis plans to write and direct feature films.

“389 Miles” has been submitted to several international film festivals, including festivals in the U.S. and Arizona.

Extra info

The trailer and more information on the movie and Romero Davis can be found at






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Rebecca Ruiz McGill

UA Media Relations Manager