Smoking Joe Martinez

Jose Martinez III, whose classic presence and countenance are instantly etched into one's mind, is the third generation of his family to live on the Rio Grande. His home, land and business are on the south side of Hwy. 281 in the southern reaches of Mercedes, Texas, between McAllen and Brownsville. He shares the land with his aunt, who lives in a home near the river.

It is on this land that Joe derives his sole livelihood from well known Smoking Joe's BBQ, one of the most popular in the Rio Grande Valley and a place known for its kindness to strangers and those without means to pay for food. His BBQ stand sits on the banks of a "Resaca," an old Rio Grande channel before the International Boundary and Water Commission built a levy a couple hundred yards away from the family home to prevent the Rio Grande from changing course. Smoking Joe is now raising the fourth generation of his family on the banks of the Rio Grande. But that is about to change.

Joe's home and famous BBQ are flanked by border wall on both sides of his property. And if construction continues, the wall will be built right through his property, along the levy his grandfather helped build. This concrete wall will separate him from both the Rio Grande and the home of his aunt and cousin, which will be on the Mexican side of the wall.