Culture

This Art Project Is Traveling To Every U.S.-Mexico Border Crossing And Documenting The Experience Of Daily Commuters

The U.S.-Mexico border is a deeply political space, with hundreds of thousands of people crossing the border daily. Artists have long used it as the canvas for their artwork, filling the rusted fencing with murals and creating site-specific pieces to disrupt its power over people’s lives.

As President Trump attacks immigration and doubles down on his plans for an extended border wall, artists are looking to the border, even more, to fight back.

Photo credit: Gina Clyne

Last August, L.A.-based artist Tanya Aguíñiga kicked off the AMBOS project, where she and other San Diego and Tijuana artists took over the marketplace in the center of the Tijuana/San Ysidro border crossing and created a week-long series of art interventions that included film screenings, a sound installation and the creation of a quipu, an ancient Incan communication device made up of color knots.

For the second installation of the AMBOS project, which is currently underway with the second leg planned for next year, Aguíñiga and her team are traveling to every border crossing along the southern United States, between Tijuana-San Diego and Ciudad Juarez-El Paso. They’re collaborating with local artists from both sides of the border at each crossing to create visual and performance art installations. They’re also bringing the quipu they started last year and adding to it, using it to document the daily migration of people on the border.

To build on El Quipu Fronterizo, Aguíñiga and her team give participants two strands of thread and ask them to tie them into a knot.

“The strands represent the U.S. and Mexico’s relationship to one another, our self at either side of the border, and our own mental state at the point of crossing,” says Aguiñiga.

The knots collected will all be tied together and added to the quipu, creating a visual representation of the thousands who cross the border each day. The quipu will later be part of an exhibition at the Museum of Art and Design in New York City that focuses on AMBOS. Through this quipu, postcards participants write about their border-crossing experience and photography and film taken throughout the trip. AMBOS will document the border as it currently stands and the experiences of people who live with it every day. That’s especially important as the space will likely transform if Trump makes his border wall expansion a reality.

Aguíñiga, who grew up commuting across the San Diego-Tijuana border, says the project as a whole will “give voice to our experience as people that are from the border, commute on the border and really do see ourselves as a part of a larger, trans-national community. Our experiences are very different from those experiences of people in Mexico and people in the U.S.”

“That’s the thing that the border, and even after being a certain distance away from the border,” she adds. “People don’t know anything about what it’s like to live next to the border, and what it’s like to live constantly going back and forth between two countries.”

Photo credit: Gina Clyne

Aguíñiga will also travel to parts of the border that don’t have a fence built yet to bring installation and performance art to “spaces that are yet undivided between us.” She’s also happy to share the experiences of people who have different histories and interactions with the border. Those who share their stories via the postcards are different ages, cross fro different reasons and view it in different ways, sharing how the wall has impacted their identity.

By humanizing the border crossing experience, Aguíñiga believes we can create positive change.

“Just by us making our experiences more visual, by recording them, by constantly sharing them with others, then people have a human story or face to put to it,” she says. “It’s more difficult for them to fear or not want to help make your situation better.”

To learn more about the AMBOS project, follow along on their journey and find out where they’re going next, visit ambosproject.com or follow them on Instagram.


READ: This 23-Year-Old Artist Created A Video Game About Border Crossing To Honor His Immigrant Parents

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Even Though He Couldn’t Cross The Border, This Abuelo Sang ‘Las Mañanitas’ To His Grandson From Across The Rio Grande

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Even Though He Couldn’t Cross The Border, This Abuelo Sang ‘Las Mañanitas’ To His Grandson From Across The Rio Grande

Since the very beginning of the pandemic, we’ve been overwhelmed with stories about people being kept apart by the virus. But despite the challenges that so many of us have faced during this pandemic, we find a way to make things work. And that’s exactly what this grandfather (who lives near the U.S-Mexico border) did to make sure that we was able to spend time with his grandson as he celebrated his 4th birthday.

Thanks to travel restrictions they couldn’t be together but they found a way to celebrate.

A heartwarming video is trending on Mexican social media showing a grandfather making his way to the U.S.-Mexico border to wish his four-year-old grandson a happy birthday. Although they couldn’t be together because of travel restrictions thanks to COVID-19, the grandfather managed to sing the traditional Mexican birthday song Las Mañanitas to his grandson, who listened from the other side of the Rio Grande in Piedras Negras, Coahuila.

The user who uploaded the video to YouTube identified the man as Isidro González and his grandson as Santiago.

With microphone, keyboard and speakers in Eagle Pass, Texas, Grandpa asks about his grandson. “Santiago, where are you? He raises his hand” and the video shows Santi. “I love you. I love you very much ”, you can hear the grandfather shouting and the grandson replies that he does too.

“Congratulations, Santiago. He is turning 4 years old ”, says the grandfather and the singing begins.

For many families residing in Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras, the pandemic restrictions imposed by the United States have meant they cannot cross the border to see family. González did not let that stop him from wishing his grandson a very happy birthday.

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9-Year-Old Migrant Girl Drowns While Trying to Cross the Rio Grande in the U.S.

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9-Year-Old Migrant Girl Drowns While Trying to Cross the Rio Grande in the U.S.

Photo via Getty Images

On March 20th, U.S. Border Patrol agents found a 9-year-old migrant girl unresponsive along with her mother and sibling on an island in the Rio Grande.

U.S. Border Patrol agents attempted to resuscitate the family. The agents were able to revive the mother and her younger, 3-year-old child. The Border Patrol agents transferred the 9-year-old migrant girl to emergency medics in emergency medics in Eagle Pass, Texas, but she remained unresponsive.

In the end, the 9-year-old migrant girl died–the cause of death being drowning.

The mother of the two children was Guatemalan while the two children were born in Mexico.

The death of the 9-year-old migrant girl is notable because this is the first migrant child death recorded in this current migration surge. And experts worry that it won’t be the last.

And while this is the first child death, it is not the only migrant who has died trying to make it across the border. On Wednesday, a Cuban man drowned while trying to swim across the border between Tijuana and San Diego. He was the second migrant to drown in just a two-week period.

Why is this happening?

According to some reports, the reason so many migrants are heading towards the U.S. right now is “because President Trump is gone”. They believe they have a better chance of claiming asylum in the U.S.

Another factor to take into consideration is that a large number of these migrants are unaccompanied minors. According to migrant services volunteer Ruben Garcia, Title 42 is actually having the opposite effect of its intent. President Trump enacted Title 42 to prevent immigration during COVID-19 for “safety reasons”.

“Families that have been expelled multiple times that are traveling with children,” Garcia told PBS News Hour. “Some of them are making the decision to send their children in by themselves, because they have families someplace in the U.S., and they know their children will be released to them.”

Is there a “border crisis”?

That depends on who you ask. According to some experts, the numbers of migrants heading to the U.S./Mexico border aren’t out-of-the-ordinary considering the time of year and the fact that COVID-19 made traveling last year virtually impossible.

According to Tom Wong of the University of California at San Diego’s U.S. Immigration Policy Center, there is no “border crisis”. “This year looks like the usual seasonal increase, plus migrants who would have come last year but could not,” Wong says.

As the Washington Post explained: “What we’re seeing right now is a predictable seasonal shift. When the numbers drop again in June and July, policymakers may be tempted to claim that their deterrence policies succeeded.”

What is the Biden Administration planning on doing about it?

As of now, it is pretty evident that the Biden Administration has not been handling this migrant surge well, despite ample warning from experts. As of now, President Biden has put Vice President Harris in charge of handling the issues at the border.

As of now, the game plan is still very vague. But in the past, the Biden Administration has stated that they plan to fix the migrant surge at the source. That means providing more aid to Central America in order to prevent further corruption of elected officials.

They also want to put in place a plan that processes children and minors as refugees in their own countries before they travel to the U.S. The government had not tested these plans and they may take years to implement. Here’s to hoping that these changes will prevent a case like the death of the 9-year-old migrant girl.

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