These Signs First Appeared In Southern California 20 Years Ago And There Is Only One Still Standing

In the mid-1980s, immigrants fleeing north to the U.S. from Mexico were risking their lives by crossing through busy freeways. Dozens of immigrants were struck by moving vehicles and some immigrants were left watching their parents or children die from their injuries, according to San Diego Union-Tribune. The frequency of the accidents prompted the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) to create a sign to alert drivers to the danger that was specific to that stretch of the interstate along the U.S.-Mexico border. There were originally ten signs along the 5 Freeway alerting drivers to the danger of people running across the freeway. Today, only one remains and, according to Los Angeles Times, as soon as it’s gone, it won’t be coming back.

The decreasing number of border crossings means that the signs are now considered obsolete.

According to Cindy Carcamo of The Los Angeles Times, 1986 was the most active time for border crossings in California. Border patrol agents in the San Diego area detained 628,000 people who crossed the border into the U.S. Despite being rather small in comparison to the rest of the border, Los Angeles Times reports that the border along the California state line accounted for almost 40 percent of all immigration arrests in the 1990s. The sheer number of people crossing is why CalTrans graphic designer John Hood was assigned the task of creating a sign that would let drivers know what to expect on that stretch of freeway. Since then, the number of people crossing over from Mexico to California has seen a significant drop, with only 31,891 arrested for crossing the border in 2016, according to Los Angeles Times.

When the signs were first revealed, there were immediate and strong reactions from all sides of the immigration debate, according to San Diego Union-Tribune. Immigrants and Latinos saw the sign as dehumanizing and akin to showing immigrants as faceless animals. Those who were against undocumented immigration thought that the state should not be spending time and money trying to keep them safe.

“Either you liked it or you hated it,” Steve Saville, a veteran CalTrans spokesman, told San Diego Union-Tribune. “It was an extraordinary measure to deal with an extraordinary situation.”

The road sign became a part of pop culture, with artists taking the original image and reimagining it. Here’s one from Chicano artist Lalo Alcaraz.


“You create your work, and that’s the extent of it. You never envision something like that to happen,” Hood told Los Angeles Times. “It’s become an iconic element. It lives on.”

It has also been used as a politically-charged message about immigration and political climate.


The signs above appeared aroundSouthernn California leading up to the 2016 election. It was created by street artist Unsavory Agents to be pro-Trump’s immigration rhetoric.

“It’s served its purpose,” Hood told his son when they visited the last sign, according to Los Angeles Times.

(MORE: Los Angeles Times)

READ: Malibu Sanctuary City Sign Draws Strong Reaction From Left And Right

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Here's Why Chicano-Con Is Attracting Big Names Like Guillermo Del Toro


Here’s Why Chicano-Con Is Attracting Big Names Like Guillermo Del Toro

GMONIK / David Favela

Comic-Con is known to bring in more than 150,000 superfans to San Diego every year for five days of geeking out. However, when a group of Chicanos saw a lack of representation at Comic-Con, they decided to start their own con.

While you’ll likely see a Chewbacca or Sansa Stark waiting in line for the bathroom at Comic-Con, one thing you will have a hard time finding are Latinos.

CREDIT: Brothers Bear Podcast

Comic-Con, which began back in 1970 as a small meet up between fans and artists, now features hundreds of panels with major stars, industry insiders, artists and writers.

Over the years, people have called out Comic-Con and its organizers for the lack of Latino representation on panels. For example, this year, there are only a small handful of panels that feature or focus on Latinos in the industry, such as panels on Chicano Comics and a Univision panel which focuses on creating animated series. And it’s not like Latinos aren’t attending Comic-Con or in the industry. They come in droves, rocking their Han Cholo, Princess Loca and Artudito costumes as seen above.

That’s why Chicano-Con, a three-day convention that focuses on bringing Latino comic fans and artists together, was created.


At Chicano-Con you’ll find comic books, art, costumes and – because this is a gathering made by and for Latinos – tacos, live music, superhero piñata breaking, and of course, Latino artists. The event, which started in 2015, takes place July 21-23 at Border X Brewing in Barrio Logan, a historically Chicano community in San Diego that’s just two miles east of where the madness of Comic-Con takes place.

“Comics and the popular arts are important to the Latino community and can play a role in children’s lives, just like they changed mine,” says event co-creator David Favela, who learned to speak English by reading comic books. “While Comic-Con is an incredible event, there really isn’t one place for all the Latino/Chicano artists to connect and inspire each other. We try to do that, and we try to support these artists in their journey into the popular arts.”

Chicano-Con isn’t a dingy event. Big players come out to play, like legendary director, Guillermo del Toro.

CREDIT: CREDIT: David Favela

Cartoonist and writer Lalo Alcaraz, who wrote for the Fox animated series “Bordertown,” helps organize, does a meet-and-greet and participates in Chicano-Con’s panel every year.

“I’ve been going to Comic-Con for 10-15 years and started noticing there was more and more Latino comic fans and people from across the border,” says Alcaraz, who is on the Chicano Comics panel at Comic-Con as well. “Now we need the comics industry, Comic-Con and the ensuing exhibits and panels to reflect that. We need more diversity. It’s inching along, but we need more.”

Chicano-Con isn’t the only comic book convention Latinos are creating for themselves.

The first ever Texas Latino Comic Con is coming to Dallas on July 29 and the East L.A. Comic Con just happened in Los Angeles in May.

Latino-centric comic conventions are important because it gives Latino artists a space to be supported, especially because, as Favela puts it, “Latino parents influence their kids to work at real jobs, to do something respectable.”

“My respects to any Latino who has flourished in a community that did not support their art or work,” he adds. “It’s not easy trying to be an artist in most barrios.”

Plus, Latino comic fans have a place to celebrate their geekiness and their culture. Even as Comic-Con does better to represent Latinos, Chicano-Con will continue to bring the Latino perspective.

READ: Comic Con Comes to East L.A.

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