Letters of Detained Immigrants are Getting Mass Exposure by Becoming Works of Art

What happens when art, activism, and letters of detained immigrants collide? A stunning and emotionally-packed art series depicting the deplorable conditions of US detention centers. Taking inspiration from the detainees’s letters, artists created these:

The Pain Heartbreaking Goodbye

Credit: Gabrielle Tesfaye / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“Melisa I hope that you get out of there soon, don’t worry and don’t lose faith that God will make it up to you, always pray to Him that He give you strength to continue moving forward.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “I found [the author’s faith was] really powerful and, unknowing of what their specific religious views are, I found it important to include something in the sketch representative of faith, hope, beauty, strength and a higher divine purpose throughout the ordeals of the struggles of life.”

The anonymous letter was written by a teenage girl thank her friend for her friendship while in the detention center. The author was deported to El Salvador with her family and about 36 other families.

Suffocating Desperation in Young Faces

Credit: Dolly Li / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“I dream of getting out of this place…to be able to study one day…to have a better future for my life.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “I wanted to evoke the sensations of feeling trapped and suffocated to show that immigration detention is not a humane place for anyone to exist in, let alone a child.”

Jackeline, the author of the letter, was held in the detention center with her mother and young sisters, waiting to learn their faith in the system.

READ: These Latinos Break Down Immigration AND Make it Funny

Never-Ending Nightmares Exposed

Credit: Jess X Chen / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“I am trusting my God who will quickly end this nightmare.” – Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “For as long as she lives, the Honduran mother, and millions others, reach for each other and form constellations in the night despite the borders, detainments, and abuse of the US.”

The author attempted to cross the border twice. The second time, she tried to bring her youngest son, 12, from Honduras after gangs approached the boy to join and killed his friend in front of him.

Dehumanizing Treatments of Refugees

Credit: Chucha Marquez / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“For most people who have entered this place, it’s the start of a new life, but it begins badly, because this Detention Center—that they call a shelter for immigrants—but only those of us who live here know it’s really a jail.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “Butterflies migrate and their migration is beautiful, they’re not restricted by physical borders. When humans restrict the beauty and nature of human migration it brings pain and trauma.”

Rebeca Paulina’s letter exposed the struggles and inhumanity of the detention centers from undercooked food, criminalization for migrating, and the lack of appropriate medical attention for babies. Paulina writes that it takes a baby having a fever of 104 before the doctors will give the child medicine, otherwise they recommend the steam from a hot bath.

Suicide Attempts Caught on Canvas

Credit: Favianna Rodriguez / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“I am afraid that if I stay in this center something could happen to me or my daughter because the ICE tries to cover up everything and all news that happen here.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “The women detained in Karnes County Detention Center have endured physical abuse, rape by prison guards, and the constant sicknesses of their children.”

The letter, written by Polyane Soares de Oliveira from Brazil, talks of rapes, being denied medical treatment and the fear controlling the detainees. The text on the image comes from a suicide note from Lilian Oliva, 19 and a mother who was discovered in a center bathroom with slit wrists. She survived the attempted suicide and was later deported back to Honduras with her child.

Faith in God Translated into Illustrations

Credit: Julio Salgado / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“I am desperate, I don’t like the food anymore, and I don’t want to be here. My son’s first birthday was here. I would like to get out of here.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “We cannot be okay with the thought that a mother has to celebrate their child’s birthday behind bars. ”

The author, who’s name was redacted, has been in the detention center for a year with her child.

READ: UndocuQueer Activists Changing the Immigration Debate

Confusion and Fear Plaguing Children

Credit: Robert Trujillo / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“It bothers me to not even know when we’ll get out of here, although I have hope we’ll be freed. God willing we’ll get asylum.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “I think the part of the letter that hit me most is the idea of not being able to control what is happening, not knowing when they will be able to leave, and the cramped feeling of all of these conditions on top of each other.”

Miguel, who is just 10 years old, is forced to grow up in what he calls a prison and is living in uncertainty about whether or not his family will ever be free.

Life Tormented with Death Threats and Violence

Credit: Micah Bazant / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“I cannot return to Guatemala. I am an orphan, and my husband was murdered. I was also threatened, that I would be killed together with my daughter.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “When I imagined what I wished for this mother and her child, I imagined a mighty waterfall breaking through the prison walls.”

An anonymous mother talks about her fears of being sent back to Guatemala because she does not speak Spanish, rather she speaks an indigenous language. The water she and her daughter are being forced to drink has bleach in it and the commissary prices are so high, she can’t afford clean water.

Deception and Hopelessness Brought to the Forefront

Credit: Rose Jaffe / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“Our great fear is that they will deport us without giving us any notice and without us having any communication with our families or lawyer; because in this center they have already deported many families that have already spent so much time incarcerated.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “I want the audience to capture the journey this family has gone through…and then the juxtaposition of the ‘hopes’ for a safe haven versus the reality of the situation.”

Estela Marquez Marquez, 34, and her three daughters, 15, 14, and 11, live terrified of the guards and staff knowing that the abuse and sexual violence committed inside the detention center is being covered up.

READ: Latino, Gay, and Undocumented in the Rural South

Abuse of Power Fills Frames

Credit: Zeke Peña / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“I know that the way we came [to the United States] is illegal, but the only reason [for coming to the United States] is because I am very scared to go back to my country.” – Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “I think I’d like viewers to feel a simple level of human connection to this woman’s struggle.”

The mother, 24, and her son, 10, have been in the detention waiting for freedom. They only came to the US to seek freedom and safety, something they are being denied.

Suffering of Children Stares at You

Credit: Mata Ruda / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“We were 5 days in La Hielera, terribly cold, sleeping on the floor of cold cement, we would cover ourselves with aluminum paper, the federales would count us every 2 or 3 hours, would get us up and the sleeping children to go outside and they would strike the door hard with their clubs and they would discriminate against us, they would say that we were dirty, that we had no reason to come here to this country.” – Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “I wanted to create a simple composition that focuses on the strength, selflessness, hope, and love of a mother who is enduring tortuous conditions because of a lack of a piece of paper.”

Sonia Elizabeth Hernandez Amaya is 33 and a mother of three children ages 10, 9, and 3. Her letter depicts the treatment of detainees and the conditions of the hold facilities they were passed through before arriving at Karnes Detention Center.

You can see the full project hereVisions from the Inside is a collaborative art project created by CultureStrike, Mariposas Sin Fronteras, and End Family Detention.

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Human Smuggling Is Suspected In The Tragic SUV Accident That Killed 13 Migrants

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Human Smuggling Is Suspected In The Tragic SUV Accident That Killed 13 Migrants

Another tragic story has unfolded at the U.S. – Mexico border, this time involving the deaths of at least 13 people who were allegedly being smuggled into the United States. Although investigators are still working to piece together the tragic chain of events, one thing has become clear: we need serious immigration reform now.

13 people died in a tragic SUV accident near the U.S.-Mexico border.

The tragedy unfolded when a Ford Expedition carrying 27 people smashed into a gravel truck near the town of El Centro, about 30 miles from the border. Officials say that the Ford SUV and a Chevrolet Suburban, which was carrying 19 people, were earlier caught on video entering the U.S. as part of a smuggling operation.

The Suburban immediately caught fire after entering the U.S., but all the occupants managed to escape and were taken into custody by Border Patrol officers. It’s still unknown why the first vehicle caught fire.

The Ford SUV continued along its route when it collided with a gravel truck. Ten of the 13 people who died in the accident have now been identified as Mexican nationals, Gregory Bovino, the Border Patrol’s El Centro sector chief told the Associated Press.

“Human smugglers have proven time and again they have little regard for human life,” said Mr. Bovino.

An SUV designed for 7 or 8 people was carrying 27 people.

California Highway Patrol said that the Ford Expedition was designed to hold seven to eight passengers safely. But in this case all of the seats had been removed apart form the driver and front passenger seats in order to pack people in.

“When I pulled up on scene, there were bodies everywhere,” Alex Silva, the Holtville fire chief, told the LA Times. “I’ve been doing this for 29 years and that’s the worst scene I’ve ever seen. I’ve been to calls where we’ve had four or five people dead. I’ve gone to calls where we had a bus accident that had 24 people. But it wasn’t the fatalities that we had in this one.”

“I’ve never seen an SUV with 25 people in it. I can’t even imagine what that must have felt like being cooped up in there.”

Officials are confident the tragedy is connected to a human smuggling operation.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said they suspected the deadly crash was tied to human smuggling after the Ford Expedition and a red Suburban were caught on surveillance footage coming through a breach in the border fence. Border Patrol agents insist they did not stop or pursue either vehicle, although community activists express skepticism. Either way, the outcome illustrated the high stakes involved in human smuggling.

While it’s unclear what caused the crash, Jacqueline Arellano, 38, who works with the nonprofit Border Angels, said crashes involving vehicles packed with people aren’t unusual in the region. Arellano, who grew up in El Centro, recalled a crash in 2003 in which she witnessed a Border Patrol vehicle chase an SUV packed with people on Highway 8 heading west toward San Diego.

Migrant advocates agree that major changes need to take place in our country’s immigration laws so that deadly tragedies such as this one never happen again.

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These Terrariums And Fairy Gardens Are A Lil’ Homies Dream Come True


These Terrariums And Fairy Gardens Are A Lil’ Homies Dream Come True

Lil’ Homies are one toy that we all remember. They little figurines were so much more to us than little toys that we got from toy vending machines. Adrian Ortiz is using them to create something magical and giving people a non-Eurocentric take on terrariums.

Adrian Ortiz is giving Lil’ Homies their own terrariums in which to flourish.

Ortiz understands the cultural importance of Lil’ Homies because it was one of the first times he saw himself represented, like so many of us. The toys were a welcomed moment of representation for Ortiz after spending so many years seeing so many white narratives in the media and toys.

“I started making terrariums with Lil’ Homies in them as the figures because I noticed how traditional fairy gardens were always representing white/European figures,” Ortiz told mitú. “I thought about how perfect they were in size. I wanted to dedicate my art page to the idea of people of color existing and participating in nature.”

Ortiz feels supported from his followers as well as his boyfriend. His art has been a welcomed breath of culturally relevant plant art in people’s social media feeds.

The ongoing pandemic gave Ortiz a chance to dive deeper into a hobby he already had: plants.

“I have always been into plants and nature since I was a kid and I began making terrariums and fairy gardens in the past year to deal with the pandemic like so many others,” Ortiz says. “There is something super special about making miniature tiny living worlds. I wanted to make fairy gardens but I ended up with something halfway between terrariums and fairy gardens but with cholos. So I created the ‘Brown People Indoor Miniature Gardening TikTok’ series on my tik tok account.”

Ortiz’s TikTok account, aptly named @botanical_homie, has more than 7,000 followers showing that people are really into the idea of Lil’ Homies living their fairy garden dreams.

The terrariums are another chance for people of color to be represented in the world.

Ortiz was in an arts school for middle and high school. In that time, the school fostered an understanding of racial injustices and introduced Ortiz to the concept of artivism, art as activism. It was, according to Ortiz, a moment when he realized that he wanted to dedicate his art to BIPOC.

“I grew up and live in Colorado and have seen the lack of access BIPOC have to outdoor activities like hiking and mountain climbing,” Ortiz explains. “These are white-dominated sports and activities that some POC never get to experience. I want to create a world where we can be anything and do everything, even if it’s miniature. A utopia for us to take back what is also ours.”

Ortiz is making the terrariums for everyone, even people who struggle to take care of plants.

Covid quarantining has forced so many people to think they make perfect plant parents. Yet, taking care of plants is something that doesn’t com naturally. Ortiz had to spend time trying to figure out what plants are the best for everyone.

“Part of my challenge in creating these terrariums has been figuring out what kind of plants people can keep alive. They all have different requirements so getting plants should always depend on your space and lighting,” Ortiz says. “I come from the generation of YouTube so I always say do research, it’s part of the fun. The biggest thing about having plants that people don’t realize is that you just have to pay attention to them, often. But again it depends, some plants are indestructible.”

Ortiz is happy to be able to create this art and hopes to make them more accessible.

“If you want to support me and my art work you can contact me via Instagram about commissions,” Ortiz says. “Shipping these pieces is not easy or ideal so I appreciate everyone’s patience as I learn and evolve. My goal is to work on larger installations and I’ll be putting out DIY kits in the near future.”

READ: If You Call Yourself A Frida Kahlo Fan Then You Should Be Following These Five Artists

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