Things That Matter

Why “The Wall” Became Such A Lightning Rod For The Right And How Trump Capitalized On Its Complicated History

We all know that Trump 2016 campaign rested heavily on a promise to build “The Wall” that would keep Mexico’s “rapists” and “bad hombres” out of the United States. The premise of a wall along the southern border is meant to represent national security.

While we don’t need to explain the consequences of scapegoating a race, religion or nationality in world history (read: The Holocaust, mass genocide, and now child concentration camps), the United States has a unique history of political campaigning for “The Wall.”

We already have ongoing construction to impede access from Mexico into the United States.

@Breaking911 / Twitter

The United States has already spend perhaps billions of dollars on building a defensive wall along the border. We don’t have “open borders” and Democrats are not calling for “open borders,” as the GOP loves to exclaim.

“The Wall” was born during World War I.

@DurhamGala / Twitter

At the time, the U.S.’s agricultural industry was hopeful for immigrants to come to the U.S. to work in their fields. That economical need made it so that there were no restrictions on Mexican immigration. The vigilante border patrol group at the time was mostly targeting Chinese immigrants.

Congress created the U.S. Border Patrol in 1924.

@CBP / Twitter

With that agency in its infancy, Congress was then able to begin funding its purpose, one of which was to build a wall. Tin walls and standard fences were built, and neglected. Kelly Lytle Hernandez is a UCLA professor and author of “Migra!: A History of the U.S. Border Patrol.” In her book, she said that, “As the walls got higher, the tunnels got deeper.”

“The walls served as psychological solutions that didn’t work,” Hernandez writes.

@TheWhiteHouse / Twitter

President Richard Nixon rallied the call for The Wall greater than any President before him.At the time, The Wall wasn’t a symbol for keeping scary brown people out. It was meant to help stop the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S. from the cartel.

NAFTA hurt Mexico’s agricultural economy in the 1990s, prompting the Great Migration.

@karinapalomoo / Twitter

Millions of migrants started entering a United States with new immigration restrictions for more agricultural opportunities. The border fences that were erected in response were only in high population areas like San Diego and El Paso. Those new walls prompted migrants to risk their lives by crossing Arizona desert.

Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer all voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, signed by President George W. Bush.

@CBP / Twitter

That said, at the time, Republicans were trying to push a bill that would automatically make every undocumented immigrant a felon. The fence itself is what we see at the border today, spanning 700 miles of the 2,000 border. The GOP tried to gaslight Democrats by accusing the party as inconsistent. Today, Democrats think Trump’s wall is over-the-top and far too expensive to be worthwhile. During Trump’s campaign, he criticized the 2006 fence as “such a little wall, it was such a nothing wall.”

In 2011, President Obama declared that metaphorical Wall as “now basically complete.”

@disavowtrump2020 / Twitter

The GOP contested this, given that half the border is incomplete, though the vast majority of it are natural barriers like mountains and deserts.

“There are always planes,” says Hernandez.

@CBPMarkMorgan / Twitter
“There will always be other ways to get across,” she says. Democrats as a whole oppose Trump’s proposed border wall because they know it isn’t the solution. Throwing $12 billion U.S. taxpayer’s dollars at a concrete wall does not prevent tunnels. It does not resolve the problems in migrants’ countries of origins that force them to flee. It will just cost lives.

Conclusion: “The Wall” is a psychological barrier, not a solution.

@thehill / Twitter
That psychological barrier doesn’t block resilient, creative and desperate migrants. It’s an opioid for Trump’s masses. It may help those Americans feel safer, but it is not effective. Those billions of dollars could be used on education, on free health care, on, I don’t know, giving detained children toothpaste and soap. Better yet, that money could be spent on hiring more immigration court judges instead of allowing privatized detention facilities to house immigrants on America’s dime.
Of all the solutions, The Wall ain’t one.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

The Pink Seesaws Along The U.S.-Mexico Border Won Design of the Year For 2020

Things That Matter

The Pink Seesaws Along The U.S.-Mexico Border Won Design of the Year For 2020

LUIS TORRES/AFP via Getty Images

For many years now, when you think of the U.S.-Mexico border, you think of the families torn apart by cruel and inhumane immigration policies and of kids and families being thrown into cages.

One artist tried to highlight the cruelty happening at the border, while also providing local children with a happy distraction, through an art installation at the border zone between El Paso, TX and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua.

Now, that art installation is gaining international recognition for its aim to bring together a physically divided community.

Pink seesaws installed along the U.S.-Mexico border have won a prestigious design award.

The collection of bright pink seesaws placed along the border wall between a section of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez is being recognized for its importance. The art installation/children’s playground that allowed people to interact through the border wall has won the prestigious Design of the Year award, with its creators saying they hoped the work encourages people to build bridges between communities.

The Teeter Totter Wall, which bridged across El Paso in Texas and Ciudad Juárez in Chihuahua during a 40-minute session, was described as not only feeling “symbolically important” but also highlighting “the possibility of things” by the judging panel.

Original story published July, 25, 2019:

Lately, when you think of the U.S-Mexico border, you think of the children being kept in cages, of migrant folks being kept in unthinkable conditions in detention prisons, and you think of the possible construction of Donald Trump’s beloved wall–among other negative connotations that the border brings. Then there are times when heartwarming images and scenes from the border show that despite the weaponization of the border, we’re still connected to one another in many ways. 

Architect and artist Ronald Rael designed and installed pink seesaws at the border for children from the United States and Mexico to play together.

The art installation, “Teeter-Totter Wall,” was created by Rael, an architecture professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and Virginia San Fratello, an associate professor of design at San Jose State University.

The custom-built seesaws were placed on both sides of the steel border fence that separates the U.S. and Mexico. The artist called it “one of the most incredible experiences of his career” in a post he shared on Instagram. 

About a decade ago, both Rael and San Fratello had designed the concept for the seesaw at the border for a book titled “Borderwall as Architecture.” Now, the drawings became a reality. 

Despite the negative headlines that dominate the news cycle every day, it’s refreshing to see artists like Ronald Rael use their platform and creativity to spark positivity and strengthen our sense of community. 

“The wall became a literal fulcrum for U.S.-Mexico relations and children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side,” Rael wrote in his Instagram caption. Rael also gave a shoutout to the team who helped make this powerful art installation a reality in Cuidad Juárez, Mexico.

CNN also points out that the New Mexico town is also where a militia detained migrants in April (the ACLU called it a kidnapping), and where a private group began building its own border wall with the use of millions donated to a GoFundMe campaign. 

Last week, the Supreme Court also gave Trump a victory in his fight for the construction of a wall along the border. Further, the Supreme Court allowed the administration to use $2.5 billion in military funds for it. 

Despite all of the negative news surrounding the border, it was a different scene there on Monday near the Sunland Park stretch. Instead, it showed a heartwarming and lighter scene compared to what we’ve recently seen.

The art installation that this artist created is also meant to serve as a reminder. A reminder that “we are connected” and “what happens on one side impacts the other.”

The pink seesaws showed people from both sides of the border coming together in a unifying act. Children and adults alike on U.S soil were recorded playing with children from the other side. These light-hearted scenes from the border make one for if only a second forget the actual reality of it all. 

RAICES, a non-profit focusing on immigration legal services in Texas, shared on Twitter that “Art is such a powerful vehicle for change”

In the past, other scenes of art installations at the border have made rounds. For example, The Guardian notes the time when an architectural practice in Mexico designed a pink interpretation of Trump’s border wall. 

Claudia Tristán, the Director of Latinx Messaging for 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke also praised the art installation for the message it spread. 

“The symbolism of the seesaw is just magical,” she wrote in a tweet. “A #Border fence will not keep us from our neighbors.”

The video of architect and artist Ronald Rael that’s also making rounds on social media shows him saying that the seesaw that there are still “good relations the people of Mexico and the United States.” Therefore, the seesaw can portray that we are “equal” and the wall, he says, cuts those relationships between us. 

Ultimately, it is important to remember that with or without the U.S.-Mexico border, much of this land belonged to and will always belong to Native Americans.

We need to remember that the homelands of tribes including the Kumeyaay, Pai, Cocopah, O’odham, Yaqui, Apache and Kickapoo peoples were all split into two by the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the 1853 Gadsen Purchase–which is what makes up modern-day California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas

So while it is important to highlight the positive and humanizing images on the U.S.-Mexico border when we can, we should also be mindful of the indigenous communities to which this land belongs to. 

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

These Were The Moments That Defined Latin America In 2020 That Weren’t About COVID-19

Things That Matter

These Were The Moments That Defined Latin America In 2020 That Weren’t About COVID-19

PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images

2020 will easily go down in manny of our memories as the year that just wouldn’t stop. As the year started, it all seemed to be sort of fine as the world came together to battle record-breaking Australian bushfires and worked to hopefully contain an outbreak of a strange new virus in China.

However, as the year comes to a close things have gone de mal a peor for the world in general, but for the Latino population in the United States and Latin America as a region in particular. Though it’s hard to realize just how much we all witnessed and experienced since so much of what happened seems like it was a lifetime ago.

Here’s a look back at some the defining moments from 2020 across Latin America.

Jennifer Lopez and Shakira kicked off the year hopeful with a history-making performance at the Super Bowl.

Yes, believe it or not, this happened in 2020. The pair put on what many have called the best half time show in Super Bowl history. They were also joined by J Balvin and Bad Bunny.

Bolivia’s Evo Morales was forced into exile, only to return to the country in November.

After being forced into exile at the end of 2019 for attempting to illegally run in upcoming presidential elections, Morales spent a year abroad – first in Mexico and then in Argentina.

Mexico’s President AMLO made his first trip abroad to visit Donald Trump at the White House.

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is a staunch populist and has long said his primary focus is domestic policy within Mexico. Therefore, despite two years in office, AMLO hadn’t left Mexico once. So it came as a surprise when his first trip abroad was a visit to the U.S. leader who had long disparaged Mexico, the government, and Mexicans – not to mention his trip came in the middle of a global pandemic.

Migrant caravans continued to make their way towards the U.S. despite interference from Mexico and Covid-19.

Migrants attempting to make their way to the U.S. isn’t unique to 2020. For decades, migrants have long banded together for safety in numbers along the treacherous journey to the north. However, they became larger and better organized in 2020, perhaps owing to the new dangers of Mexican interference.

Mexico’s AMLO vowed to stop migrants from reaching the U.S.-Mexico border, adhering to Trump’s request. It was also noteworthy because the caravans continued despite the Covid-19 crisis, which has hit the region particularly hard.

Peru saw three presidents in the span of a few weeks after massive protests.

Peru is facing one of the greatest crises the nation has faced. Just as the country seemed to be emerging from the worst of its battle against the Covid-19 pandemic, the country has entered a severe political crisis.

The country’s elected president, Martin Vizcarra, was impeached and removed from office. His predecessor responded with a heavy hand to the protests that ensued resulting in his resignation less than 24 hours later. The government then had to find someone willing to take the job which proved to be a tough sell.

In fact, massive protests swept across Latin America.

From Mexico in the north to Cuba in the Caribbean and Chile in the south, protests were seen all across the region. Although each movement had it’s own stated goal and objectives, many were largely borne out of the same purpose: to fight back against corruption.

Brazil’s President Jaír Bolsonaro tested positive for Covid-19 but it did nothing to change his approach to the pandemic.

Jaír Bolsonaro has long been compared to Donald Trump, with many calling him the Donald Trump of South America. The two were also strongly aligned in their responses to the Coronavirus pandemic, with the pair largely downplaying the severity of the crisis.

Then, Bolsonaro became infected with the virus and many hoped it would change his view on the crisis. It didn’t.

A growing feminist movement developed in Mexico, demanding protection from a shocking rise in violence against women.

Mexico has long been battling endemic violence and the country has continued to see record-setting rates of homicides. But it was the growing rate of violence against women, particularly femicide, that gained national attention.

Women banded together and started large nationwide protests. Over the summer, women in the capital of Mexico City occupied government buildings and destroyed many of the city’s most popular monuments to hopefully get their message across. Although the movement has gained more recognition by Mexicans, the government has still failed to address their concerns. Let’s hope things are different in 2021.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com