Things That Matter

An Artist Set Up An Installation At The US-Mexico Border Allowing People To Communicate Freely

The President of the United States is still working on building the great big wall to divide Mexico from the U.S. Even though the wall has yet to be completed (and it looks like it never will actually be totally completed), the issue of the wall itself has already divided so many. The division is not just physical, but emotional, and, of course political. Believe it or not, there has been so much positivity that has also come with our painful division. Not only are people rising up to demand the rights of immigrants, and fighting for asylum seekers, but there’s also incredible art that has been erected in the name of justice

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is a Mexican-Canadian installation artist that has created a way for people to talk to each other on opposite sides of the border.

Lozano-Hemmer has built a massive light installation — both on U.S. land and Mexico land. The project, while complicated, appears to be several spotlights that project to one side of the border and then intersects with the spotlights from the other side. There are, as the website states, “three interactive stations on each side of the border will control powerful searchlight beams using a small dial wheel. When lights from any two stations are directed at each other, microphones and speakers automatically switch-on to allow participants to talk with one another, creating cross-border conversations.”

When one person speaks into the microphone, the person on the other side can hear and talk to them as well. People in El Paso, Texas, were able to communicate with those in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua.

On opening night, which happened on Nov. 13, a slew of special guests was invited to speak to people on the other side of the border. It wasn’t a natural result either. As the website states, “These conversations have been curated through a series of public meetings over the course of the past year and include a diverse cross-section of participants. Community leaders selected to coordinate various topics have committed to reaching out to their existing networks on both sides of the border for these topic-specific conversations in addition to the spontaneous conversations generated by the general public each night.”

While the light installation was only up for a few days and is now over, the result is one of the most magical things we have ever seen. 

In one clip, we see a woman speaking to a little boy. She asks him his name and how old he is, how he likes school, etc. It’s so hard to believe that the two people speaking are actually miles away from each other, with only a border that separates them. Their voices sound so loud and clear as if they were talking to each other face to face. 

“I’m not creating bridges of communication. Those bridges are already existing,” Lozano-Hemmer said in an interview, according to CBC News. “I’m just highlighting that they exist.” He added, “The computer modulates the bridge so that you can see that there is this kind of tangible aspect to our conversation that is very visible.” In the video above, former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke also took part in the installation and spoke to kids in Mexico.

Everyone obviously couldn’t experience this lovely installation in person, however, people on social media have been very moved by it.

One woman on Instagram said, “this made me sob, which is hard when you’ve had your breath taken away moments before. This is what art was created for, telling complex stories in a visually stunning manner, to help people understand. I believe in giving away our skills/free education. Imagine how stunning it would be to see the whole globe illuminated with Lights of Hope along every “border.” It’s possible. Give your blessing or blueprints to artist revolutionaries online, and let’s see how long it takes to light this rock up. #nobordersnonations #artisrevolution #makeartnotwar.” Another said, “Bless you. Bless your work. Bless your collaborative partners. I hope the children in our shameful American Detainment Camps for CHILDREN (those nearby) can see your Light. I pray that People crossing the border in the dark of the night see your Lights and it leads them Home. I Hope it soothes their souls and lets them know we have not forgotten them. America is and always will be a respite for the weary and down-trodden. We welcome ALL with open arms as WE would want to be welcomed in our most needy of times. I don’t care what negative people say, I believe in Hope, Righteousness, and the inherent Good in Everyone.”

READ: Kids On Both Sides Of The Border Wall Now Have Something Small To Smile About Thanks To An Artist Who Installed Seesaws

This Is What Mexico Looks Like As It Reopens During A Global Pandemic

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This Is What Mexico Looks Like As It Reopens During A Global Pandemic

Hector Vivas / Getty Images

Step outside into Mexico’s capital (home to more than 20 million people) and you’d be forgiven for not realizing we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic that’s killed more than half a million people.

As of this week, several Mexican states have entered the initial phase of reopening and Mexicans are taking full advantage of the newly found sense of ‘freedom’ – visiting restaurants, cafés and shops in droves. However, experts warn that Mexico will likely follow the dangerous path of the United States – which opened prematurely and is now having to shut down businesses once again as cases reach record levels.

Here’s an inside look into the daily reality of Chilangos (as residents of Mexico City are called) and what the future holds for the country amid Coronavirus.

Mexico City – along with 17 other states – have entered the first phase of a gradual reopening.

Despite being home to the largest number of active cases across Mexico, the capital joined 17 other states in a phased reopening this week. Mexico City lowered its contagion risk from a level red (the most extreme) to level orange, which permits some businesses to reopen.

However, Mexico City – on the day of the reopening – saw a record 5,432 new cases and 638 confirmed deaths. Mayor Sheinbaum said that the switch to orange was possible because hospital occupancy levels are at 59% and trending downwards. But to many, the government is prioritizing the economy over public safety and health. Several government officials insisted that it was safe to proceed to the reduced warning level but health experts disagreed.

The mayor stressed that if hospital occupancy levels go above 65% again, red light restrictions will be reinstated. She urged residents to continue to take precautions to reduce the risk of infection. People should continue to stay at home as much as possible and the use of face masks in public places remains mandatory.

Along with Mexico City, 17 other states moved into the orange phase of reopening – including tourist hotspots of Jalisco, Veracruz, Quintana Roo, and Yucatan.

The federal government instituted a traffic light system to simplify the risk management of Covid-19

Credit: omgitsjustintime/ Instagram

Shortly after the Coronavirus outbreak began, the federal government instituted a color-coded risk management system to simplify its messaging. With red being the highest risk level and green being the lowest, every state until June 15th was still in the red level.

As of July 1, 18 states are now in the orange level. This means that restaurants, cafés, and shops can begin to reopen with reduced capacity. Hotels and markets will also be allowed to resume service, meaning that tourism will likely begin to pick up again very soon.

President AMLO has been eager to get the economy reopened after it was reported that at least one million formal jobs have been lost and the country’s economy is expected to shrink by 8.8% this year.

On the first day of reopening, shops in Mexico City’s historic center were jammed full of shoppers.

Credit: Raul Hidalgo / Getty Images

The city’s historical center is a hub of economic activity. You can literally find pretty much anything you could ever want in these cobblestones streets. The district is home to more than 27,000 businesses and as of this week they’re now permitted to open once again. And resident wasted no time in hitting the shops.

Long lines formed outside shops with few people wearing masks and most stores not truly enforcing social distancing requirements. Some offered antibacterial gel and took people’s temperatures before allowing them to enter.

Officially, shops and businesses with an odd street number are permitted to open three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, whereas even-numbered shops can open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

In order to prevent crowds from accumulating and promote social distancing, 31 streets were converted into pedestrian-only zones.

Restaurants, cafés, and shopping centers are all open for business – with some protective measurements in place.

Credit: omgitsjustintime/ Instagram

Even before the official change to semáforo naranja, several restaurants and cafés were already offering dine-in service. But now restaurants are officially allowed to operate at limited capacity, while staff are required to wear masks and shields, and restaurants are’s allowed to play music or issue reusable menus.

Street markets, known as tianguis, will also be allowed to restart which will help many of the city’s informal workers. And the following week, department stores and shopping malls will also be allowed to reopen at 30% capacity and with limited hours.

Mexico is hardly finished with the Coronavirus threat – in fact, cases have been reaching record levels.

Credit: Covid.gob.mx

Although not yet at the levels seen in the U.S. or Brazil, Mexico has been struggling with its response to the Coronavirus pandemic. As of July 1, the country has had more than 225,000 confirmed cases and almost 28,000 deaths, with Mexico City being the epicenter of the nation’s outbreak.

And the worst doesn’t appear to be over. In a Covid-19 situation report published Monday, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security noted that Mexico had reported a decreasing daily incidence for three consecutive days.

“However, Mexico does not yet appear to have reached its peak,” the report said. “Based on recent trends, we expect Mexico to report increasing daily incidence over the coming days. Mexico is currently No. 6 globally in terms of daily incidence,” it added.

Mexico’s AMLO And Trump Plan To Meet In July And Everyone Wants To Know What They’ll Be Discussing

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Mexico’s AMLO And Trump Plan To Meet In July And Everyone Wants To Know What They’ll Be Discussing

Hector Vivas / Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Trump has a long history of treating Mexico as a political punching bag. He literally launched his campaign for president by demonizing Mexicans. BUt despite this, Mexico’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) has said the U.S. president has always treated him with respect. After threatening Mexico with tariffs last year, AMLO deployed troops to deter migration by Central Americans across Mexico to the U.S. – in a move many saw as an act of obedience to Trump.

But Trump’s own rhetoric has also changed. During a visit to Arizona last week, he said that it was Mexico who has helped drive down border crossings.

“If you look at so many of the different crimes that come through the border, they’re stopped. We’ve implemented groundbreaking agreements with Mexico,” Trump said during a round table on border security. “I want to thank the President of Mexico. He’s really a great guy. I think he’ll be coming into Washington pretty soon.”

So the two leaders seem to be on good terms. But a meeting with Trump could backfire.

President Trump and Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador are planning their first personal meeting for July.

In what would be their first head-to-head meeting, Mexican President AMLO and Trump are likely to meet in the beginning half of July, according to officials. It’s a politically risky move for Mexico’s AMLO, who is already being attacked from across the political spectrum for appearing to appease Donald Trump.

AMLO said that in his meeting with Trump he intends to promote their new trade deal (the USMCA), as well as to thank him for sending medical ventilators to Mexico to help with the growing Coronavirus pandemic in the country. The date of the visit though is still not set in stone, since the pair would also want to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – since his country is also a signatory to the trade deal.

“It is very important for us participate in the beginning of this historical agreement, which is very timely because it will help us in the recovery of our economy and the creation of jobs,” Lopez Obrador said during his daily press conference.

Mexico’s economy has been battererd by the Coroanvirus and AMLO is betting its recovery is tied to the U.S., since both countries are facing their deepest recessions since the Great Depression.

Many are speculating about the what the meeting could focus on – with there being so many hard pressing issues between the two countries.

Credit: Evan Vucci / Getty Images

AMLO has made it clear that his stated goal of the visit would be to promote the renegotiated trade deal known as the USMCA, formerly NAFTA. However, the Coronavirus pandemic is still raging across the two countries and it’s likely it will be play a major part in discussions as well.

Apart from these two timely topics, both countries are speculating as to what else the two leaders could discuss – especially since Trump has so often spoken poorly of Mexico and issued sweeping demands in the past.

Will the pair discuss immigration, asylum and the border wall?

For AMLO, this would be his first trip out of Mexico since assuming the presidency in 2018.

Credit: Hector Vivas / Getty Images

AMLO assumed the presidency in December 2018, and since then he hasn’t left the country once. He has sent surrogates to attend globally important meetings, including to the U.N. Security Council election and several major economic forums. Instead, AMLO has preferred to stay in Mexico, traveling from state to state promoting his domestic agenda.

Even though AMLO’s critics have encouraged him to take international trips in the interest of Mexico, this is one that most experts agree is a mistake. They’re skeptical that the meeting will be beneficial at all to Mexico.

In a tweet, the former Mexican ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhán, called the potential visit “a big blunder and a mistake,” saying that Trump would only use the Mexican president as an electoral prop. He also called such a visit “suicidal for Mexico’s long-term and strategic relationship with the United States.”

Former foreign minister Jorge Castañeda told Reuters he thought a visit was “a dumb idea” considering it is an election year in the United States.

Complicating matters, AMLO will fly to the U.S. on commercial flights amid a global pandemic.

Credit: Alfredo Estrella / Getty Images

AMLO is well-known as being frugal. He turned the palatial Los Pinos (the formal home of the Mexican President) into a cultural center and instead lives in his own apartment. He drives his own Volkswagen Jetta. And he always flies commercial, wherever he goes. And, apparently, that’s still the plan for his trip to Washington despite a global health crisis.

“I am going to travel on a commercial aircraft,” López Obrador told reporters during his morning news conference. “There is no direct trip from Mexico City to Washington, but you can make a stop. I will arrive a day before the meeting that we will have.”

And for Trump, the meeting would be high stakes given the concessions his supporters will want from Mexico.

Trump literally launched his presidential campaign by demonizing Mexicans. Since then, he’s made several swipes at the country and its people and has pursued inhumane immigration policies that have broken families and likely resulted in the deaths of many. Yet to his supporters, he hasn’t done nearly enough on immigration.

Therefore, it’s widely accepted that Trump will use the meeting as a way to advance his political standing with his core supporters and talk up his ‘achievements’ on border security.