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A Look At The Artistic Protest Inspired By Trump’s Wall Prototypes
Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Credit: Jill Marie Holslin
In the Mexican neighborhood of Las Torres, eight towering square structures peek over the U.S.-Mexico border fence.
They are the prototypes for President Trump’s "big, beautiful" wall — some beige, some grey, one blue, one silver. The structures appear to glow in the sun, and contrast starkly with the current rusty steel border fence, which is a third their size.
Jill Holslin, an American who lives in Tijuana, was inspired by this vista.
“To me, these walls are the perfect metaphor of the kind of emptiness of (Trump's) administration and the emptiness of his rhetoric. They’re big gigantic walls that aren’t really effective," Holslin said.
She and other artists, including the Overpass Light Brigade, teamed up for a protest that involved projecting light graffiti onto the prototypes in November. They projected images of a ladder, the Statue of Liberty and a message saying, "Refugees welcome here," and a stick figure with a caption in Spanish: "Come on in!"
Hoslin said they plan to do this again soon with new images and messages. The artistic protest is just one of several that has been inspired by the prospect of a border wall since Trump's campaign. In September, a French photographer constructed a large cut-out of a Mexican baby peeking over the fence in Tecate.
Just footsteps from where Holslin and her team set up light graffiti equipment in Las Torres, a pile of car tires is propped against the Mexico side of the fence. The tires are used as steps by people trying to enter the U.S. illegally by jumping over the fence.
Holslin believes a more formidable wall would lead to more formidable ladders. She doesn’t see the point in spending billions of dollars for that. Moreover, Holslin believes a new border wall would stiffen the emotional divide between the U.S. and outsiders to the detriment of Americans.
“The border wall is absolutely against the core foundational values of the United States," she said. "The core foundational values of the United States have been built upon immigration, upon welcoming refugees, upon creating a society that’s very diverse."
The artists projected the light graffiti from Mexico because access to the prototype site on the U.S. side is restricted.
“One of the things that the United States stands for is freedom of expression and freedom of critique, and in this project they’ve made it very difficult for people to have a voice," she said.
Here on the Mexican side of the border, the landscape feels post-apocalyptic. The burnt shells of abandoned vehicles stand like mysterious relics.
Chickens feed on piles of trash. Mountains of industrial waste, such as shredded plastic, abut makeshift homes with tin roofs and patched-up walls. A rudimentary wooden fence has been decorated with the hand of a dismembered Trump piñata.
Emaciated stray dogs wander the dirt roads, looking for scraps. One munches on the carcass of what looks like it was once a goat.
The neighborhood of Las Torres sprung up after NAFTA spurred a boon in American manufacturing along the border in Mexico. Thousands of Mexicans settled in informal towns along the border, to live near the plants.
“The general poverty of this neighborhood reflects the poor wages that people are being paid and how the corporations come in and provide jobs, but they don’t really build the infrastructure that people need to have an actual quality of life," Holslin said.
Many of the maquiladora workers came from the agricultural sector in southern and central Mexico, where NAFTA made it difficult for the owners of small farms to make a living. Those who found themselves unable to make a living in the maquiladora plants as well just kept heading north, into the U.S.
Holslin said the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policies fail to see the inextricable links between the U.S. and Mexico, and the role the U.S. has played in Mexico’s problems.
“This was technically a protest against the border wall, but it was also more a matter of affirming, taking messages and affirming the values that America should stand for, and pointing out that maybe this administration is not affirming values that America is founded on."
Visual artists in San Diego used the border wall prototypes for an artistic protest, projecting light graffiti onto their surfaces with messages like "Refugees welcome here."
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