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Migrant activists celebrate Christmas in binational Friendship Park as possible closure looms.
Matthew Bowler
/
KPBS
A teenage migrant piers through the border fence into the United States during the 29th annual La Posada Sin Fronteras or Without Borders. A mural painted on the fence lists the names of migrants who have died crossing the border. Tijuana, Dec. 10, 2022.

Border wall expansion threatens annual binational Christmas tradition

For the 29th year in a row faith leaders, human rights groups and migrant activists celebrated on Saturday La Posada Sin Fronteras, a traditional Christmas holiday party at the binational Friendship Park.

In the United States a small group trudged through muddy roads to get as close as they could to the actual border. On the Mexican side, dozens of migrants were able to sit in the popular park at Playas de Tijuana overlooking the surf.

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Over the empty space, in between the double layered barrier the two groups shared a song, the "Pidiendo Posada" or "Begging for Shelter," a traditional Mexican Christmas song. First those in Tijuana sang then those over the wall in the United States, taking turns verse by verse.

The park is facing possible closure as the Biden administration contemplates building an addition to the existing border wall, first proposed by the Trump administration. If completed, the addition would effectively close the American half of the park.

Migrant activists celebrate Christmas in binational Friendship Park as possible closure looms.
Matthew Bowler
/
KPBS
Migrant children take turns hitting a piñata shaped like the border wall in front of the border wall separating the United States from Mexico during the 29th annual La Posada Sin Fronteras or Without Borders. The traditional Christmas party takes place on both sides of the binational park called Friendship Park. Tijuana, Dec. 10, 2022.

Father Patrick Murphy, has been the director of the Casa del Migrante in Tijuana for a decade and he said a traditional Christmas Posada is more than just tamales and fun.

“It’s making room at the inn, in your heart, in a physical place or in a spiritual place,” Murphy said.

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Migrant activists celebrate Christmas in binational Friendship Park as possible closure looms
Matthew Bowler
/
KPBS
For the 29th year in a row faith leaders, human rights groups and migrant activists celebrate La Posada Sin Fronteras, a traditional Christmas holiday party at the binational Friendship Park. New York city native, Father Patrick Murphy, has been the Director of the Casa del Migrante in Tijuana for a decade. Murphy tells attendees that a Posada is more than just tamales and fun. “It’s making room at the inn, in your heart, in a physical place or in a spiritual place,” Murphy said in Tijuana, Dec. 10, 2022.

Jannel Garcia, a professor at the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California in Tijuana leads a choir made up of students from the university. She said music is powerful.

“Singing helps you relieve some pain and feel joy and share feelings with others and that helps people to get united,“ Garcia said.

In October KPBS’s Gustavo Solis reported that activists are “frustrated that the Biden Administration was breaking a campaign promise to build, 'not another foot,' of former President Donald Trump’s border wall.”

Migrant activists celebrate Christmas in binational Friendship Park as possible closure looms.
Matthew Bowler
/
KPBS
Looking from Mexico into the United States through the border fence onto the American part of the 29th annual La Posada Sin Fronteras or Without Borders. The event takes place on both sides of the binational park called Friendship Park. The park is facing possible closure as the Biden administration contemplates building an addition to the already existing border wall, first proposed by the Trump administration. If completed the addition would effectively close the American half of the park. Tijuana, Dec. 10, 2022.

Father Murphy says possibly closing the park to build more border wall goes against the tenets of his faith.

“It's really cruel to stop this. It's a really peaceful way of celebrating, of asking for posadas, of trying to form a conscience. I don’t know why the United States can’t let them do that,“ Murphy said.

When asked what he would tell President Biden, a fellow Irish Catholic American, Father Murphy said he would tell the president, “Open your heart. You know what's right to do. Don’t look for political solutions. Don’t worry about numbers. Don’t worry about being the next president. You’re president today and you could help a lot of people.”

Border wall expansion threatens annual binational Christmas tradition

Matthew Bowler is an award-winning journalist from San Diego. Bowler comes from a long line of San Diego journalists. Both his father and grandfather worked as journalists covering San Diego. He is also a third generation San Diego State University graduate, where he studied art with a specialty in painting and printmaking. Bowler moved to the South of France after graduating from SDSU. While there he participated in many art exhibitions. The newspaper “La Marseillaise” called his work “les oeuvres impossible” or “the impossible works.” After his year in Provence, Bowler returned to San Diego and began to work as a freelance photographer for newspapers and magazines. Some years later, he discovered his passion for reporting the news, for getting at the truth, for impacting lives. Bowler is privileged to have received many San Diego Press Club Awards along with two Emmy's.