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Performance artist Ana Teresa Fernandez has, once again, painted a segment of the border wall blue. If you stand on the beach in Playas and look north, the wall blends almost seamlessly with the sky, as if you could easily walk through the bars and end up in Imperial Beach.

Photo by Brooke Binkowski

Fernandez has performed “Borrando la Frontera” (Erasing the Border) several times before along the border wall, most recently in April 2016. She says that she wants to help people imagine life without the fence separating the two countries, causing pain and suffering to countless families who cannot embrace their loved ones.

Photo by Brooke Binkowski

As Fernandez and her crew painted the bars of the fence on the Playas beach, the Posada Sin Fronteras was under way just up the bluff.

The annual Christmas party through the border wall features a binational mass, music, food, a prayer service and “pinky kisses” through the triple-enforced visitation area at Friendship Park (on the U.S. side) and Parque de la Amistad (on the Mexico side). This year marked the 23rd iteration of the event, and the focus was on the refugee crisis all along the south side of the border, as the displaced wait to find out whether they will be able to seek refuge in the United States or, failing that, make their home in Mexico.

Meanwhile, volunteers with Fundación Gaia Tijuana, headed by Mexican lawyer and human rights advocate Darinka Carballo held a donation and toy drive over the weekend for people in migrants shelters across the city. The people being sheltered are mostly Haitians who came to the border city to seek refuge in the United States.

Behind ‘Death at the Border’

KPBS’s four-part series “Death at the Border” details the perils of crossing the unforgiving and rugged mountains and sand to get from the United States to Mexico. Various groups exist to help people stay alive during their treks across the arid terrain, whether they are replenishing water stations, leaving nonperishable food at designated areas, doing search-and-rescue operations to find people who have been stranded, obtaining medical care or identifying the bodies of those who died during the trek.

Fronteras Desk reporter Jean Guerrero shot much of the video on her phone.

“Most of the other shots – like the interview with the National Border Patrol Council’s Shawn Moran, and with Desert Angels founder Rafael Larraenza – were shot by our talented videographer, Kris Arciaga,” she told me.

“I chose to use the iPhone for the desert shots in part because carrying professional camera gear was going to be impossible in that terrain – at least if I was going to be carrying two gallons of water and a medical kit as well. I wanted to make sure I was going to be able to keep up with the volunteers. It was over 100 degrees out there, and I knew I would slow everybody down if I was trying to haul a tripod and a JVC. There were enough things to worry about as it was – snakes, scorpions and smugglers – I didn’t want to have to worry about a bunch of equipment. So the iPhone ended up being perfect for the series. I had to carry multiple portable chargers, though, because we were hiking for more than eight hours each day.

“I spent two weekends with the group, and the first weekend – when we did the search for Marco Antonio Garcia – was definitely the most nerve-wracking because I just didn’t know what to expect. I was also running on very little sleep that weekend because we slept in the desert both Friday and Saturday night in highly uncomfortable conditions. During that first search for Marco Antonio Garcia, there came a point where I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to keep hiking because it was so hot and stressful, and right around when I was starting to panic was when we found the remains.”

The series chronicles finding Garcia’s remains, as well as the conditions in which people migrating have to survive.

Cartel Chronicles

The Jalisco Cartel, which was thought to have started trafficking drugs into and through Tijuana only in the past year or two, has “conquered” the United States and set up shop in major cities. El Universal reports that Washington officials are “dismayed” by the rapid foothold the cartel has gained, citing a Drug Enforcement Agency report showing a significant cartel presence in eastern U.S. cities. (Link is in Spanish.)

• The editors and reporters of Zeta Tijuana risk their lives and livelihoods daily – particularly when they cover cartels – but the scrappy weekly is still going strong, reports the Daily Beast.

• Two tunnels have been discovered under Tijuana, thought to have been built to smuggle drugs and perhaps people into California. Both tunnels were discovered under warehouses just south of Otay Mesa; one reached into San Diego, the other was not finished.

More Border News

• San Diego’s Joe Corona, a midfielder who spent the season on loan to the Dorados de Sinaloa, is rejoining the Tijuana Xolos for the Liga MX Apertura season. Corona played at Sweetwater High School and San Diego State University before joining the Tijuana soccer team, scoring the Xolos’ first goal as a Premier division team.

• The American Friends Service Committee’s U.S.-Mexico Border Program is using the increased foot traffic into and out of Mexico as an opportunity to inform border-crossers of their legal rights and encourage them to report any possible maltreatment by U.S. border agents. AFSC volunteers will be at the PedWest crossing in yellow vests starting Monday handing out literature and answering questions. The group says it will also be collecting information about any potential abuse of power by Customs and Border Protection.

Brooke Binkowski

Brooke Binkowski is a backpack reporter who has been covering the U.S.-Mexico border for many years. Find her on Twitter at @brooklynmarie.

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