Artist Marcos Ramírez (known as ERRE) installed his version of a border wall on the façade of the Oceanside Museum of Art. / Photo courtesy of the Oceanside Museum of Art

Protests over the border wall prototypes that recently went up in Otay Mesa never materialized, but that doesn’t mean everyone in the region is fine with the exercise.

Throughout the county, artwork is expressing anger and defiance over the wall.


An artist from UCSD made a short film spoofing the border wall, reports CityBeat. The artist, Andrew Sturm, created a parody in which an international news outlet sends a reporter to interview an entrepreneur on his new business venture: manufacturing ladders with ropes attached. The ladders, the entrepreneur says, are for Americans fleeing south.

An interactive art installation at Liberty Station Oct. 30 and 31 gave San Diegans the opportunity to show their solidarity with Dreamers, those who were brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children, in the face of the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in September, reports the Union-Tribune. The installation was part of The Inside Out Project, started by French artist JR in 2011. Participants had their photos taken at the show, which now line the walls of a building in the Arts District.

The San Diego Art Institute also has a border-themed exhibition: Mano a Mano. Starting at the opposite ends of a 16-foot wall, two artists – Hugo Crosthwaite and Jose Hugo Sanchez – mimicked boxing matches over five days by performing several rounds of “battle” as they painted their way to the middle of the mural – a discourse on migration and the U.S.-Mexico border region. The final mural looks like this.

I went up to visit “Undocumenta” at the Oceanside Museum of Art. On Saturday, one of the artists featured in the exhibit, Marcos Ramirez ERRE, unveiled his version of a border wall that is now the façade of the whitewashed Oceanside museum of Art Building, next to Oceanside’s City Hall.

Alessandra Moctezuma, the exhibit’s curator, actually conceived of the idea in February 2016, before President Donald Trump was elected.

“These are issues that have been relevant to these artists going back a decade,” Moctezuma told me. “I think what [the Trump administration] brings to the forefront are issues we thought had been resolved or forgotten.”

To enter the exhibition, you have to walk through a passport office, created by artist Omar Pimienta. The piece stemmed from performance art that Pimienta has done in several locations, in which he had people trade in their passports to obtain a visa to his neighborhood in Tijuana, Colonia Libertad.

One of the pieces that struck me the most started on Teresita De La Torre’s Instagram account. When De La Torre was volunteering in the desert, leaving gallons of water for migrants crossing the border, she found an abandoned shirt. She wore the shirt every day for a year, took a portrait in it dailyand posted the photos online.

“It forced her into a dialogue about migration and the dangers of crossing,” Moctezuma said. “Art can be a great way to negotiate difficult topics. It’s not in your face as an attack, but it allows you to think about things. The works here can help facilitate a discussion.”

Finally, the exhibit features a video and paintings depicting a public art project from artist Ana Teresa Fernandez, “Borrando la Frontera” (Erasing the Border). Fernandez painted sections of the wall the same color as the sky to symbolically “erase” them.

“It’s very utopian to exit the exhibit with the border being erased,” Moctezuma said.

  • The New York Times takes a look at the eight border wall prototypes, laying out the choices they represent, such as “Concrete or No Concrete,” “Opaque or Transparent” and whether it will be beautiful, as the president has claimed.
  • KPBS and inewsource put together a mile-by-mile history of America’s existing border wall. One of the interesting points it makes is that illegal immigration started slowing before the spike in border wall construction began. Almost 90 percent of the existing border wall was built in the past 12 years.
  • VOSD’s Mario Koran interviewed Andrew Bracken about his documentary “Facing North.” Bracken interviewed Border Patrol agents, immigration experts, local historians and recent deportees to examine how the border has hardened over the past 30 years and how that’s changed migration patterns.

Water Worries

A massive cross-border sewage spill in February seems to have, again, forced attention to the pollution coming into the United States through the Tijuana River.

For decades, the river has brought mountains of trash and countless millions of gallons of sewage across the border from Tijuana, where about 10 percent of the population is still not connected to a sewer system. There are also new worries about industrial pollution, as Border Patrol agents have recently reported chemical burns and deteriorating shoes from exposure to the border water.

Tests of water spilling across the border show the chemical soup varies from spill to spill but has in it fecal bacteria that can sicken surfers, as well as a mixture of industrial chemicals and heavy metals, including lead.

State Sen. Ben Hueso held a meeting of his Select Committee on California-Mexico Cooperation earlier this month in Imperial Beach to talk about the pollution. Imperial Beach has been at the forefront of the fight, largely because it and other South Bay cities bear the brunt of the beach closures that result from the pollution.

“Can we make Imperial Beach and these communities as safe and clean as La Jolla Shores?” David Gibson, the head of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, said during the hearing.

That’s the big question.

While a variety of legislation and litigation are focused on fixing problems, the efforts remain underfunded, intensely bureaucratic and occasionally Sisyphean. The number of agencies and departments involved on both sides of the border is dizzying, and the number of studies and diplomatically cautious conversations in lieu of concrete action has frustrated the public for years.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget to pay for sewage infrastructure on the Mexican side of the border has declined over time and now is on the chopping block in the Trump administration.

In the past, the U.S. government has helped build a wastewater treatment plant north of the border and paid to expand the sewage collection and treatment system south of the border. A robust sewage and stormwater system is Mexico would do the most to fix the problems, most American officials seem to agree.

“No matter what you build on the U.S. side, we’re still going to have problems if the problem doesn’t get fixed at the source in Mexico,” Douglas Liden, an EPA official, told Hueso’s committee.

Ry Rivard

More Border News

Maya Srikrishnan

Maya was Voice of San Diego’s Associate Editor of Civic Education. She reported on marginalized communities in San Diego and oversees Voice’s explanatory...

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