February 06, 2018

On This Side There Are Also Dreams (De Este Lado Tambien Hay Sueños)

I was just in Mexico.

So, why would I need to go back just two weeks later?

Well, there's so much more to see after crossing the border.

After all, up until this point, all my visit to Tijuana have been cultural in nature.

I've climbed up inside La Mona. I've spent the night in a tent in the middle of a misty winery.

I'd even eaten churros by the border fence at Friendship Park (El Parque de la Amistad).

But I hadn't really looked through to the other side at my own country.

I hadn't really seen it through the lens of Mexico and Mexicans.

And the last time I'd visited that border fence that stretches out into the Pacific Ocean, Trump hadn't yet been elected president.

Of course, this isn't his "big, beautiful wall" at the border.

It's not a wall at all, but a fence.

And I have the sneaking suspicion our current president didn't realize that it had been built as recently as 2012—during the Obama administration.

He still may not realize that. After all, his level of rhetoric was strikingly absent from the construction of this border structure.

And when it dawns on him, he may choose to tear it all down and replace it with his new wall. We don't really know what's going to happen.

But by all appearances, the new border wall project status is "full steam ahead"...

...and given all the surveillance that already exists at our border crossings, it's kind of amazing that anybody sneaks through.

"Do you think all these warnings of venomous animals actually deter anyone from hopping the fence?" I asked our guide, an ex-Patriot who's made a life and business for himself in Tijuana.

"i'm sure they're scared," he said, "But they've come so far, they can't stop now."

That's because the majority of "illegals" that are crossing into the U.S, via Tijuana aren't actually Mexican. They're coming from Honduras, Haiti, Brazil, elsewhere in the Caribbean and Central and South America, and even India. And many of them walked here.

Of course, some of the existing border fence is more symbolic than functional. The stretch made out of corrugated steel looks easy enough to climb if you get a good enough running start.

It's actually an appropriate spot for the U.S. to have erected its prototypes of the "new" wall...

...though American citizen civilians aren't allowed to go there and view them.

You can see them pretty well from the Mexican side, though—especially if you have a ladder.

This spot is also where a number of painters have chosen to adorn the fence with murals and political messages.

"Is it illegal?" I again asked our guide. "Is it considered vandalism?"

"Maybe," he said. "But I bet the U.S. Border Patrol doesn't really care what they do on the Mexico side, as long as they don't cross over."

We spent nearly the entire day along the U.S./Mexico border, staring at a fence that hasn't done a very good job at keeping desperate migrants out, and wondering how any new wall would be any different.

We ended our day at boundary monument #254...

...near the Tijuana Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional de Tijuana)...

...where those who have crossed have etched their names into the wall.

There, like at the coast, it's been painted somewhat of a sky blue so as to make it almost disappear...

...though the rusty spots surely give it away.

There are other names, emblazoned on the crossbars of makeshift crucifixes, memorializing those who've died trying to cross (though not necessary right at this spot).

And yet there are holes in the fence, too—a sign of either the natural buckling of rusted metal in the heat and sun or the aborted attempt the break through (rather than climb over) with a crowbar.

Of course, we didn't see anybody scoping out the wall while we were there. Maybe they wait for the chill of twilight, to traverse under the cover of night.

Maybe those who dare to cross are thinking twice about where they're headed—that the "American Dream" isn't for just anyone. Maybe Tijuana can become the end of the line for those who try to escape the horrors of their homelands.

Maybe they can make their dreams come true there. The United States of America seems to be becoming more and more the land of broken dreams.

Related Posts:
Crossing the Border (Cruzando la Frontera)
Photo Essay: A Day on the Other Side of the Wall
Photo Essay: The Visiting Tall Ship of the Mexican Navy (Armada de México)

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