While the U.S.-Mexico border is often considered a land of strife—with high levels of unauthorized border crossing and increasingly militarized enforcement measures by governments on both sides of the frontier—it hasn’t always been that way.
In fact, border communities in the United States and Mexico once lived in relative harmony, with family and economic connections flowing seamlessly across the once-invisible line dividing the two North American nations.
To remind people of the connections between the two neighboring countries, on Sunday members of the Chopeke Collective installed see-saws on the border wall between the New Mexican city of Sunland Park and the Puerto de Anapra neighborhood of Juarez, Mexico, for children to play on.
The action, led by architects Ronald Rael, a professor of architecture at the University of California Berkeley, and his partner Virginia San Fatello, entailed the building of several “tetter-totters” along the wall dividing New Mexico from the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The see-saws were painted in vibrant pink, or rosa mexicano, a color that symbolizes Mexican identity.
Several families took part in rounds of “sube y baja” (“up and down”) to share their fun in an attempt to show that border communities on both sides plan to share their futures in spite of the increasingly volatile politics of migration and ongoing attempts to build and fortify the border wall.
In photos captured by the Associated Press, members of Mexico’s recently-formed National Guard can be seen watching the adults and children having fun.
In an Instagram post, Rael wrote:
“The wall became a literal fulcrum for US—Mexico relations and children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side.”
The director of the Rubin Center for the Visual Arts on the U.S.-Mexico border, Kerry Doyle, accompanied the architects and families to the wall and posted video footage from the event to her Facebook page. Doyle wrote:
“Ronald Rael’ and Virginia San Fratello’s teeter-totter at the Sunland Park/Anapra fence in collaboration with Colectivo Chopeke Sunday 7/28/19. It’s a balancing act here on the border but we’re still having fun!”
Ronald Rael’ and Virginia San Fratello's teeter-totter at the Sunland Park/Anapra fence in collaboration with Colectivo…
Based in Chihuahua, the Chopeke Collective is a Catholic community of human rights advocates and youth led by architect Omar Rios that aims to alleviate the lack of decent housing in the region through architecture and community-based construction efforts.