Not many people can visualize the U.S./Mexico border wall, despite it being one of the most hotly debated political topics of the last decade. With these images, I invite you to witness Border Field State Park, a unique section of the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border located in my hometown of San Diego, California. The Park serves as one of the last remaining locations where families can interact from opposite sides of the border. In these images, you may notice families leaning on the border wall to see and talk to their loved ones in Mexico. Some families even hold their hands up to the chicken wire to touch each other’s fingertips. You will also see the native flora to the border region, the physical wall dividing the two countries that leads into the ocean, and the Plaza Monumental de Tijuana.
Border Field State Park is only a ten-minute car ride from my home, and it is a place that I love and despise. I enjoy seeing the native plants thrive in the arid soil and the monarch butterflies defying the rusted borders during their migration in the springtime. I have grown fond of the sound of the waves crashing and people laughing as they play on the Mexican coast. I miss sending air-hugs and talking to people on the opposite side of the border. I do not miss the reflection of the bright sun against the windshields of the Border Patrol vehicles or the sight of new barbed wire along the American beach. I detest the park for the militarization and fear it has brought upon my community, but I miss this place every day that I am not home.
This Aztec and Mayan inspired gazebo is located in Barrio Logan’s Chicano Park, one of California’s most important Chicano/a/x cultural and historical sites. The park’s history began in 1969 when Barrio Logan asked the City of San Diego for the permits necessary to build a recreational park. The city agreed to build a park in the neighborhood, but a year later went back on the agreement and instead made plans to build a highway patrol station. Community members were outraged and disrupted the station’s construction by occupying the land for twelve days. The City of San Diego was so frightened by the community’s collectivism and determination that they kept their hands off the land. The takeover became a site of community resistance and solidarity from which Chicano Park was born. The Park continues to be a space where San Diego’s Chicano/a/x and Indigenous community can come together to practice and preserve our culture and spiritual ties to the land and host political demonstrations.
My best childhood memories are from Chicano Park. My childhood home was only a few blocks away. I learned to ride a bike in Chicano Park. I spent many years dancing ballet folklorico there, happily twirling in my long, traditional dresses. Since I was a baby, I attended political rallies in the park, and I was always looked after by the barrio that raised me. My values as a community member and organizer were shaped under the Kiosko.
I spent much of my childhood attempting to emulate the adults in my community who organized and cared for the working-class families in Barrio Logan. These activists were often brown women and sometimes mothers who would unapologetically voice their frustrations with the country’s exploitative and oppressive systems. I felt empowered by their words and actions, so much so that today I recognize those moments as the source of my ability to be an empowered, young Chicana.
I created this art piece to represent how I have always viewed the radical women of my childhood. Their ability to be caretakers for their families and communities continues to inspire me to this day. Another source of inspiration for the piece was one of Che Guevara’s most famous sayings; “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.”