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A Line That Never Stops Moving: Fences, Obelisks, And Art At The Border

A Line that Never Stops Moving: Fences, Obelisks, and Art at the Border

The 2,000 mile border between the U.S. and Mexico changes daily. In theory, the actual border – an idea more than a place or a barrier – only moves with the bloody work of armies and declarations of statesmen. From 1825 to 1848, the border moved a thousand miles here, two hundred there, Texas standing apart, Texas back to the (Mexican) whole, a third of Mexico (Texas included) now part of the Northern giant.

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Marble obelisks rose to mark the border here and there, very little thought of a wall anywhere in evidence a century ago. Then fences to keep cattle out, or in, with plenty of room for people to swing over or duck under.

The first fences along the border were almost certainly put up by ranchers more interested in protecting their claims and their cattle than in marking national boundaries. As the Mexican Revolution became increasingly bloody between 1910 and 1920, more fences were stood up, some by local governments and some by informal groups of settlers hoping to keep the violence from rolling toward them.

With the creation of Organ Pipe National Park in 1937, the first extended border fencing put up by the U.S. federal government was built, to keep cattle out of the new parkland.

It wasn’t until the election of Bill Clinton that U.S. border-fence building became a growth industry, driven by concerted efforts to block drug trafficking and appease a growing anti-immigration caucus in Congress. The 18-foot border fence marching into the Pacific was built in 1993 and 1994, and quickly became a symbol of hubris and folly to some, as it seemingly tries to keep Mexican waves from entering the U.S. territory of ocean water.

That fence has become an extraordinary canvas for art celebrating the strength of border people often hurt by the fences and walls now more and more common, and one that changes with the seasons.

In 2010, one gallery of images on the border fence at the Pacific beach looked like this, as documented on the Tijuana Bible bilingual blog:

A year ago, that same area of fence looked like this:

More recently, the Playas Mural Project, by artist Lizbeth de la Cruz Santana, turned the fencing into this gallery:

(Photo credit – Omar Martinez)

And change will not cease.

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