June 24, 2019; Hyperallergic
Enrique Chiu has lived on both sides of the border between the US and Mexico. The Mexican-born artist has good things to say about life in both countries. But he is no fan of Donald Trump’s deeply flawed (and, thankfully, unfulfilled) promise to build “a big, beautiful wall” clear across the southern border of the US to keep out prospective immigrants and asylum seekers from Mexico and other Central and South American countries. So, just after the 2016 US election, he launched his own project to transform sections of the existing border fence between the two countries into something truly beautiful: a “Mural of Brotherhood.”
With the help of more than 3,800 volunteers, Chiu has been working to adorn the Mexico-facing side of the border fence with a series of murals full of “uplifting messages of peace and togetherness,” as reported in Hyperallergic. The finished work will span a mile-long area of fence in Tijuana and will also include shorter segments across Tecate, Mexicali, Ciudad Juarez, Nacozari de García, and Reynosa.
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Chiu describes the work as follows: “The murals spread messages of peace to people crossing the border by car or on foot. They’re also intended to be a final glimpse of hope for migrants risking danger as they cross northward.”
That danger, which has been seen in stark relief in recent weeks and which is being exacerbated by the Trump administration’s increasingly inhumane policies, feels personal to Chiu. As an eight-year-old, he and his mother moved from Guadalajara to Los Angeles, where they lived for a year without legal status before returning home. Later, with a student visa, Chiu set off for college at California State University, Long Beach, and remained in the US for 12 years. In 2009, he moved back to Mexico and found himself part of a vibrant arts scene in Tijuana. In a 2017 interview with La Jornada, a Mexican newspaper, Chiu described the existing fence and the proposed wall as “a sign of rejection and exclusion. The Mexican people, the Hispanics and Latinos are the ones that hit that wall. A wall of incomprehension.”
The “Mural of Brotherhood” includes colorful words and images, some artistically elaborate and some quite simply drawn or lettered. Articles about the project since its inception track a steady increase in the number of volunteers working with Chiu. One photo in the Hyperallergic article shows Chiu with about 30 volunteers under a section of the fence that celebrates the idea, farfetched though it may be, of un mundo sin muros—a world without walls.—Eileen Cunniffe