One of the biggest and most controversial topics of discussion during the last US presidential election was on Donald Trump’s promise to build a wall between Mexico and the United States in order to keep illegal immigration and smuggling to a minimum. As a resident of California, this was very strange to me. When making the trip across the border and into Tijuana, it is difficult to miss the giant fence that divides the US from its southern neighbor and stretches out grotesquely into the Pacific Ocean. See the photo below.
According to 2019 Washington Post article by Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey (found here), Trump wants the wall posts “painted black and topped with sharpened tips”. The general idea is that the wall should be as treacherous to pass as possible, with the dark paint absorbing heat from the sun. The thing that I think most Americans are unaware of is that there is already a significant structure set up between the two nations, and according to Miroff and Dawsey, any additional building that has taken place over the last few years of Trump’s presidency has been to rebuild sections of the existing barrier, not to complete the gaps in the separating superstructure. Yes, Mr. Fake News has some exaggerations and twisted
On the other side of the fence people are excited about the potential blending of culture and economy, and I don’t mean the physical fence (though the statement is true either way). Digital Artist and Tijuana resident Esteban Quiroz has a completely different idea about how the two countries should interact at their borders. His project, Reinventar Los Bordes, blends the cityscapes. His vision for the project, translated into English, is as follows:
In this project I propose a new landscape by digitally mixing urban and architectural elements of various public spaces in Tijuana and San Diego. These imaginary scenarios have allowed me to wonder about the dynamics of economic and cultural exchange between both cities. What would a transportation network that would connect both areas be like? Why does a construction of the same type cause such a different experience in Tijuana than in San Diego? What would San Diego be without Tijuana? How would Tijuana be without San Diego? What is really regulated through the existence of a border?Quiroz, Esteban. Reinventar Los Bordes
The obvious answer to the question of regulation is illicit substances and human traffic. Travel by the honest citizen is currently heavily impacted by those regulations. However, there already exist differing sets of travel regulations in San Diego and Tijuana when compared to locales further removed from the border. That is, different visas and passports are required for travel beyond the border cities. If regulation of traffic and substances could be maintained outside the interface between San Diego and Tijuana, then the two neighboring cities could enjoy a healthy blend of culture and economics. Residents from either city could expand business into the other country, stimulating the economy and ideally strengthening the relationship between the countries. Uber, taxis, and other public transit would benefit from the blended border. It would also ease the traffic at the border for citizens who already cross on a daily basis for work.
The blending of the two nations’ economies would benefit both and increase exposure for small businesses and nation specific corporations. It would also discourage a fair amount of illegal traffic by allowing residents of one city (and country) access to the goods and services of the other. It would also set a precedent.
Whether you feel the wall is necessary, or a blended border would be a positive, progressive project, the reality is that both the wall and blended border already exist. Many US citizens live in Tijuana and work in San Diego, and many Mexican citizens living in Tijuana are able to cross the border with limited paperwork, as long as they stay within a 25 mile radius of the border. US citizens are not even required to obtain a visa for trips into Tijuana lasting less than 72 hours. Of course, this is all under “normal circumstances”, and before the COVID pandemic.
The development of the border issue will continue to be a hot topic, especially in the 2020 election year, and the border zone is prepped to go either way. Full exclusivity and strengthened border patrol, or a more relaxed approach? Vamos a ver.