“The Other Side”

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 12″ x 12″
Year: 2019

I’d been thinking of this for a long time. I have to make an exception and let you know where this is. This is the where the California/Mexico border meets the sea. I was hoping to drive out to the park on the hill right here overlooking the scene, but due to late season rains, the road was too muddy to open to vehicles so I had to walk in the 2 miles to the spot. After tromping off the wrong direction and ending up at the border about a mile from the coast under the watch of border patrol agents and confronted by a myriad of signs saying I wasn’t supposed to take a step further, I tip toed back to the van and tried again.

I noticed a lot of folks heading down the paths that made their way to the park. The smart ones on bikes. Whole families. Abandoned scooters. Dead crows. Nasterciums in beatiful bloom. Humid rain falling lightly at times. Mosquitoes that meant business. It was quite a scene down there in those wetlands of the Tijuana river.

Beautiful in its own way. But curious too. Why were so many people walking all this way just to be confronted by this uncomfortably stark reality?

I’d know soon enough. On the other side of the fence was a carnival of color. Ice cream trucks. Cotton candy. Kites flying. Flags waving. A swirling mix of humanity. On this side was gray. Border patrol SUV’s with armed agents keeping watch. An additional fence effectively creating a no-go zone buffer about 100 feet wide. Surveillance cameras. Concrete and weeds. No ice cream.

And no judgment really. I’m sure the southern border of mexico doesn’t exactly open the gates and throw parties for everyone from central america that might want to stroll on through. But still- a stark reality to be confronted with no matter how you cut it.

And that no-go zone?  There was one exception to that rule. Right on the bluff overlooking these waves there was one area, and one area only, where visitors from the U.S. side were allowed to walk right up to the actual border fence. Only 10 or so at a time were allowed into the area, and they were watched closely at all times by a dedicated border patrol gaurd.

But here was the heart-breaking answer to my orginal question. This is where families and friends separated by geopolitics could speak, not by letters, , not by phone, not by email, not by facetime, or anything fancier than that. Here is the one place, and the only place I know of, that these affected families that find themselves on both sides of the fence can see one another and truly speak face to face.

No matter which side you’re on, this place is all about the Other Side.

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