The Fence

The US-Mexico border stretches 1,951 miles, from the Pacific Ocean, to the Gulf of Mexico. 651 miles of the border are fenced, 20 of those miles of fence divide El Paso, Texas and Cuidad Juarez, Mexico: a contiguous urban area with 2 million residents. On my recent visit to El Paso, I photographed a portion of The Fence from Downtown El Paso/Juarez northwest to the Mexico-Texas-New Mexico border, then west across the desert towards the border crossing at Santa Teresa. My plan is to continue this project on future visits.

The Border Fence is extremely visually compelling, in its division of the desert and urban landscapes. In places, it can be seen from many miles away as it traverses the desert landscape. I other locations, it is a semi-permeable screen that separates one human community from another. It is both a monumental presence, and a potent symbol of trans-national classism, economic exploitation, and political failure on both sides of the border. It is also a tool of political propaganda that, in its very monumentality, deflects attention from the issues of social, economic, and environmental justice; the issues that create the conditions that justify The Fence.

The Fence is a difficult subject. It challenges me intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. It embodies a split in the collective national psyche: we are a nation of immigrants that is willing to take extraordinary measures to deflect new immigrants from our border –resisting the opportunity to see our neighbors as fellow human beings. In the presence of The Fence (impenetrable fencing, surveillance cameras, 24 hour lighting, armed guards), the feeling of being restricted by prison walls is overwhelming. Faced with The Fence, I question what it is that we are withholding from ourselves, and what it is that we are trying to keep within our own borders.

click here for photo essay – The Fence

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