El Parque de la Amistad - Friendship Park BY Susan Garza and GABRIEL FERREYRA

Figure 1. Photo of Monument #258 in Friendship Park, by S. Garza, 2018.

Access, a major theme for the Open Words discussion, can be seen and interpreted through the visual information we find in a space. In this article we share our interpretation of Friendship Park, an area located on the border between San Diego and Tijuana. Friendship Park is a powerful symbol of the US-Mexico border--one little positive thing that represents the human side of the complex and convoluted southern US border. In January 2018, we visited Friendship Park to conduct research related to drug trafficking along the border. It quickly became obvious to us that there is so much more to the story than just the issue of drug trafficking. With the “Border Wall” (BW) in the news every day as we write this article, people are becoming more aware of the realities in the BW area, but there is still much that people don't understand, especially with limited views spread by politicians and driven by the media. Efforts to keep people from crossing the border have recently taken on a "sinister tone," according to border scholar and resident Jeremy Slack (2019), referencing the addition of razor wire to sections of the border in cities as a response to the fear created by the "caravan crisis." And with the recent killings of targeted Mexicans in the border space of El Paso, understanding how powerful border rhetoric is and how it can be used in negative ways that greatly affect access is of paramount importance in our current discussions. We discuss border rhetoric borrowing from Hernández's (2018) focus on "violence and coloniality" in order to "recognize and reconceptualize 'border problems' that serve as proxies for social processes of power and inequality rooted in historical colonial and racial divides."

First, we frame our argument using visuals to help the reader conceptualize what access looks like in this space, followed by historical background on Friendship Park. Then we look specifically at how access has become more and more restricted on the US side, using information gathered through interviews with stakeholders in the region--including US Border Patrol (BP) agents, immigration lawyers, activists, scientists, and others who live and work in the area. In our final section, we share how we have used our field research in the classroom to help students better understand the issues of access at the border. This discussion of what access looks like in this border space and the accompanying visuals illustrate the complicated nature of the Mexico/US border space. How people see the BW is visually displayed in the actions that result from their beliefs, the material effects. These different views make up what Sandowski-Smith (2008) calls “border fiction," wherein "a particular place is as much affected by human projection and representation as people and communities are affected by the landscape" (2-3). Through our observations and interviews, we gathered information in order to counter these fictions and actions based on these fictions that result in limiting access, which in turn negatively affects the lives of many who live in and/or travel through this space.

Some see the need for limited or no access at the BW. Hernández (2018) described what he calls "the American imagination’s creation story," which portrays the fences set up for security as "white picket fences, safeguarding self-deluding, sheltered minds from the punctum sight of the violent reality that created, shaped, and continues to reinforce the existence of this nation” (p. 101). Figure 2. Photo of long view of border fence in Friendship Park, by S. Garza, 2018.
Others view the BW through a humanitarian focus and see the inhumane effects of militarizing this area and cutting off the access that has so long been a part of the BW story. Figure 3. Photo of mural on border fence, by S. Garza, 2018.

How people see the BW is visually displayed in the actions that result from their beliefs, the material effects. These different views make up what Sandowski-Smith (2008) called “border fiction," wherein "a particular place is as much affected by human projection and representation as people and communities are affected by the landscape" (pp. 2-3). Through our observations and interviews, we gathered information that can help to illuminate the complicated nature of the BW area and how border rhetoric and representations of the area have affected access.

Seeing Friendship Park

In the Pacific Ocean, at the border between Mexico and the US, the fence known as the "Border Wall" begins... Figure 4. Photo of border wall leading into Pacific Ocean, S. Garza, 2018.
Just up the beach from where the fence starts is an area known as Friendship Park/El Parque de Amistad. In this area people gather at designated times, based on agreements with the Border Patrol, in order to meet, to see friends and loved ones through the fence, and to touch fingertips through the thick metal meshing that has been placed over the fence in this area by the US for security purposes. Figure 5. Photo of sign at entrance to Friendship Park, by S. Garza, 2018.

History of Friendship Park

In order to better understand the current situation in Friendship Park, in this section we provide historical context so that readers understand that access in this space has not always been limited. And we provide context for each step in the process of building the border wall, and the beliefs regarding access that led to how and why the wall was constructed. Since a monument was placed here in the 19th century as a border marker, the area now known as Friendship Park has been a place of gathering to provide easy access for those who live in the BW area. In 1971, First Lady Pat Nixon dedicated the park, which centers around historic boundary monument Number 1, originally placed not as a security measure, as a way to limit access, but to designate the new boundary resulting from the end of the Mexican-War in 1848.

Here are some photos of the Monument taken when we visited the Mexico side of Friendship Park. Figure 6. Photo of three sides of Monument #258, by S. Garza, 2018. 
In 1971 only a barbed-wire fence existed to separate Mexico and the US, and Mrs. Nixon had security cut the fence so people in both countries could gather in the spirit of friendship. Figure 7. Photo of Pat Nixon greeting people at the fence in Friendship Park, courtesy of Friends of Friendship Park https://www.friendshippark.org/history.

The war between Mexico and the U.S. ended in 1848 with the signature of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. To delineate the new frontier between the two countries, both nations agreed to create a Joint Boundary Commission that would inspect the entire border and then create reference points to identify the new official dividing line separating both countries (Alcaraz, 2010). Three years later the Commission built a column a few feet inland from the Pacific Ocean in what is now the San Diego-Tijuana border to establish a visible boundary acknowledged as the new border. This first border landmark, which officially became known as monument #1, was made of marble, and since its inception became a tourist destination for different reasons: The area where it was located had a nice view of the ocean, the beach was adjacent, and the fascination of being the first dividing line between the countries became a magnet. Borders not only separate, they also join in order to provide more access, and this space somehow became both a symbol of the arbitrariness of the new boundary, and the connections between the two countries (Zinn, 2003).

In the following years, thousands of people from both countries came to visit the monument and the place became a tourist attraction. Visitors began to take small pieces off the marble monument as souvenirs and eventually the monument was in ruins. Decades later, the monument had to be rebuilt after another Boundary Commission surveyed the entire border, and the obelisk was repaired in 1894. This time, however, the Commission numbered the border markers starting in Texas, so instead of being the first post, this monument was deemed the last: now known as Monument #258 (Friends of Friendship Park, 2018). In the early 20th century, the U.S. Navy bought the land adjacent to monument #258 to build a Naval Air station, so access to this area from the American side was restricted, but not from the Mexico side. In the 1960s, the Naval base was deactivated and the land was bought by California to be turned into a state park, followed by the 1971 dedication by Mrs. Nixon.

As politics and immigration narratives became a concern for the US in the 70s and 80s, the border park evolved into an open public and bi-national border location where citizens from both countries socialized. This social feature of the space was not new since from its inception the area developed as a space to mix and socialize, but it became more evident during these decades as more people associated the park with friendship, family reunion, and fraternization. It was during these years that the park was named Friendship Park. In 1994 the federal government set up Operation Gatekeeper that changed the dynamics of the park by building a tall metal fence along the border to create a permanent physical barrier in the area. After the terrorist attacks on September 11th, concerns for national security brought new measures that led to the creation a literal border wall wherein parallel fences were erected to provide an extra layer of protection against threats, according to the government narrative. The new border wall limited access even more and turned the park into a militarized-like area (Bender, 2015; Chávez, 2016).

Photo from December 2011 that shows the construction of the new wall that wraps around the northern edge of the historic border monument. Figure 8. Photo of border fence being constructed in 2011, courtesy of Friends of Friendship Park https://www.facebook.com/FofPark/photos/a.415782758437754/2290533874295957/?type=3&theater.
Aerial photo of Friendship Park before fence was covered with thick metal mesh and secondary fence had not been built. Figure 9. Aerial photo of Friendship Park, courtesy of Friends of Friendship Park https://www.facebook.com/FofPark/photos/a.415782758437754/1832946750054674/?type=3&theater.

A Binational Space?

Creating a more robust understanding of the park provides a more robust understanding of the border and issues related to access. The Friends of Friendship Park group has been circulating a petition calling for Friendship Park to become a Bi-national park. Information can be found on their website at https://www.friendshippark.org/proposal. They point to the history of the park being established as a place where people from both countries could gather "in the spirit of friendship." From a visual perspective, the group describes how the circular concrete plaza that was poured before the fence existed, is now cut in half by the border fence. And they present the argument that models for Bi-national parks exist, such as the Peace Arch Park located on the US/Canada border.

The Mexico Side

This collage illustrates the visual nature of Friendship Park on the Mexico side. The bright colors in the murals painted on the fence, happy sculptures, and a beautiful garden serve as a backdrop for the regular activity that occurs in the park. The presence of the CBP is visualized as one looks through the fence. Figure 10. Photo collage of Mexico side of Friendship Park, by S. Garza 2018.

On the Mexico side, access has always been different, and much more free and open in a happy, vibrant atmosphere as illustrated by this information found on the Friendship Park website. Figure 11. Photo of information from website about visiting Friendship Park on the Mexico side, courtesy of Friends of Friendship Park https://www.friendshippark.org/visitmx.

Access to the area along the border fence on the Mexico side is not limited. There is no demarcation between the area along the fence and the town. It all flows together. People are free to visit the area at any time, to freely move along the fence area, and to hold celebrations and events. This starkly contrasts to the limitations found on the US side along the border wall where access is modeled after that found in prisons. The video shown below titled "Friendship Park" (https://vimeo.com/300559952) and created by Casey Kim, Justin Loon and Landon Poon, students at Harvard-Westlake School, provides a glimpse of how active and different Friendship Park is on the Mexico side. As one of the people they interviewed states, the wall on the Mexico side is just "a part of life," but people on the US side don't give it much thought.

Figure 12. Video of Mexico side of Friendship Park, by C. Kim, J. Park and L. Poon, 2018.

The US Side

The prison-like atmosphere of the US side along the border fence illustrates the degree to which access is limited. The CBP has strict rules for when the area is even open, and strict rules for how many people can be in the area at any one time, and how people are to behave in the area. This collage shows how the visual presence on the US side contrasts with the Mexico side, with dark muted colors, sterile landscape, rules and security vehicles. The presence of those who work to bring people together, however, is represented in the image of Pastor John Fanestil, humanitarian activist, leading prayer at the fence. These images represent what the area looked like during our visit in January 2018. Figure 13. Photo collage of Friendship Park on the US side, S. Garza, 2018.

Figure 14. Photo collage side by side comparison of the visual presentation of the MEXICO and US sides of the border, by S. Garza, 2018.
In Friendship Park, this thick metal mesh has been been added to the fence on the US side as a security measure so to prevent the exchange of contraband. Walls are made up of many things, and as expressed to us by those we interviewed, even though the actual structure is a fence, the addition of this thick mesh certainly blocks interaction, just as a wall does. Figure 15. Close-up photo of mesh added to border fence on the US side, by S. Garza, 2018.
This more recent photo posted February 24, 2019 on the Friends of Friendship Park Facebook page, shows the addition of many rows of razor wire added since our visit. Figure 16. Photo of the border fence with mesh added, courtesy of Friends of Friendship Park https://www.facebook.com/FofPark/photos/a.334971909852173/2638373809511960/?type=3&theater.

Razor wire has not been added to the section of the border fence where the families are allowed to meet and touch fingers through the wire mesh. However, its presence right next to where the families meet, takes the message of "keep out," to an even more threatening level. Although access to the park was limited and controlled when we visited, and the park was typically open on Saturdays and Sundays, since that time in relation to the escalation of migrant activity and increased rhetoric to cut off access to immigrants almost entirely, the park has been open much less often. Friendship Park has been closed by BP off and on due to “unrest in the location” (according to some local news), such as the arrival of the so-called Caravan of immigrants from Central America to the border (Fox 5, 2018). It is truly sad how this visual augments the message of "KEEP OUT!"

Changing Access at Friendship Park

Activists have always worked with BP to allow those who cannot cross the border--such as undocumented migrants and those who have no visa--to meet at the fence in Friendship Park, usually on a Saturday or Sunday for a few hours. But the belief that items related to drug trafficking could be passed through the fence resulted in the addition of the thick metal meshing, which in turn limited the access and the fun activities that contributed to naming the area Friendship Park.

Even with the erection of the steel fence under the Bush administration in 1994, people managed to make access at Friendship Park work. One of the stakeholders we spoke with described events such as Fandago Fronteriso where people danced facing each other through the fence on platforms set up along both sides of the fence, as well as participating in yoga and language classes. Urrea (2018) describes in a recent article different events that have occurred along the border fence, including a concert in January 2018 led by Steven Schick, an orchestra conductor and percussionist. A group of Mexican musicians played on the Tijuana side, and a group of American citizens played on the US side. In an interview also reported on by Urrea, Schick compared the border wall to the Berlin Wall, from the time he spent in Germany. He compared the US side to the Soviet side of the Berlin Wall with its guards, cameras, and dogs to make sure no contact of any kind occurred. Schick compared the “colorful, celebratory space” of the Mexico side to the western side of the Berlin wall, where much like the Mexico side, the community lives and functions right up to the wall--houses right next to the wall, parks with plants and flowers, and murals sending messages to those on the other side."

During our visit to Friendship Park, two local ministers, one on each side of the fence, served communion in English and Spanish. Figure 17. Photo of communion being served at the border fence, by S. Garza, 2018.

Also, we talked with a family whose parents had driven 10 hours to see them. And one of the leaders of a local activist group shared King Cake with the children who were visiting that day.

But one event really stood out for us in terms of what access in Friendship Park looks like...

No Hugging Allowed

Off to the side of the area where the fence is covered with mesh, the area designated for the visitations to occur, there is a garden that was created and is maintained by one of the local activists. In this area the fence does not have the mesh covering so people on both sides can see each other better, and actually reach through and gain more contact than just a pinky touch. On the US side, however, the area is roped off as shown here. Figure 18. Photo of man and woman in garden area on US side, by S. Garza, 2018.

It became obvious that some of the visitors would slowly work their way in that direction, and one young woman on the US side in particular, was observed talking to her elderly mother who was on the Mexico side. As it came time to leave, the young woman moved over to the fence and reached through to hug her mother. The BP agents yelled for her to stop...ran over to her...escorted her away from the area...asked for her ID...and then she stood and waited for up to an hour while BP interacted with her.

The BP agent talked on the phone while the woman who was detained waited. She can be seen on the left behind the signs. Figure 19. Photo of CBP agent and woman being questioned for reaching through the border fence, by S. Garza, 2018.
The mother of the young woman stood and waited and watched while her daughter was with the BP agents. The picture shows where the mesh ends and there is enough opening between the fence slats to reach through for a hug. Figure 20. Photo of mother looking through border fence, by S. Garza, 2018.

We never learned what happened to the woman, but the stakeholders who were there with us believed she probably would not be charged.

Differing Ideas of Access as Seen by the Stakeholders

Another method for examining the issue of access in this border space is to hear from those who live and work in the border space. We sought to interview people from a broad spectrum of organizations, including enforcement, academia, legal, humanitarian and activitist. Through our questioning we hoped to gain a deeper understanding of how and why access in the border space has been effected.

The stakeholders we interviewed have different goals and those can clash, and be difficult to reconcile, such as the importance of national security and the importance of the human side as seen through more individual situations. During our interview with Enrique Morones, founder and director of the activist group Border Angels, we learned he was dealing with a recent situation in which the door at the park was opened by BP to allow those who had been chosen to physically meet at the door.

This is an example of activists working with BP to provide access. Until recently, once or twice a year, a lottery was held and up to a dozen people were selected who would be allowed to meet their friend/loved one at this open door. Activists coordinated with BP as to the time, the winners would gather, and BP would open the door and give each winner an allotted amount of time (15 minutes or so) to meet at the gate opening. Figure 21. Photo of gate/door in the border wall, by S. Garza, 2018.

Unknown to the Border Angels personnel who assist with coordinating the events, in November 2017 a woman on the Mexico side showed up in a wedding dress and when she met her fiance from the US side at the door, a priest proceeded to perform a surprise wedding ceremony! (Morrissey, 2019). The clash came when all the subsequent media hype uncovered that the groom had a criminal past, including drug-related violations. This incident is seen by stakeholders such as the BP as an example of the negative impacts of access in the park, while human rights organizations such as Border Angels see the negative impact on the people whose access became more limited as a result of this incident.

The information we gathered from the stakeholders we interviewed presents more detail of how very different ideas regarding access at the BW can be.

Customs and Border Patrol Agents

CBP Officer oversees visitors during one of the days Friendship Park was open during our visit. Figure 22. Photo CBP agent and visitors at border fence on the US side, by S. Garza, 2018.

The location of Friendship Park along the Mexico-US border and by the Pacific Ocean has shaped its history, development, significance, and importance since its origins. The park is inextricably attached to the circumstances and development of the border, and whatever political, social, economic, or ecological changes may affect the border, inevitably impact the park. The US side of Friendship Park is located in an isolated area, several miles away from the closest road and urban development, and is part of a larger park called Border Field State Park located in San Diego County (California Department of Parks and Recreation, 2019).

United States Customs and Border Patrol is the federal law enforcement agency in charge of protecting US borders and its overall primary mission is “to detect and prevent the illegal entry of aliens into the United States” (US Customs and Border Protection, 2019). With such a mandate and due to its proximity to the border, Friendship Park is under strict control of the BP. The BP has full access to Friendship Park and patrols the area and adjacent areas 24/7; thus the agency decides who, when, and how anyone interested can gain access to the park. This strict control, beginning in 1994 with Operation Gatekeeper during the Clinton administration, dramatically increased the number of patrol agents, built fences, and introduced technological tools to stop the flow of illegal crossings. After that, entry to Friendship Park began to be more restricted and controlled but was still accessible to everyone. It was not until after September 11th that the border became a primary concern for national security and more control and barriers (physical, legal, and technological) were established. Friendship Park was greatly affected by this quasi-militarization of the border with the addition of several parallel fences and severe restrictions to access it (Friends of Friendship Park).

Such situations have made access to Friendship Park by most on the US side--immigrants, activists, beachgoers, and visitors--a complicated and difficult effort because the park is closed during the weekdays, and when it is open depends on the current political climate. Physical access to the park is even a challenge. To access the park by car it is necessary to drive on an unpaved road for about 1.8 miles from the main road that crosses Border Field State Park; however, BP often sets up a vehicle barrier at the entrance of Border Field State Park due to flooding, so cars cannot enter. Thus anyone going to Friendship Park has to walk the 3.6 miles roundtrip from the main paved road to the location of the mesh-covered fence meeting area. This distance can affect access especially for those with limited mobility, such as the elderly and others with physical restrictions.

Even though the area is known as Friendship Park, BP does not recognize the space as a park or a public area where individuals can walk or loiter at will because of its proximity to the border. Access to Friendship Park from the perspective of the BP is a foreign concept because an agent's main concern is national security and keeping the border sealed from undocumented immigrants, drugs, terrorists, and any other threats. Thus it is prohibited for people to pass anything through the fence including messages, money, candy, food, or even have a handshake. Thus the need to limit access with thick mesh that greatly limits physical contact, and the presence of razor wire that sends the message that access is not an option. Everything and everyone is a potential danger and all agents react aggressively when a violation of this rule occurs, as we witnessed with the incident of the hug between the mother and daughter.

With this approach comes a dehumanization process that is justified from the BP point of view based on the mission of homeland security: The border must be hermetic at all costs. Therefore, the less people have access to be wandering around the park area, the more secure the border will be, according to this narrative. So even when the park is open to the public only a limited number of individuals can access Friendship Park at once. When the area is being used, BP agents tighten control, can ask for IDs, and can refuse entry if they deem it necessary, without providing a legal explanation.

Immigration Lawyer

We interviewed an immigration lawyer who has assisted activist group efforts by participating in free legal service clinics at Friendship Park for those who need help with immigrant status and other related issues. She shared that often someone who is a victim of human trafficking does not have the funds to pay for representation in order to go through the process to obtain legal documentation. The lawyer's perspective is shaped by what she has seen through her clients' experiences and how they have been treated.

I'm for people who are abiding by the law and just happen to be here without documents. I mean I know it's a misdemeanor to enter the country without documents, but my point is a lot of hardworking families just want to be here to provide for their family, and the children who were born here, and they're hardworking, pay taxes -- taxes they're never going to get anything for what they've paid. To me it's very disheartening to see all these families divided.

In the legal system the attitudes of the BP agents she has seen can very much affect the issue of access for immigrants, attitudes that are not the fault of the immigrant: disrespectful attitudes on the part of those who work in the criminal justice system, with immigrants being viewed as second-class citizens who have no rights. She has no way to prove that BP agents somehow may have violated the Fourth Amendment rights of her clients or did not follow due process, but the information she receives from her clients validates that these events happen.

The lawyer also shared her experiences working with DACA recipients. While media may present the DACA process as being easy and resulting in a free ride for those who have received that status, the lawyer has worked with this group as well and shared how access for this group is not a 100% guarantee, given the economic, political and cultural roadblocks that are part of their lives as well. Access for DACA recipients is not an easy road, but a complicated situation requiring resources these young people often lack.


Another very interesting way to think about access in a space such as the border is from the geographical perspective, which includes research on remote sensing of movement and the effects on wildlife and nature that may result from border wall building and related activities. Our visit with an academician who studies the border in terms of piecing together the movement of people across the landscape provided a very different perspective in terms of accessing the border space. The kind of tactical study these researchers engage in provides objective data that can be used to make decisions regarding what structures should be built and how such structures should be maintained and monitored. His group has conducted research, including aerial surveying with drones, on such issues as how long a person trying to traverse the region on foot might survive, how long it can take for emergency responders to reach those in danger in these areas, and how wall building in these areas may negatively affect animal activities and vegetation in the area. This work is shaped through scientific research protocols, so the results show other effects in terms of access in this area. The information has been used to support the BP in obtaining funding for projects related to security, projects that focus on limiting access but also take into account how both people and animals may be in danger. The information these researchers provide is also helpful to the BP in their attempts to keep immigrants safe, and to provide support for immigrants who may have been adversely affected as a result of experiences within the BW area.

Friends of Friendship Park

The Friends of Friendship Park are members of the community working to create a future in which the public will have unrestricted access to this historic meeting place. The Friends dedicate themselves to the work of advocacy on behalf of the many families who depend on the Park to be able to see their families and friends, and because they see in Friendship Park the possibility of a better future for the peoples of both Mexico and the United States. (Friendship Park website)

Friends of Friendship Park is a "non-partisan, grassroots coalition of individuals and organizations advocating for increased public access to the historic meeting place on the US-Mexico border" (Friendship Park website). The group was founded and is led by the Friends of Friendship Park, many who have documented and been involved with issues and activities related to the border wall as far back as 30 years. Access for them is all about providing family connections. Families who had been coming to the park for generations could no longer meet as militarization of the region began, security increased and the logistics for coordinating meetings became more problematic. At the start of the changes to the border fence, the group worked with BP on the goal of "making friends as part of security," but eventually that concept "was just scratched.” In attempts to still allow families to meet in the park but also ensure national security, the first fence built under the Bush administration had a long rolling gate that when opened created a large space for the park to serve as a connecting point during the types of events, such as dances and concerts mentioned earlier in this article. Since then, more fences, mesh placed over fences, and now razor wire from top to bottom of fences where access was already cut off for all practical purposes, have turned Friendship Park into a no-man's land where none of the traditional activities can occur. When asked about the changes in the wall, members of the group “still think it was a horrible thing because instead of six people a year dying crossing the border the number went up to around 400" as access in areas like Friendship Park and areas close to border stations were cut off, so those trying to cross moved to areas where harsh terrain makes the attempt to cross almost impossible. This is part of what they say "caused the humanitarian crisis. “ So instead of a place where access means enjoying activities such as fandago fronteriso, where people dance facing each other through the fence, this area has “become a tragic tradition” in what is now an isolated “militarized zone.”

When asked whether the general public is aware of the realities at the border, one stakeholder shared this view:

Most Americans of course are entirely ignorant of the border. They don't know anything about the border really. They don't understand it; literally they know nothing. So they're ignorant at a very fundamental level. About the history of the border, the people of the border, the culture of the border, the economies of the border... So for me, you know the border is a place of encounter, and a place of communion. A place of friendship a place of culture, of life, of food, of color, and all these are things that you can see when you're on the Mexican side. We were always fighting for more access and the security forces were always making it difficult. It's a very complicated relationship.

As we had begun our inquiry looking at drug smuggling and its connection with immigrants, when asked the activists and immigration lawyer stated they did not believe migrants are drug smugglers, as is often the visual presented depending on political slant of the media outlet. One stakeholder put it this way:

I've been in Friendship Park hundreds and hundreds of times, I've never seen anything violent. I've never experienced a single instance of violence. I've never seen a single instance of contraband being passed back and forth.

These words from activists speak to their first-hand experiences over decades of being involved with BP, with migrants, and with issues related to the border. Their experiences show that immigrants do not fit the image often found in media reports of being criminals, and thus, the actions taken to limit access for immigrants are based on border fictions. These activitists view the increased limiting of access that has been escalating over the past few years as a humanitarian crisis, as they see first-hand how the immigrants are negatively impacted. And the fact that Friendship Park is now virtually closed makes the fight for access even harder.

The current restrictions on public access to Friendship Park make a mockery of the notion of international friendship which lay at the heart of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, and to which the surrounding Border Field State Park was dedicated by then-First Lady Pat Nixon in 1971. (Friends of Friendship Park website)

Teaching About Access and the Border Wall

One of the authors, during the summer of 2018 after our visit in January of that year, taught a graduate course titled "Seeing / Re-Seeing the Wall: Visual and Media Analysis of the Southern US Border." This interdisciplinary course focused on studying and researching the Southern US Border, especially the space along the border wall. Through visuals, interviews, reports, articles, media reports, and technical documents related to the BW area, students looked at the wall from a visual perspective and analyzed the visual images and general media information as representative of the limited understanding the general public has of the border and the fence. Students conducted primary research in order to find out from people with experience at the border what they know, what their experiences related to the wall have been, what images helped to create that knowledge, and how these elements create a reality and different perspectives for these viewers. Using some of the same questions from our research, students interviewed people with first-hand knowledge/experience living near the border/crossing the border/having relatives or friends who are separated from others because of the border. One of the texts for the course we read and discussed is Enrique Morones' book titled Border Angels. We also were lucky to have online interviews with Marones, as well as Dan Watman, a member of the Friends of Friendship Park who created and maintains the gardens in Friendship Park.

The results of major projects produced by the students can be found here https://falcon.tamucc.edu/wiki/SGarza/PartFive-2018. The research conducted by the students found similar issues to those we discovered in our research: the border situation is complex; there are many misconceptions about the border area; and media images are limited in presenting the reality of the border and thus create misconceptions. Another very important issue surfaced that may often be overlooked when thinking about access issues--the reality that it can be an uncomfortable and scary topic to discuss. One of the students interviewed a classmate, Lino, who is a Mexican immigrant. Lino shared how he "learned to avoid talking about his Mexican heritage." This was in part due to limited perceptions of Mexico he found in the US, perceptions shaped and driven by media coverage that portrayed Mexico as "desolate" in contrast to the greener pastures of the US. This limited Lino's access to his heritage in terms of who he felt he could be and become once he came to the US.

Being able to share with students the primary research from this project really enriched the course experience. The research the students gathered add to the context on which we can build an understanding of access at the border wall. Providing students with a better understanding of the BW area enriches their knowledge of important issues such as access, and can encourage them to become involved in activist causes that are important to them.

Leaving the Border Wall for Now...

Friendship Park is a powerful visual through which to view the human side of the complex and convoluted US/Mexico Border Wall. Our views of the border as shaped by our beliefs create the image we have of the BW area. Economic forces driven by public needs and wants, and the current political climate also shape what is happening in the BW area. Access to Friendship Park has become more and more complex in our current environment given the insistence by many that we need to build more wall, and the labeling of undocumented immigrants as criminals, even if evidence and data show that is not the case. As part of the executive branch, the BP has responded to the policies set up in Washington DC, and Friendship Park has become a collateral casualty of political decisions that may be far removed from the realities of the Southern border.

We end where we began, where the fence begins, but from the Mexico side. Which as you can see, invites us to come to the parque space, to walk into the water with no fear of being told to get out, to walk freely without law enforcement oversight. El Parque de la Amistad... Figure 23. Photo of border fence leading into the Pacific Ocean on the Mexico side, by S. Garza, 2018.


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Research conducted under IRB HSRP #22-17 from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

We would like to thank Dr. Mark Hartlaub, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, for providing funding to support this project.

Open Words: Access and English Studies Vol. 12, no. 1 (2019): 147-148 | DOI: 10.37514/OPW-J.2019.12.1.08 | ISSN: 2690-3911 (Print) 2690-392X (Online) |https://wac.colostate.edu/openwords/

Open Words: Access and English Studies is an open-access, peer-review scholarly journal, published on the WAC Clearinghouse and supported by Colorado State University and Georgia Southern University. Articles are published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs). ISSN: 2690-3911 (Print) 2690-392X (Online). Copyright © 1997-2019 The WAC Clearinghouse and/or the site’s authors, developers, and contributors. Some material is used with permission.



All photos unless otherwise noted were taken by the authors.