A Visit to the Real Border Wall of Southern California

A Visit to the Real Border Wall of Southern California

We're living in a politically divided world. Left and right. Red and blue. And somehow, at the heart of it all, is a wall. A wall that, if you believe the rhetoric, must be built to hold at bay the supposed hordes of "bad hombres" constantly clamoring to storm our borders and steal our jobs.

Living as I do in Southern California, I decided to focus my camera on the border wall, the existing border wall, not the imaginary one that Trump has been planning, or the prototypes that have been built in the area. I visited lonely stretches of the wall, in the deserts and hills outside of Calexico and Jacumba Hot Springs, where only snakes and the occasional aviator glasses–clad Border Patrol agent kept guard.

I witnessed lively stretches in Otay-Mesa, where the Mexican side had built right up next to it, with brightly colored homes standing against the wall. And in Tecate, I visited a section where artists had built an enormous installation mocking it.

Finally, I ended my wall journey at Friendship Park near Tijuana, a place conceived and built by President Nixon, where the border wall extends a hundred yards out into the Pacific Ocean. For four hours a day, on Saturdays and Sundays only, under the scrutiny of armed U.S. border agents, American citizens may shuffle up to the fence line and speak to friends and loved ones through the heavy metal grating.

At the end of a long day of driving, hiking and arguing with Border Patrol about being "too close" to our side of the wall, I can say one thing for sure: The wall is there. What was not there, from what I saw, were thousands of "evil" people trying desperately to cross over it from Mexico. (I also didn't see millions of American jobs streaming over that wall from our side to Mexico either ... but maybe that's tougher to capture on film.) Instead, I saw a wall, just a wall, dividing them from us, and I think it's safe to say that the message has been clearly received on both sides.


We're living in a politically divided world. Left and right. Red and blue. And somehow, at the heart of it all, is a wall. A wall that, if you believe the rhetoric, must be built to hold at bay the supposed hordes of "bad hombres" constantly clamoring to storm our borders and steal our jobs.

Living as I do in Southern California, I decided to focus my camera on the border wall, the existing border wall, not the imaginary one that Trump has been planning, or the prototypes that have been built in the area. I visited lonely stretches of the wall, in the deserts and hills outside of Calexico and Jacumba Hot Springs, where only snakes and the occasional aviator glasses–clad Border Patrol agent kept guard.

I witnessed lively stretches in Otay-Mesa, where the Mexican side had built right up next to it, with brightly colored homes standing against the wall. And in Tecate, I visited a section where artists had built an enormous installation mocking it.

Finally, I ended my wall journey at Friendship Park near Tijuana, a place conceived and built by President Nixon, where the border wall extends a hundred yards out into the Pacific Ocean. For four hours a day, on Saturdays and Sundays only, under the scrutiny of armed U.S. border agents, American citizens may shuffle up to the fence line and speak to friends and loved ones through the heavy metal grating.

At the end of a long day of driving, hiking and arguing with Border Patrol about being "too close" to our side of the wall, I can say one thing for sure: The wall is there. What was not there, from what I saw, were thousands of "evil" people trying desperately to cross over it from Mexico. (I also didn't see millions of American jobs streaming over that wall from our side to Mexico either ... but maybe that's tougher to capture on film.) Instead, I saw a wall, just a wall, dividing them from us, and I think it's safe to say that the message has been clearly received on both sides.
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