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A Visit to the Real Border Wall of Southern California


This billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installationThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installation, driving their cars over unpaved, rough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott FritzThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installationThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installation, driving their cars over unpaved, rough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott FritzThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installationThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installation, driving their cars over unpaved, rough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott Fritzrough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott FritzThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installation, driving their cars over unpaved, rough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott FritzThere are huge stretches like this one outside of TecateThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installation, driving their cars over unpaved, rough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott FritzThere are huge stretches like this one outside of TecateThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installation, driving their cars over unpaved, rough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott Fritzthe wall cuts across a massive hill dividing miles of empty land between the United States and Mexico.; Credit: Scott FritzThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installation, driving their cars over unpaved, rough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott FritzOutside of Jacumba Hot SpringsThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installation, driving their cars over unpaved, rough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott FritzOutside of Jacumba Hot SpringsThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installation, driving their cars over unpaved, rough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott Fritzthere are hikers who like to walk the graded path that runs along the wall. The border guards patrolling in SUVs spend most of their days watching anyone who goes near the wall and yelling at people who they think may be "too close."; Credit: Scott FritzThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installation, driving their cars over unpaved, rough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott FritzMeanwhileThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installation, driving their cars over unpaved, rough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott Fritza girl plays soccer under the billboard and wonders what all the fuss is about.; Credit: Scott FritzThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installation, driving their cars over unpaved, rough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott FritzTecateThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installation, driving their cars over unpaved, rough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott Fritzthere's a buffer around the border. MeanwhileThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installation, driving their cars over unpaved, rough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott Fritzpeople use the wall as a back fence to their property.; Credit: Scott FritzThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installation, driving their cars over unpaved, rough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott FritzOutside of Jacumba Hot SpringsThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installation, driving their cars over unpaved, rough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott Fritzsurprisingly devoid of graffitiThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installation, driving their cars over unpaved, rough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott Fritzsurprisingly devoid of graffitiThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installation, driving their cars over unpaved, rough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott Fritzsurprisingly devoid of graffitiThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installation, driving their cars over unpaved, rough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott Fritzabout 80 miles east of San Diego: In the mid-’90sThis billboard installed by street artist JR on the Mexican side of the border outside of Tecate went up the week Trump announced he was going to dismantle DACA. A steady stream of tourists from the U.S. side made their way to see the installation, driving their cars over unpaved, rough dirt roads and following GPS coordinates given by the artist to find it.; Credit: Scott Fritz

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.