Border art collective unveils Rio Grande mural depicting migration history in El Paso, Juárez – Yahoo News

JUÁREZ — Jorge Perez Mendoza stepped down the inclined concrete walls of the Río Bravo, walking across his latest work of art.

The Juárez baker and artist called together friends Monday to show off a 65-foot mural called “Under the Bridge/Bajo el Puente” that he and other volunteers painted in the shadow of the Paso del Norte bridge during the December holidays.

The mural — depicting a farmworker, a woman in maquiladora uniform and a bridge whose structure becomes two hands, gripping one another — is a symbol of the history of the El Paso-Juárez border, Perez Mendoza said.

A mural depicting a 'bracero' farmworker and a maquiladora worker depict the migrant experience in the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez binational community. The mural titled 'Under the Bridge/Bajo el Puente' is the creation of Jorge Perez Mendoza, an artist from Ciudad Juarez.A mural depicting a 'bracero' farmworker and a maquiladora worker depict the migrant experience in the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez binational community. The mural titled 'Under the Bridge/Bajo el Puente' is the creation of Jorge Perez Mendoza, an artist from Ciudad Juarez.

A mural depicting a ‘bracero’ farmworker and a maquiladora worker depict the migrant experience in the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez binational community. The mural titled ‘Under the Bridge/Bajo el Puente’ is the creation of Jorge Perez Mendoza, an artist from Ciudad Juarez.

“We are this unity, between El Paso and Juárez,” he said.

As much as a celebration of cross-border ties, he said, its creation was also a pacifist call to aerosols instead of arms in protest of the contamination of the river that the U.S. and Mexico share. He and other artists belonging to the Rezizte border art collective painted the mural over a week, despite the stomach-turning stench of raw sewage running in the canal.

Since August, El Paso Water has been dumping millions of gallons a day of wastewater into the river known as the Rio Grande in the U.S. and Río Bravo in Mexico, after a wastewater main ruptured. El Paso Water connected the new wastewater pipeline in December and the sewage discharge is supposed to end after a testing phase in January.

More: Sewage discharge in the Rio Grande: One of the biggest border stories of 2021 will continue in 2022

On the north side, the canal walls are colorless and largely inaccessible to the public, blocked by the border wall topped with razor wire. The river’s concrete banks are the domain of Border Patrol agents and migrants willing to risk their lives and luck in the U.S.

A mural depicting a 'bracero' farmworker and a maquiladora worker depict the migrant experience in the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez binational community. The mural titled 'Under the Bridge/Bajo el Puente' is the creation of Jorge Perez Mendoza, an artist from Ciudad Juarez.A mural depicting a 'bracero' farmworker and a maquiladora worker depict the migrant experience in the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez binational community. The mural titled 'Under the Bridge/Bajo el Puente' is the creation of Jorge Perez Mendoza, an artist from Ciudad Juarez.

A mural depicting a ‘bracero’ farmworker and a maquiladora worker depict the migrant experience in the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez binational community. The mural titled ‘Under the Bridge/Bajo el Puente’ is the creation of Jorge Perez Mendoza, an artist from Ciudad Juarez.

But the south slope is covered in artwork, visible to border-crossing pedestrians from atop the Paso del Norte and Stanton Street international bridges. Perez Mendoza’s mural, a mix of aerosol and exterior paint, is now the largest piece in the stretch of canal near the Downtown crossings.

The mural speaks to bygone patterns of migration, Perez Mendoza said: of mexicanos who crossed as Braceros to work the fields in the U.S., and of mexicanas who migrated to Juárez in search of opportunity in the city’s ubiquitous factories.

More: ‘Ballad of a tragedy’: Twin border cities mourn loss and pain through music, art

As he and about a dozen other volunteers painted, he said, they spotted Haitian migrants crossing through the polluted river to turn themselves in to Border Patrol — one of the latest patterns of migration to mark the El Paso-Juárez border.

Friends arrived. Perez Mendoza set out a tray of sugary pan dulce from his Juárez bakery, Panadería Rezizte, and a blue thermos filled with coffee. His 4-year-old daughter pretended the canal wall was a slide.

The piece, he said, is a larger format, in-color rendition of a silkscreen print he made in 2012 in black and white. El Paso’s Hope Border Institute, a migrant aid organization, helped sponsor the mural.

The International Boundary and Water Commission owns the canal, but the artwork is in Mexican territory.

A mural depicting a 'bracero' farmworker and a maquiladora worker depict the migrant experience in the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez binational community. The mural titled 'Under the Bridge/Bajo el Puente' is the creation of Jorge Perez Mendoza, an artist from Ciudad Juarez. At far left is the El Paso del Norte international bridge connecting both communities.A mural depicting a 'bracero' farmworker and a maquiladora worker depict the migrant experience in the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez binational community. The mural titled 'Under the Bridge/Bajo el Puente' is the creation of Jorge Perez Mendoza, an artist from Ciudad Juarez. At far left is the El Paso del Norte international bridge connecting both communities.

A mural depicting a ‘bracero’ farmworker and a maquiladora worker depict the migrant experience in the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez binational community. The mural titled ‘Under the Bridge/Bajo el Puente’ is the creation of Jorge Perez Mendoza, an artist from Ciudad Juarez. At far left is the El Paso del Norte international bridge connecting both communities.

Through 2021, “we had been working here at the Santa Fe bridge, and we would see the contrasts,” said Omar Ríos, Hope Border’s humanitarian support coordinator. He described the “contrasts” as the hope of migrants crossing and the despair of those expelled under Title 42.

Over the summer, Ríos began talking to Perez Mendoza about a mural project, and “Under the Bridge/Bajo el Puente” was the result.

Jorge Castillo, Mérida Mendoza and their 8-year-old son, Leonardo, rode up on bikes to see the mural. They’re founding members, they said, of a border cycling club keen on reclaiming public spaces and fomenting bike culture in Juárez.

“As a father, I always want to educate my son about what the border is, what these muralists are beautifying,” Castillo said.

A white van belonging to Mexico’s immigration agency, the Instituto Nacional de Migración, cruised by the mural, followed by a National Guard truck with one soldier in the bed holding on to a mounted rifle. The friends kept talking, the basket of sweet bread undisturbed, their bicycles leaning against the bridge.

Lauren Villagran can be reached at lvillagran@elpasotimes.com.

This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Border art collective unveils Rio Grande mural in Downtown Juarez

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