Where the U.S./Mexico border wall extends into the Pacific Ocean, there is a unique place known on the U.S. side as Friendship Park (also known as Border Field State Park). Historically, families and loved ones who are separated due to various immigration issues have used the Park as a place to reconnect and visit in person. On the Tijuana, Mexico, side of the border wall, an elderly couple patiently waits for their son to arrive on the U.S. side of the park so that they can enjoy his company for a little while despite the secondary border wall. The primary border wall is typically open a few hours each weekend during the summer months to allow family visits like this to take place.
* Please attribute this text and images to Harry L. Simón Salazar, and include a link to this page.
I later found out that the couple was waiting for the arrival of their son, who agreed to meet them from the U.S. side of the border known as "Friendship Park."
On the Mexican side of Parque de la Amistad, there is substantially more life and community activity. This day there is live banda music, while the food vendors are out in force, and there are many families out for a stroll...
Pulling the camera back a bit, the west side of the old Tijuana bullring comes in to frame. It is the round structure the background. The gray squares along the sides are the layers of iron mesh welded on the border wall. Binational visitors can only touch fingers tips.
This iron mesh was installed in the 2010s to impede human contact between the pillars of the border wall. U.S. authorities argued that this was necessary to stop people from passing anything across the border. Visitors insist on passing contraband affection across the border, in the form of "pinky kisses."
The iron mesh was only installed in the special area set aside for weekend access during the summer months. During the week this area is off-limits, and it is generally closed to the public during the winter, largely due to flooding in the area around the park.
From a security standpoint, the iron mesh is simply irrational. This section of the Park was only open to the public on a few weekends each year. When the tiny area between the two massive border walls was open, access was limited to a dozen people at a time. Federal agents closely monitor each person in the area, and the vast array of surveillance technologies deployed throughout this highly militarized zone analyze and record every interaction on the scene. Clearly, the tight iron mesh is one of many examples of the cruel collective punishment that defines so much of the U.S./Mexico border enforcement infrastructure.
On a few weekends during the summer, families that have been divided as a result of immigration policies gather on both sides of the border. They usually chat, often they cry, but invariably they spend special time together, marking this place as both beautiful and tragic.
The gathering area is often a site of emotional family reunions. On the Mexican side it is has also become an important site for public art. On the U.S. side Friendship Park is often frequented by right-wing groups who demand the intensification of border enforcement.
The old Tijuana bullring and lighthouse are in the background, on the Mexican side of the primary border wall.
Pull away from the primary border wall enough and the secondary wall comes in to frame.
This secondary wall was installed in 2008, funded through the Department of Homeland Security as part of a wave of border enforcement policies enacted after the 9-11 terror attacks.
The secondary border wall is much more imposing than the first, and incorporates multiple forms of surveillance technologies in its design.
This section is a massive rolling gate, large enough to provide access to large military equipment.
When I asked the family for permission to take their pictures and share their story, they agreed but with the condition that I not use their names and only share pictures of the parents. Their son did not want his picture made public for fear of getting in trouble with U.S. immigration authorities. Consequently, I am not able to share the images of them interacting through the iron mesh.