Walls usually divide communities, but one border city in Mexico is using walls to bring people together. A series of murals are spotlighting the contributions immigrants have made, especially those from China.
CGTN’s Franc Contreras has details.
For years, this neighborhood in the Mexican border city of Mexicali was virtually forgotten, but an innovative art project aims to change that. This is one of 23 newly-painted murals in the Chinesca neighborhood, located just blocks from the U.S.-Mexico border. The artist calls the piece, “Three Emigrants like the Three Kings.” It celebrates the fusion of Asian and African cultures in this part of Mexico.
The renovation project was coordinated by the Tomato Collective. It began with a contest involving more than 200 artists. Just 21 were selected. The majority were from Mexico, and one each from Kenya, France and Italy.
“They researched our culture, traditions and history,” said Carmen Espinosa, director of the Art and Culture Institute of Mexicali. “The artists also talked with community members, so their creations depict our history with pride, and transform these walls into more pleasant spaces.”
Local residents agree. Amado Beltran is originally from Mexicali, but immigrated to California to find better-paying work.
“Before I left, I would see garbage in the streets and this area looked dilapidated,” he said. “These images bring beauty to our city.”
This mural explores the history of Chinese immigrants in Mexicali. Historians say they were among the original founders of this border city.
This mural was painted on the side of Mexicali’s Reforma Theater. It used to be the site of dance productions, plays, and concerts, but like most of the buildings in this neighborhood, it was closed down years ago.
Artist Marco Miranda is the creator of the mural. His works of art have been shown in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and China. Miranda says his mural is a show of respect to this border city’s mix of cultures.
“It is an homage to all that,” Miranda said. “But the most incredible thing is that woman in the image is my wife. I had never painted her before. The old Reforma Theater is the best place for it.”
On this side of the border, the artists and their corporate and government supporters decided that – instead of separation – these walls would be used to create a stronger sense of unity. It’s a message that’s taking hold in this Mexican border community.