Charlene Santiago

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Demolition begins on border mural painted by children in Mexico

PHOENIX — For the past two months, residents of Naco, Mexico, have seen construction vehicles along the border. On Tuesday, workers began bringing down part of the fence that features a one-mile mural that Mexican children have painted the past six years.

“When I first heard about it (the demolition) I wasn’t ready to let go,” said Gretchen Baer, who helped organize the border mural. “Now that it’s actually happening it doesn’t hurt as much because Mariposa (where the kids meet now) is my new project. I already separated myself from the project when they said it was coming down. Mariposa is a new, vibrant project that the Naco people support.”

Baer said she doesn’t agree with President Donald Trump’s proposed wall.

“We don’t need the wall; we have a whole town,” Baer said. “We’re going to paint everything in Naco.”

On Wednesday Baer said she predicts it will take some time to bring down the entire mural as workers remove two to three panels per day. According to Baer, the panels are being replaced with a temporary fence before setting the permanent barrier. Baer calls it a “prison-like” fencing.

For six years children in Naco, Mexico, painted a mural on a border fence. On Tuesday demolition began on the fence - and the mural. (Photo by Charlene Santiago/Cronkite News)

For six years children in Naco, Mexico, painted a mural on a border fence. On Tuesday demolition began on the fence – and the mural. (Photo by Charlene Santiago/Cronkite News)

Three panels will be saved from the mural. One will be donated to Bisbee, and two will be given to Naco. One panel will be donated to Studio Mariposa, which sponsors the kids’ art group, Border Bedazzlers. Studio Mariposa is in Mexico, across from the Naco Port of Entry.

Children have been attending weekly art workshops or “painting parties” in Studio Mariposa. The space was donated by Humanitarian Border Solutions. Volunteers worked on a mural outside the studio and decorated the inside as well.

Gretchen Baer, Border Bedazzlers founder, and kids pose for a picture at border mural farewell party in January. (Photo by Charlene Santiago/Cronkite News)

Gretchen Baer, Border Bedazzlers founder, and kids pose for a picture at border mural farewell party in January. (Photo by Charlene Santiago/Cronkite News)

In January, not knowing when the mural would come down, the Border Bedazzlers hosted a small farewell party. It included cupcakes, and those in attendance snapped selfies at the fence.

The mural featured various brightly colored images and messages including “Love transcends hate,” and “Somos un mundo” — We are one world. Another section featured the face of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, a 16-year-old resident of Nogales, Mexico, who was shot and killed when a U.S. Border Patrol agent fired into Mexico in 2012.

Construction in Naco, Mexico, began  in January, yards from the border fence painting. (Photo by Charlene Santiago/Cronkite News)

Construction in Naco, Mexico, began in January, yards from the border fence painting. (Photo by Charlene Santiago/Cronkite News)

The replacement structure is not part of the wall Trump has promised to build along the U.S.-Mexico border. Instead, it will be an upgrade planned four years ago. Construction on a 7.5-mile portion of a fence between Naco, Arizona, and Naco, Mexico, started in January. The new structure will be an 18-foot bollard fence similar to the one dividing Douglas and Agua Prieta, Mexico.

The new fence will allow border patrol agents to see into Mexico and allow for “safer and more effective border security,” according to a media release from U.S. Customs Border Protection.

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