Political Equator 3: Reimagining the border

Confronting issues of the environment, surveillance, and immigration, this unique conference oscillated between communities on both sides of the border.

Watch Teddy Cruz's video of the Border-Drain-Crossing here.

Since 2006, the Political Equator Meetings have taken the form of nomadic urban actions and dialogues involving the public and communities, oscillating across diverse sites and stations between San Diego and Tijuana. These conversations-on-the-move take place outside institutions and inside the actual sites of conflict, enabling the audience to both witness and participate while producing new models of urban pedagogy towards citizen action. The meetings seek to amplify the cultural imagination of marginal communities, and the impact of their generative socio-economic and political knowledge in the rethinking existing exclusionary urban policy. The Political Equator unfolds around a series of public works, performances and walks traversing these conflicting territories and serving as an evidentiary platform to re-contextualize debates and conversations about local and global conflicts across environmental, socio-economic and political domains.

The third edition of the Political Equator, "Conversations on Co-Existence: Border Neighborhoods as Sites of Production," took place on June 3–4 of 2011. This time, the audience oscillated between two marginal neighborhoods on both sides of the San Diego-Tijuana border fence adjacent to a sensitive environmental zone layered with militarization.
Conference organizer Teddy Cruz at Political Equator 3: Border-Drain-Crossing, June 4. Photo by Cynthia Hooper.
Conference organizer Teddy Cruz at Political Equator 3: Border-Drain-Crossing, June 4. Photo by Cynthia Hooper.
The most emblematic gesture during the trajectory of PE3 was an unprecedented public border crossing through an existing drain, recently built by Homeland Security, enabling the audience to slip uninterrupted from San Diego into Tijuana—from the Tijuana River Estuary, an environmental protected zone at the edge of the border wall on the US side, into a slum, home to approximately 85,000 people, that crashes against the fence on the Mexico side. This drain is a byproduct from the construction of a new highway of surveillance that runs parallel to the border wall, along a 150 feet wide linear corridor that Home Land security claimed as its own jurisdiction after 9-11. Along this corridor, Border Patrol has been systematically building a series of dirt-dams that truncate the many canyons that are part of the trans-border watershed system.
From Political Equator 3: Border-Drain-Crossing, June 4. Photo by Cynthia Hooper.
From Political Equator 3: Border-Drain-Crossing, June 4. Photo by Cynthia Hooper.
The public action was embedded inside this site of exception and within official institutional protocols, seeking to designate the specific generic drain, beneath one of those dirt berms, as a temporary but official port of entry. This act of crossing resulted from a long process of discussions and negotiations with both Homeland Security and Mexican Immigration, that camouflaged this happening as an artistic performance while implicitly orchestrating the visualization of the collision between environmental zone, surveillance infrastructure and informal settlement.
The need to re-imagine the border through the logic of natural and social systems is the foremost challenge for the future of the San Diego-Tijuana region and of many other geographies of conflict across the globe.
Political Equator 3: Border-Drain-Crossing oscillated between two marginal neighborhoods on both sides of the San Diego-Tijuana border fence adjacent to a sensitive environmental zone layered with militarization. Photo by Cynthia Hooper.
Political Equator 3: Border-Drain-Crossing oscillated between two marginal neighborhoods on both sides of the San Diego-Tijuana border fence adjacent to a sensitive environmental zone layered with militarization. Photo by Cynthia Hooper.
As the audience moved southbound against the natural flow of wastewater coming from the slum, it reached the Mexican Immigration officers who had set an improvised tent on the South side of the drain inside Mexican territory, immediately adjacent to the flowing murky water. The strange juxtaposition of pollution seeping into the environmental zone, the stamping of passports inside this liminal zone, and the passage from pristine Estuary to Slum under a culvert amplified the contradictions between natural security, environmentalism and the construction of citizenship.
From Political Equator 3: Border-Drain-Crossing, June 4. Photo by Cynthia Hooper.
From Political Equator 3: Border-Drain-Crossing, June 4. Photo by Cynthia Hooper.
A community is always in dialogue with its immediate environment; this is what defines its organic nature. But when this relationship is disrupted, and its productive capacity splintered, by the very way in which power is instituted, it is necessary to find a means of restoring its cogency. Renewed investment in surveillance infrastructure along the US-Mexico border has further marginalized the communities adjacent to the border fence. The need to re-imagine the border through the logic of natural and social systems is the foremost challenge for the future of the San Diego-Tijuana region and of many other geographies of conflict across the globe.
Teddy Cruz, Professor of Public Culture and Urbanism
Visual Arts department, University of California, San Diego
From Political Equator 3: Border-Drain-Crossing, June 4. Photo by Cynthia Hooper.
From Political Equator 3: Border-Drain-Crossing, June 4. Photo by Cynthia Hooper.
The audience reaches the Mexican Immigration officers who had set an improvised tent on the South side of the drain inside Mexican territory. From Political Equator 3: Border-Drain-Crossing, June 4. Photo by Cynthia Hooper.
The audience reaches the Mexican Immigration officers who had set an improvised tent on the South side of the drain inside Mexican territory. From Political Equator 3: Border-Drain-Crossing, June 4. Photo by Cynthia Hooper.
From Political Equator 3: Border-Drain-Crossing, June 4. Photo by Cynthia Hooper.
From Political Equator 3: Border-Drain-Crossing, June 4. Photo by Cynthia Hooper.

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