Border Door Art Exhibit Returns to Campus with New Focus on Children Detainment and Family Separation

May 13, 2019

Border Door Art Exhibit Returns to Campus with New Focus on Children Detainment and Family Separation

Pictured here are doors created by Alexandria Forrester, Nguyen Uyen Trang, and Jacob Montoya.

Summer 2019 brings the return of Border Doors: Niños en jaulas (Kids in Cages) to The University of New Mexico. Created by students at Sandia Prep, this art exhibit features full-size doors covered in multimedia collages, all intended to raise awareness and educate the public about how US government policies continue to sanction human rights violations against migrants coming to the United States.

The Border Doors will be on display through the month of June at locations across campus. Doors will be hosted by the Chicana and Chicano Studies, Department of History, Department of Spanish & Portuguese, El Centro de la Raza, and the Latin American & Iberian Institute. For reference, see the exhibit poster.

The exhibit is part of a larger project that began in 2014, when the first doors were created by high school students enrolled in “Border Studies and Special Topics," an advanced Spanish-language course at Sandia Preparatory School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, taught by Claudio Pérez, a faculty member and Chair of the Languages Department. In the course, Pérez encourages students to think deeply about issues related to immigration, from immigrants' lived experiences to the complex historical relationship between the United States, Mexico, and Central America. Students studied this topic in their classrooms in Albuquerque and through an in-person trip to the US-Mexico border when they visited the Border Immersion Program at Iglesia Luterana Cristo Rey ln El Paso, Texas. Throughout the semester, Pérez relied on Sonia Nazario's book, Enrique's Journey, to present a compelling and informative account of immigrants' experiences traveling through Central America to the United States. At the end of the term, Pérez invited the students to express their thoughts, responses, and realizations by using the doors as canvases for mixed-media collages.

Each year since has seen new doors added to the collection, with students studying different dimensions of the same topic. In 2019, Pérez encouraged his students to examine the theme of Niños en jaulas (Kids in Cages) for the latest wave of doors. As he explains, the project “explores the psychological and emotional trauma kids go through by separating them from their families and keeping them in steel cages. This idea was inspired by the 'zero-tolerance' policy calling for the prosecution of all immigrants entering the United States illegally. The implementation of this nefarious policy has separated thousands of parents from their young children entering the United States. The majority of the families apprehended at the border are coming from Central America. Some are fleeing a culture of violence and poverty and seeking new opportunities in the United States. Separating the families has caused emotional and psychological harm to these children. Colleen Kraft, MD, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics said, ‘We know that family separation causes irreparable harm to children,[t]his type of highly stressful experience can disrupt the building of children’s brain architecture [and] can lead to lifelong health consequences.’”

Niños en jaulas (Kids in Cages) is the second set of doors to be on display at UNM. In 2017, the LAII hosted another set titled Border Doors: Unmasking the Zones of Meaning, which was on view courtesy of partners across campus, including Chicana and Chicano Studies, Anthropology, Spanish and Portuguese, History, El Centro de la Raza, and Zimmerman Library. Later that same year, the exhibit traveled and was hosted by Cascadia College in Bothell, Washington. Just recently,  Border Doors: Unmasking the Zones of Meaning was accepted to be displayed at the 2019 National Humanities Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii.