Arizona has been called "America's Meth Lab of Democracy". Many hot button issues were tried here first and have since gone national-- on steroids. One of them is nativism. Back in 2013, I did a painting called, Navidad en Arizona - A Christmas Story. It was my response to the dehumanization of immigrants dying in our desert, and how women were accused of coming here just to have "anchor babies" and game our system.
Fear and victim-blaming has been a wildly successful political weapon throughout history, and each generation seems to breed new sets of eager, vulnerable ears. Enter the Trump brand of nativism and by 2019, it's a whole new ballgame. This Christmas, I didn't need to reinvent the wheel-- just add some ammunition and realities we'd rather not think about. I DO want to remember that the Nativity is really about the Human Spirit. Regimes come and go and although the human spirit is ephemeral, it finds a way. Always.
- Linda Magdalena Victoria
This may be the last in my series honoring asylum seekers for a while. It is an intimate capture of the bond between parent and child. The process of painting the mother revealed the ancient classic Maya bone structure of her face. What timeless beauty. I wonder if they are still alive and together. This administration will go down in history for its crimes against humanity.
I must say here that this brutal saga of America's asylum seekers really struck a nerve. When stories started coming out about what "Zero-Tolerance" was doing to families, children, even babies, I absolutely could not stand it.
I was still recovering from surgery but was determined to DO SOMETHING... ANYTHING. When the plumbing collapsed at the old Benedictine Monastery (Tucson's primary migrant shelter), a dozen porta-johns were brought in and volunteers built outdoor showers from pallets, tarps, and PVC pipes. Plumber's daughter that I am, I and another lovely Catholic lady cleaned all of them daily, and continued to do so until the Casa Alitas Program relocated to their new location farther south. The asylum seekers were conscientious, and always offering to help me. The physical duresses they suffered were evident in what I cleaned and it was heart-wrenching. No innocent people, especially children and babies should be treated like this by the United States of America. These refugees, and the countless migrants before them are the ones who have cleaned OUR toilets and worse, in the shadows, for generations for Christ's sake. What is God's name is wrong with us? There were days it was so overwhelming I'd dissolve in my car before I could leave.
When that job went away, there were plenty of volunteers and I felt compelled to do something to lift up the humanity of these remarkable "throw-away" people who had suffered so much and come so far. That need gave birth to this series of artworks.
This may be my favorite image of border-crossers. I wanted to paint this couple because I think they are utterly captivating. It's not a new image and has been hanging around on my computer for years. I pray they are both doing well.
Via the photographer:
"Flor Garcia, 19, of Honduras, holding her one-year-old daughter, Flor Fernandez turned themselves over to CBP after crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico near McAllen, Texas, on Thursday, July 3, 2014."
Photo: Rodolfo Gonzalez/AP
The twelfth soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border (and hopefully my last, at least for a while):
Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle, Age 10
Of El Salvador
Died Sept. 29, 2018 of heart complications,
Darlyn was encountered by Border Patrol on March 1, 2018, a few miles west of Hidalgo, Texas. She complained of chest pain and three days later, was transferred to HHS custody where she remained for about seven months. Darlyn was treated for a congenital heart defect at various hospitals -- including in San Antonio, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona.
HHS spokesperson Mark Weber told CNN Darlyn had surgery complications that left her in a comatose state. She was transported to a nursing facility in Phoenix and later to Children's Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska, where she died on September 29, due to fever and respiratory distress.
Darlyn was traveling to the US to find her mom, who had migrated from El Salvador to work and provide for her three daughters nine years earlier. She hoped to be reunited with her mother in Nebraska. Her mother asked that Darlyn be released to her care. The government refused.
Her body was returned to El Salvador.
Darlyn's story HERE.
The eleventh soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border:
Claudia Patricia Gómez González, Age 20
of San Juan Ostuncalco, Guatemala
Shot by BP agent, May 24, 2018
Rio Bravo, TX
Claudia earned a degree in accounting but had not been able to find a job in her home country of Guatemala, so she traveled 1,500 miles to the United States, hoping to find a job and a better future. Shortly after she set foot in Texas, a Border Patrol agent shot her in the head and killed her.
Gomez-Gonzalez's shooting drew international attention after a bystander posted video of the aftermath on Facebook Live, showing her lying on the ground, bleeding. Authorities changed their initial account of the shooting two days later, adding to the controversy at a time when the White House has cracked down on undocumented immigrants.
The deadly encounter ended the journey Gomez-Gonzalez started nearly three weeks before in an indigenous community in San Juan Ostuncalco, Guatemala.
The details around the death of this young Guatemalan woman remain unresolved, as the majority of migrant deaths are. And like many others, a wrongful death suit against CBP on her behalf was filed, a year after her death.
Claudia's story HERE.
The tenth soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border.
Johana Medina-León, Age 25
of El Salvador
Died June 1, 2019
Medina's journey to the U.S. had taken months. She had waited for a Mexican transitory visa for more than a month in Tapachula, Chiapas, near the Guatemalan border, Diversidad Sin Fronteras stated. The advocacy group said Medina waited nearly three months in Juárez before she was allowed to make her asylum claim to U.S. immigration officials in El Paso.
Johana known to friends as "Joa," died at the Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, after being detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement for seven weeks. Medina had been a certified nurse in El Salvador but sought asylum in the U.S. because she couldn't work as an open trans woman in the nursing profession in her home country. From April 11 to about May 23, her health deteriorated and she tested positive for HIV. She begged for medical attention that never came.
In mid-May, she had passed her "credible fear" interview, which determined she would be persecuted if she returned to El Salvador, but Leon wasn't paroled until she began complaining of chest pains and was taken to Del Sol Medical Center. She passed away four days later.
Johana's story HERE.
The ninth soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border.
Juan de León Gutiérrez, Age 16
Died April 30, 2019
After 2 years of drought, Juan left an area of Guatemala where children are known to be stunted by malnutrition. He hoped to be reunited with his brother in Miami.
Juan was apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol near El Paso after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. He was transferred to a local hospital after a doctor at a government shelter noticed he was sick. He was released and hospitalized again a day later. Juan was 16 years old when he died of a brain infection.
His family had no money--not even to take the bus to Guatemala City where an airplane carrying his body would arrive.
More of Juan's story HERE.
The eighth soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border.
Carlos Gregorio Hernandez-Vasquez, Age 16
Died May 20, 2019,
Carlos died in Border Patrol custody while trying to reunite with family members in the United States. He was also venturing north to support his siblings, one of whom is disabled. 1 of 9 children from an area of extreme poverty in the Guatemalan Highlands, he was a soccer player, a musician who played bass and piano, and a healthy young man, his family told a Guatemalan television station.
Hernandez succumbed to the flu, complicated by pneumonia and sepsis, on or near the toilet of his South Texas Border Patrol cell. His body was returned to Guatemala.
More of Carlos' story HERE.
The seventh soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border.
Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vázquez, Age 2
Died May 14, 2019, Texas
Wilmer's mother brought him to the U.S. to get him medical care for a condition that left him unable to walk. Wilmer and his mother Hilda left home in March to make the journey to the U.S. He became ill in Mexico and crossed into the United States with a high fever and difficulty breathing. Diagnosed with pneumonia and other complications at a children's hospital, Wilmer died about a month later.
Wilmer's story HERE.
The sixth soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border.
Roxsana Hernandez-Rodriguez, Age 33
Died May 30, 2018, New Mexico
Roxsana said she had fled Honduras in part because of the discrimination and violence she faced for being transgender. (She was gang-raped by four MS-13 members and contracted HIV. ) She said in an interview, "Trans people in my neighborhood are killed and chopped into pieces, then dumped inside potato bags."
Hernandez was one of roughly 25 transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals who joined the annual caravan of Central American migrants heading to the US border. She crossed at the San Ysidro Port of Entry near San Diego and was later transferred to a CPB facility in NM for transgender detainees. She succumbed to symptoms of pneumonia, severe dehydration, and complications associated with HIV and later died from cardiac arrest.
Roxsana's story HERE.
A blog of inspirations, interpretations-- things that move and fascinate me in this place where I'm planted.