Arts & Entertainment

Metal bits used by migrants to scale US border fence transformed into tribute

By Martin Coronado

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Jul 8 (EFE).- In his studio in this border metropolis, artist Jorge Alejandro Perez Mendoza, known as Yorch, has turned pieces of metal used by migrants to scale the fence separating the United States from Mexico into a sculpture honoring them.

“Migrant Foot,” 2 m (6.6 ft) in length, is meant to generate empathy toward the tens of thousands of migrants who have passed through Ciudad Juarez, which lies just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

“The piece has a symbolic significance because I made it with rods that are used for construction and which the migrants utilize as steps,” Yorch told EFE.

Abara, a migrant advocacy organization, supplied Yorch with rods collected by the Border Patrol on the US side of the barrier and will put the sculpture on display at its El Paso headquarters.

Over the 12 months that ended on Sept. 30, 2022, US immigration authorities intercepted more than 2.76 million undocumented migrants on the border with Mexico.

At one point this year, according to Mexican officials, as many as 35,000 migrants – mainly from Central America and Venezuela – were in Juarez waiting to cross the border.

Yorch sees the rods making up Migrant Foot as imbued with death, desperation, and sorrow, but also with success.

“They are brought from El Paso, that means that the person who used them crossed to the other side. In the best case, successful migration is achieved and those pieces contain that,” he said.

“Of course they contain many other stories that we don’t learn,” Yorch added, such as the experiences of migrants “who die in the desert.”

“They arrive fleeing from violence. Perhaps this city has a lot of that, which for me gives importance to this specific work,” the artist said.

For several years in the first decade of this century, conflict among drug cartels and between the gangs and Mexico’s security forces made Juarez the world’s most dangerous city.

And crime has not spared Migrant Foot, which was stolen from Yorch’s studio, though he recovered the piece three days later from a scrap metal dealer.

Yorch told EFE his next Migrant Foot will be seven times larger and that is already looking for a suitable spot in Ciudad Juarez to display it. EFE mc/dr

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