Migrant kids tell of their fears, hopes via “Welcome Quilts”

Tucson, Arizona, May 30 (EFE).- Quilts with drawings made by migrant children who have crossed the border seeking asylum in the United States depict the fear, uncertainty and the dangers – but also the hopes – they have experienced in their short lives while fleeing their home countries.

The quilts are part of the “Welcome Quilts: Migration, Art and Hope” exhibition on display at the Arizona History Museum in Tucson.

Some of the designs show landscapes including mountains, rivers and lakes, depicting the places the children left behind in Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico. The youngest of the kids, some just 2 years old, could only scribble in color, but even though they are sometimes very simple and basic, each drawing delivers a powerful message.

With their drawings, migrant children are telling about the trauma they’ve experienced in leaving their home villages, sometimes as a result of local violence but at other times due to poverty, Gale Hall, the project’s director, told EFE.

In 2019, a wave of migrant families – most of them from Central American countries – began crossing the southern US border in unprecedented numbers. Families crossing through the Arizona desert were sent to the Casa Alitas shelter in Tucson, which was then located inside a monastery.

There, the children had a large art room where they began drawing pictures to pass the time while they waited to resume their journeys.

At first, Hall and other volunteers sewed small individual blankets to welcome the children and give them something they could take on the buses, trucks or airplanes they’d have to use to reach their final destinations. But Hall came up with the idea of giving pieces of white cloth to the children in the shelter so they could express themselves through drawings.

The age of the migrant kids who created the drawings ranges from 2 to 15.

“We wanted their voices to be heard, especially in the face of negative messages – sometimes based on hate and fear – from some groups towards immigrants,” she said.

The volunteers working with Hall undertook the task of sewing the cloth drawings into quilts, each one including 12 different drawings and telling a single story. One of them is titled “Colors of Hope” and shows different roads and places that the migrant kids had to traverse before arriving at the US-Mexico border.

The colors represent the colors of nature and one can only imagine what the artist was thinking about when he or she drew a rainbow, while another little girl drew a cake since she celebrated her birthday while she was in the shelter, Hall said.

Other drawings show the toughest part of migrating: including the figure of what seems to be a man shooting another person while a group of people flees, and in the distance can be seen what appears to be the border wall being guarded by a police patrol car.

A second part of the exhibit shows another project titled “Migration through the eyes of children” and depicting the response of US kids to the odyssey experienced by migrants. The drawings made by the migrant children were collected and displayed in the town of Patagonia, Arizona, where local children were asked to draw what they would take with them or would miss most if they had to leave their homes, and what they would say to migrant kids.

The response was extraordinary, Hall said, with many of the US kids in Patagonia immediately beginning to identify with the migrant children’s drawings.

The drawings by the Patagonia kids include words of welcome for the migrants, with one of them saying “Welcome to the country of pizza.”

The drawings were used to make another series of quilts that are on display across from those made by the migrant children, so that visitors can view the connections between the two groups of children regardless of where they come from.

The migration issue is very important, Hall said, adding that many people – upon seeing the drawings – note that the families that are arriving on the border are not at all like how they’re described in the anti-immigration rhetoric one hears on some media outlets.

Meanwhile, Vanessa Fajardo, the supervisor for the exhibit and a representative for the Arizona History Museum, told EFE that it’s very important for the museum to host this exhibit because of the relevance of the immigration issue.

She said that people are seeing that the issue will not be resolved quickly and the exhibition shows a different aspect of the matter through the eyes of the most innocent players, the children.

A third part of the exhibit consists of two boards with colored cards on which visitors can write messages of support for migrant children and describe their own experienced and their opinions on the immigration issue, including what can be done as a community to help the migrants who are already here.

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