Building Community: Contra Viento Y Marea (Against All Odds)

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Ernesto winds down from the day at Contra Viento y Marea Comedor. He arrived in Tijuana on November 21st, 2018 with the migrant caravan that left Honduras on October 21st. He had always wanted to excel in his education, but the current state of his country did not have that opportunity for him. In his words, “Falta de oportunidades de estudio, porque soy un joven que busca oportunidades de superarme.” At first, he was seeking asylum in the United States; as time went on and more people were being denied and deported back to Central America, he decided to not pursue further for fear of returning to his homeland.
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Contra Viento y Marea, a community space in Tijuana, emerged from a series of repressive government acts against the migrant/asylum seeking community. The full story can be read on their website “contravientomareatj.com”. Today, it serves as a community diner, shelter, and community center. There is a garden on the roof, alongside a few tents where volunteers, migrants and collective-members reside.
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Tents pitched on the roof. The growing number of asylum seekers, migrants, and volunteers has turned the roof space into an area for residency as well as gardening.
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The start of a garden on the roof of Contra Viento y Marea. Volunteers from Jardin Lemniscata and the Contra Viento y Marea collective have started this gardening effort with the goal of “integrating the individual with the ecosystem to foment sustainable practices that prevent the unconscious, unmeasured growth of urbanization.”
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A hallway Inside Contra Viento y Marea. Artwork by @ashlukadraws on Instagram.
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A volunteer at Contra Viento Y Marea sweeps the floor after dinner is served at the communal kitchen/shelter space.
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Flowers grow among the concertina wire next to the border wall at Friendship Park.
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On the beaches at Playas De Tijuana, the border wall sits, corroded. “No obstacle can stop us from reaching our dreams. We are Mexicans. We are unstoppable.”
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A tattered art piece, that used to be an American flag, stays tied to the border wall. Reinforcement that was installed on the US side in March, can be seen behind the bottom half of the flag.

Frontlines: Migrant Caravan

Migrants from the Benito Juarez Sports Complex shelter in Zona Norte, Tijuana organized a march in order to demand to be processed for asylum, Sunday Nov. 25. 

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The march started after leaders of the caravan held a prayer using megaphones. Mexican federal police blocked the entrance to Puente El Chaparral, a bridge that pedestrians and automobiles use to arrive at the border-crossing area. As the migrants approached the police line, a caravan organizer told the group to stop walking. 

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“If we will be crossing, we will be crossing in peace,” he said.

The marchers stopped and gave thanks to the Mexican state for sheltering them, sang the Mexican national anthem, gave a solidarity cheer with those who participated in the International Day of Action march in San Diego, all while waiting for the police to let through.

After about an hour of waiting, caravan organizers decided to go around the blockade, down a street that runs parallel to the inaccessible bridge. Police immediately began pushing people down with their shields. The migrants gained momentum as the police continued to use force against womxn, childrxn, and journalists. 

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The migrants crossed the Tijuana riverbed, helping each other keep steady so as to not fall into the water. They arrived at the car port of entry where Mexican military troops watched from above.

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The group I was with made their way to the edge of the large parkway that makes up the border entry point. Four migrants scaled the wall that divided Mexico and USA. US forces on the opposite side pointed a high caliber rifle at the young men. The migrant group then sought another area of the border fence.

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The migrant group reached another section of the border crossing point, opened the fence and continued through. I was stopped by riot police and not let through. One officer hit me repeatedly with his shield.

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During my walk back the way I had came, I witnessed an officer, who was giving orders earlier, continuously beat and harass a migrant. A Mexican checkpoint official alerted the officer that he had a camera on him and the officer ceased to hit the migrant. 

Mexican federal police then sealed the border car port leading into the US. Soon, US Department of Homeland Security Special Response Team forces and US military appeared and began to install razor wire, completely sealing the border and announcing that any unauthorized person will be met with lethal force.

I made my way to meet the group of migrants who were being shot with tear gas and rubber bullets through the border fence by US forces. Mexican federal police rallied them up and forced them back into Tijuana city limits. The final image was the last one I could capture before the tear gas effect became too much for my senses.

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