“The term ‘political activist’ is problematic,” Mexican artist Minerva Cuevas proclaims in a video for Art 21, premiering on The Huffington Post on Friday. “I think the challenge is to stop using the references to activism, because everyone has this agency to react to daily life and therefore generate political action.”
In 2010, Cuevas created “Crossing of the Rio Bravo,” a project that took place near the U.S.-Mexico border. For the work, she operated on a simple premise: “If there is a border, there could be a bridge.” She used rocks found in the riverbed to create a passageway that allowed her to cross from the U.S. to Mexico and back. She marked the rocks with a kind of limestone paint, creating a visibly dotted line across the Rio Bravo.
Walking from south to north, she described, is “the most political act you could do.”
Near this portion of the Rio Bravo, there were no signs or fences delineating one country from another. Cuevas could spot border patrols in the area, but never once saw an act of violence or conflict like the ones you might see on the evening news.
Several years after the imagination of “Crossing,” President Donald Trump announced his plans to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a project that has been estimated to cost around $22 billion. The executive order tied to the initiative describes the wall as a measure “to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism.”
“You learn about the border through media,” Cuevas explains in the Art 21 video, a part of the organization’s “Exclusive” series, available on YouTube. “Violence is a very strong element in this perception of what’s the border.”
“The wall wouldn’t stop immigration,” she adds. “The wall only reinforces this original [idea] that’s connecting the border with violence. In fact, it would empower human trafficking.”
Cuevas is one of many artists who’ve engaged in artworks along the U.S.-Mexico border, offering a different kind of lens through which citizens of both countries can view this vital region. Watch “Bridging Borders” above to hear more about the artist’s vision for political action of the future.