Good People for the Resistance is a twice-monthly interview with people who give me hope. Today, meet Mexican artist Enrique Chiu, who is painting an enormous “Mural of Brotherhood” on the Mexican side of The Wall.
How’s he do it? With lots of volunteers, from all over the world. Interested in traveling to Tijuana with a group of Good News readers to help him? Send us an email. Read on to learn more ...
Q: You’ve gotten quite well-known for painting Trump’s “big, beautiful wall” in Mexico. When did you start this project? Why?
It started on the day of the American elections. I’d been looking for a big wall, where I could paint a mural. When Trump was elected, I saw the opportunity right in front of me. At the beginning, I thought I’d be painting for only a few days. I told my friends what I was doing and I posted it on Facebook.
That first day, my neighbors came to paint. Then suddenly there were 50 people, then 100. I was amazed, and quite moved. We painted every weekend for a year, and the word continued to spread. What kept me going was that slowly but surely it started to change people’s perspective of “the wall.” It became a place where people took pictures, played, saw hope, and brotherhood. It became a place where people from different nations, people who did not speak the same language, came together to work on the mural project.
Q: What progress have you made on your wall so far?
Well, we had painted over 3km in Tijuana, Tecate, and Mexicali, but then the U.S. took down that wall and put up a new one that was even higher. So we started again. So far we’ve done 2km.
But it’s more than just the painting. What I’m really moved by is how many people from all over the world have given me their support by coming to help, to do interviews, and to photograph the movement that is taking place at the border. Groups like This is About Humanity, an organization that provides humanitarian aid to people on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border, are spreading the word and painting. I am so grateful.
Q: You’ve had almost 4,000 volunteers help you. How do you manage all of those people? Are they all artists?
There have been 4,000 volunteers over the last two years. If 4,000 people showed up in one day I think I’d go a little crazy – yet be really excited. I have two people who help me coordinate volunteers; some volunteers even bring food and water for others. The key is that we help each other. They are not all artists — some are photographers, activists, dancers, actresses, singers, just people from all over who are interested in this project.
Q: How has Trump affected the day-to-day life of people in Tijuana?
Each day we see more homeless people on the streets, migrant centers are full, and there is just not enough help for people. People tell a lot of stories about being separated from their families. Yet, in a way, this has brought our people closer to each other than ever before. Tijuana is recognized for being a city of migrants, a city that welcomes people, where there is opportunity, and hope.
Q: Within your community, do people know that most Americans did not vote for Trump, and that many of us feel embarrassed and ashamed for our country?
I think most people in the community know that. But we also have made mistakes choosing our own government. We know that not all of Americans voted for Trump. There are always groups from the U.S. trying to help migrants on this side of the wall, and we are grateful for this. There are also American tourists that come to Tijuana for our great Mexican food!
Q: Do you work on your wall full-time, or do you have another job?
I have a lot of jobs. I cannot stay still; there is always something to do. I am director of two foundations: the National Foundation of Independent Artists, and International Foundation, which is a non-profit that works with children from both sides of the border. I’ve been working with kids for over 10 years; we have an art school, we give free workshops, and we recover and rehabilitate public spaces. I also manage two art galleries in Tijuana.
Q: You lived in the U.S. at one time. How old were you? Why did you return to Tijuana?
I lived in the U.S. twice, the first time when I was 8 years old. My mom told us we were going to Disney, which I was really excited about. We stayed for two years. Then we moved back to Guadalajara with my grandparents. After I graduated from high school, when I was 17, I wanted to try something new, so I went to Santa Ana, California to study. I wound up opening a gallery and stayed for 10 years. I returned to Mexico because I was offered an art exhibition in Tijuana, then a government job with the Institute of Art and Culture.
Q: Would you paint the American side of the wall?
That was my initial idea – to paint the two sides simultaneously, and pass paint brushes between the wall’s slats. But the U.S. government prohibited it.
Q: If you were invited to visit Trump in the White House, would you go?
That’s a tough question. I certainly wouldn’t go just to visit him. I’d only go to negotiate a deal that would benefit migrants in many ways. I’d go to open his eyes to the pain he is causing innocent people.
Q: Would you shake Trump’s hand?
Only if we had just sealed a deal for him to open Tijuana’s Friendship Park every weekend. This is a park along the border for separated families and friends to meet. I want him to open a Friendship Park in every state along the Mexican border, so that families can hug each other and talk to each other without a fence stopping them from it. I also want him to order I.C.E. to stop separating families and being so cruel. So, if he did all of these things then yes, I would shake his hand.
Q: Do you have a favorite candidate for the next American president?
Bernie Sanders, Bill Weld or someone who will honor his promise to support migrants, someone who does not divide us or praise hate, someone who seeks good for the U.S. and everyone who lives there, even if they are not “American,” someone who supports the “dreamers” and DACA. I think that would be a good choice for president.
Q: How can Good News readers volunteer to paint?
We post painting days on our Facebook page, “Mural de la Hermandad,” and on Instagram “@muraldelahermandad.” If you have a group that wants to come, send us a message and we will organize a day to paint with you.