Border Doors and the Unmasking of the Zones of Meaning

Border Doors and the
Unmasking of the
Zones of Meaning
Exhibition Dates: March 20 - April 20, 2016
Reception: April 7, 2016 | 2 - 4 pm | Zimmerman Library
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Exhibit Overview
“Border Doors and the Unmasking of the Zones of Meaning” is a dispersed exhibit
consisting of eighteen full-size doors decorated with mixed-media collages. On view in
selective venues at The University of New Mexico and in the community at the National
Hispanic Cultural Center, its striking displays call attention to the traumatic experiences
of Central American immigrants and the dehumanizing media discourse that portrays
The doors were created by high school students enrolled in The Neglect of Women
Workers and the New Era of Hope, an advanced Spanish-language course at Sandia Prep
taught by Claudio Pérez, a faculty member within the school’s Modern Language
Department. In the course, Pérez encourages students to think deeply about issues
related to immigration, from immigrants’ lived experiences to the complex historical
relationship between the United States, Mexico, and Central America. Students
studied this topic in their classrooms in Albuquerque and through an in-person trip to
the U.S-Mexico border when they visited the Border Immersion Program at Iglesia
Luterana Cristo Rey in El Paso, Texas. Throughout the semester, Pérez relied on Nazario’s
Enrique’s Journey to present a compelling and informative account of immigrants’
experiences traveling through Central America to the United States. At the end of the
term, Pérez invited the students to express their thoughts, responses, and realizations by
using the doors as canvases for mixed-media collages.
The exhibit is presented on behalf of the Lobo Reading Experience as a collaboration
between Sandia Preparatory School, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, and
multiple UNM entities, including Chicana and Chicano Studies, Department of
Anthropology, Department of History, Department of Spanish & Portuguese, El Centro de
la Raza, Latin American & Iberian Institute (LAII), Maxwell Museum of Anthropology
Hibben Center, Office of Student Academic Success, Southwest Hispanic Research
Institute, and University Libraries. Each sponsor hosts one or more of the doors, with the
majority on display at Zimmerman Library. The dispersed display encourages
cross-campus collaboration and exploration.
The Lobo Reading Experience organized this exhibit as part of a year-long comprehensive
program of curricular and co-curricular activities relating to the 2015-16 selection,
Enrique’s Journey. Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sonia Nazario, this
non-fiction account documents the traumatic and harrowing experience of a young
Honduran boy, Enrique, as he makes the journey alone from Honduras to the United
States to reunite with his mother eleven years after she left her home country in pursuit
of a better life for her family.
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Exhibit Site Map
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Educator ’s Perspective
“Border Doors and the Unmasking of the Zones of Meaning” is an art project I
initiated two years ago with my students. This artistic piece commemorates the
innumerable acts of brutality against immigrants making the journey to the United
States. One of the acts that inspired me was the massacre of the 72 migrants in
Tamaulipas, Mexico in 2010. These immigrants were on a precarious voyage to the
“Land of their Dreams”. During their journey they had to endure routes operated
by murderers, rapists, and corrupt officials. This route has been regarded as “one
of the most perilous migration routes in the world.” Every year thousands of migrants from Central America and Mexico make this dangerous trip. The project was
also inspired by Cristo Rey’s week-long Border Immersion Program that I had been
exploring with my students over the past three years, and by the book Enrique’s
Journey, by Sonia Nazario. I want my students to put a human face on the ongoing
debate over immigration reform and engage them in meaningful discussion.
-Claudio Pérez, Educator, Sandia Preparatory School
About Sandia Preparatory School
Founded in 1966, Sandia Preparatory School is an independent co-ed college
preparatory school for students in grades 6 through 12. Their rigorous, wellrounded program is designed to educate the whole person. The school’s vision is
to develop essential skills and intellectual potential through challenging
academics; to cultivate a socially responsible environment of innovation and
creativity; and to engage as a vibrant community for the betterment of society
-- all objectives which are aptly illustrated through the Spring 2016 “Border Doors
and the Unmasking of the Zones of Meaning” exhibit.
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Monty Bruckman + Evan Sanchez
Location: Zimmerman Library
Natalie Benson
Location: Zimmerman Library
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Our artwork was influenced by Sonia
Nazario’s work, Enrique’s Journey, which
recounts the true story of Enrique, an
unaccompanied minor migrating to the
United States from Honduras. During his
travels through Central America and
Mexico, he encounters gangs such as the
Mara Salvatrucha. Many gang members are
young and struggle with poverty like
Enrique. In Cary Fukunaga’s film, Sin
Nombre, a closer look at the culture of the
Mara Salvatrucha gave us further
inspiration for the theme of our door. Most
gang members join to escape poverty or
simply because they are forced to. Our
artwork takes into consideration the
hollowness of a person’s soul when they are
in a gang. On the lower half of the piece we
painted phrases in Spanish that translate
to, without purpose, without life, without
name, and so on. These call to the deeper
meaning of why a person would want to join
a murderous band of people. Because of the
poverty and unhappiness in México, people
feel that they lack meaning in their life and
they feel that if they join a gang they will
have a future, a purpose, and a life worth
living.We created this piece to call
attention to the lives of gang members, and
why somebody would join a gang. The door
was donated to our high school, we used it
as a canvas to convey the symbol of a door
between America and México. We used
acrylic paint and permanent markers to
create the images.
Brooklyn Armijo + Hannah Wiggins
Location: Zimmerman Library
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While reading the book Enrique’s Journey,
by Sonia Nazario, I was introduced to the
extreme amount of violence that is part
of the lives for Latin American citizens.
Looking into it more, I started to learn
about the Mara Salvatrucha gangs. The
Mara Salvatrucha is one of the deadliest
gangs in Latin America. I decided that the
theme of my door would be violence. I
used red to portray the blood of innocent
civilians that is split by the hands of the
Mara Salvatrucha.
My painting starts out with an “M” and
an “S”. These initials stand for Mara
Salvatrucha. The “M” and the “S” and
followed by a caution tape that is a
quotation from Enrique. The quotation
translates to, ‘they really messed me up
badly’. Enrique is talking about some of
the gang members he came in contact
with as he was trying to cross the border.
Then under the quotation is blood that
comes from the violence of the gangs and
the outline of a dead body with 13 bullet
The violence of the gangs like Mara
Salvatrucha really struck me. The actions
these gangs take are very brutal and
vulgar. This door demonstrates the
brutality and vulgarity of gangs like the
Mara Salvatrucha.
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Los olvidados / The Forgotten Ones
Mohammed Assed
Location: El Centro de la Raza
La realidad de la tierra/
The Reality of the Land
Justin Escobedo
Location: Latin American
& Iberian Institute
My door is without beauty. It is an attempt
to recreate the settings that 27 million who
live in extreme poverty for generations. The
lives of the many families who live in
extreme poverty live without beauty,
without embellishments, or commodities. To
live in poverty in Latin America, or in the rest
of the world, is to live an ugly life. The door
is meant to be an uninteresting piece. It
is not supposed to look beautiful. It is a
representation of the reality that millions
Poverty does not lead to a positive life. The
lack of food, shelter, basic items forever
leaves a mark on anyone who has lived that
way. The 27 holes in the door do not just
equate to one hole for every million people
in extreme poverty in Latin America. They
are to ruin the doors functionality. After
painting the brick inlay of the door, I took a
hammer to it. While cathartic, it created an
example of the permanent damage done by
extreme poverty both physically and
emotionally. Children who grow up with
extreme poverty are not well fed, nor do
they have access to advanced schooling. As
well they are set at a huge disadvantage for
succeeding past their peers.
I hope this door acts as a reminder to
everyone who views it that poverty is one of
the ugliest happenings in our global society.
There is very little beauty or happiness. The
lives of those who live in extreme poverty
live with holes in their lives.
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Fahad Hussain + Nathan Odergard
Location: Chicana and Chicano Studies/
Southwest Hispanic Research Institute
Camilo Melendez + Simon Tyroler
Location: Zimmerman Library
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La travesía del amor / The Journey of Love
Juhee Patel + Alexandria Ragsdale
Location: Maxwell Museum of
Anthropology Hibben Center
Throughout the book, many themes come up. These
included fear, love, violence, and religion. We chose
love as our center point for our door because it is a
topic that people can easily connect to and is also
related to immigration and the journey Enrique
took to the US. In picking love for our project, we
decided on centering our door on the connections
and disconnections that occur when two loved ones
are separated by the border, the connections being
through means of communication such as letters
and telephone lines and the disconnections being
emotional strains as well as physical and emotional
To start our door, we painted it pink. Reds and pinks
are often associated with love and warm feelings
with sparkles representing the glamour and
romanticism often given to love. The dark purple
line across the middle of the door is the border, a
divider between two countries and between two
people. The two broken hearts represent two loved
ones, separated by the border. Representing
connections through telephone lines, letters, and
any other means of communication, we used black
yarn. Each piece of yarn is connected from both
sides of the border to show these connections, with
the largest piece of yarn connecting two halves of
the heart. Another part of this project was to
include two emoticons to be placed on the door.
With hundreds to choose from, we decided on one
that is blowing a kiss and one that is waving goodbye. The kiss very simply represents love while the
waving goodbye symbolizes separation.
To wrap up our project and our understanding of
the book, our class went on a trip to El Paso and the
U.S.-Mexico border. While there, our class was given
the opportunity to speak with a church, as well as
several immigrants, about their journeys and the
struggles that made them leave their country and
the struggles they faced both along the way and
while here in the US. All of the people we talked
to left someone they loved behind in order to take
on an opportunity for a better life. This trip, for us,
further emphasized the theme of our door and our
understanding of the struggles thousands of people
face while migrating. We hope that our door was
able to showcase our theme as well as give a small
look into the distance that is often put between
lovers and families when they are separated by two
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Our door symbolized the theme of
immigration related death along the border
of Mexico. In our Spanish class we studied
Enrique’s Journey and read the brutal
injuries and deaths that occur on the
journey to the United States. This struck us
as a hard hitting topic that needed to be
addressed through a door. Most of what
happens around the border goes unheard
in the media. The atrocities that occur at
the border have a story and that is what we
strived to present on the door and give it a
pop culture feel to it. The journey that
every immigrant takes to the states is
incredible and each person has a story
behind it.
The only material we needed to use for
this project was paint. We used the cover
art of the hit song by Drake, “Hotline Bling.”
His cover repeats the line, “1-800-hotline
bling”, and we used the idea by repeating
the line, “1-800-muerte”. We also painted
two sets of hands, one as flesh, and one as
a skeleton. Running along the side of the
door is a fence, representing the border
between Mexico and the United states,
where violence occurs. This project brought
together themes from a popular hip hop
song, and aspects from a novel about
immigration related tragedies, to represent
death along the Mexican border.
Hotline muerte / Hotline Death
Octavio Pérez + Sean Jarvis
Location: Department of History
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The door that I’ve created really represents
the darkness and reality that immigrants and
citizens of Central and South America have
endured. I created the door using spray
paints as the main background. That colors used are light blue and black which are
very dark and cool colors. These colors bring
about a lot of different emotions when
placed behind the red heart. That heart is
modeled after a Spanish card game which
represents how simplicity can represent
something so meaningful.
Another piece of material that I used was a
playing card in the corner of the door. This
card was actually recovered from the
Mexican side of the border in Mexico. This
card which was stuck along the fence
represents the thousands of people who
yearn for better opportunities and a better
shot at a safer life.
The quote on my door is from a book called
Enrique’s Journey which is a story about a
boy who journeys on La Bestia to get into the
United States to be reunited with his family.
The quote also represents the violence and
other factors that need to be taken into
The emoticon on the door is a Japanese
emoticon that represents sadness. The
sadness can also lead back to the
representations of the darker and cooler
colors and the arrow through the heart.
Heart of Darkness/
El corazón de las tinieblas
Andrew Brackeen
Location: Zimmerman Library
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We composed our door around a really strong
theme. Our theme was women’s violence in
Latin America. Most of these women don’t
have the necessary protection and rights, and
experience terrible violence. We made sure
to use strong colors that represent everything
about our theme. Dark blue represents
sadness and tears. The pink figure represents
the woman’s power, and the little black cross
is a reference to these women only having god
and faith to protect them in violent
situation throughout Latin America. The blood
at the top of the door was created by
wetting a paintbrush with red paint and letting
it drip down, this was done to acknowledge
the physical evidence of these women. On our
door we put the Japanese emoticons
representing “help me”. Another strong
theme of our project is the feminicides of
women in the borders between Mexico and
the USA. When people look our project we
want people to think about all of these
accusations against Latin American women.
Women are often raped during their journeys
to the US, they feel the need to protect
themselves by sometimes dressing as men
and a majority of the time writing “ I have
aids” on their chest. These women do not
have a voice and we felt as though we
needed to speak up for them. We want
people to look at our piece and understand
that these women are suffering and do not
deserve to be treated that way. For this
reason we left our woman faceless. Many of
the women that make the journey are only
looking for a better life, not only for them but
also their families.These women are not doing
anything wrong and we hope that our piece
will be eye opening and we also hope that
people will feel empowered.
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Pink Dresses / Vestidos rosados
Kiersten Huitt + Alexandria Cruz
Location: Maxwell Museum of
Anthropology Hibben Center
Leigh James + U. P. Nguyen
Location: Zimmerman Library
Christa Street + Alexander Sanchez
Location: Zimmerman Library
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We have been taking Spanish for over 7 years
while we have been attending Sandia Prep. This
year we are seniors and we read a book called
Enrique’s Journey, by Sonia Nazario. Our professor
assigned us to read this book and design a door
that represented the book and the struggles that
the immigrants had to go through when traveling
to the United States. These people had to endure
a lot and there journey was far from easy. For our
project we had to pick a theme to represent when
painting on our door. The theme that we picked
was immigration because all of these people we
read about were trying to migrate to the US.
For our door we painted a scene of a river. On
one side we had dirt and rocks which represented
Mexico or where the immigrants were jumping the
border. In the middle is a picture of a river because
a river represents a hard time crossing the border
and the river was very popular for people to cross
to get into the United States. On the other side
of the river is green grass and barbed wire which
represented the United States and how nice it is
compared to Mexico and then the barbed wire
represents the last obstacle that the immigrants
have to overcome. The “wall” or the “fence” is the
last thing they have to cross before getting into the
United States and that is what the barbed wire
represents. All together our door represents the
journey that the immigrants have to overcome in
order to come to the United States. The last thing
we had to incorporate into our door was an
emoticon. The one we used was a fish and we put a
bunch of fish into the river.
The last thing that we did during the time we were
creating our door was we took a trip down to El
Paso. While we were down in El Paso we talked
to a couple of families about their journey. These
people had been deported with their families and
some of them deported without their families.
These stories that we heard were so moving and
powerful and it made us realize how hard it was for
these people to be forced apart from their families.
The trip to the Unites States is not an easy journey
and these people helped us understand this. After
this trip our eyes were opened and we then
gathered more inspiration to finish off our door
and make it a final project.
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Cruzado el rio/ Crossing the River
Avery Johnson + Daniel Stell
Location: Zimmerman Library
The Price of Love (El Precio del Amor)
discusses the harm faced by immigrant
women attempting to cross Mexico to the
US. Women and girls must endure a much
more difficult journey on the trains than
males; they rarely survive the trip without
being raped, abused, or killed. Rape is the
largest threat-- often, in order to prevent
rape, women will cut their hair, bind their
breasts, wear men’s clothing, and try to pass
for men. Others write “tengo sida”-- “I have
AIDS”-- as an attempt to deter rapists. A
white outline on the door evokes the image
of a chalk outline drawn at crime scenes
after a murder, symbolizing the deaths of
the many women who do not survive their
treacherous journey. The flowers also have a
symbolic significance. Flowers, typically
associated with woman or girlhood,
represent the sacrifice of femininity that
immigrant women must endure in order to
reach families or opportunities in the United
States. Young girls, often trying to reconnect
with their families, are robbed of their
innocence, while older women are forced
to sacrifice their female identity for the sake
of their own survival. The emoticon on the
door means “to be threatened,” just as the
women are constantly under threat as they
attempt to cross Mexico. We learned a lot
about the dangerous journey before starting
work on the door, reading Enrique’s Journey,
which details a teenage boy’s attempt to
reach the US to reconnect with his mother.
We also took a trip to El Paso to visit the
The Price of Love / El precio del amor
border and speak with people on both sides
Grace McNealy + Eva Epstein
about the challenging process of immigration
Location: National Hispanic Cultural Center
and the constant insecurity of entering or
living in the United States illegally.
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First semester this year, we took a course
exclusive to Sandia Prep called “Border
Studies.” In the class, we were taught about
complex political, economic, and social
problems that plague Central and South
America, along with the issues surrounding
United States-Mexico immigration, trade, and
aid policy. Enrique’s Journey, a book by Sonia
Nazario, was used to show us the human
impact of immigration policies and stigma.
The book is about the journey of a young boy
names Enrique from Honduras whose mother
leaves him as a child to go north to the
United States. Yearning to see his
mother again, he decides to leave his
girlfriend and child behind in order to unify his
family, though he also plans to be able to
support his family back home better in the
U.S. than he can in Honduras. Most of the
travelers from Central America, including
Enrique, have to ride on the “La Bestia,” a
dangerous train ridden with gang activity,
violence, and abuse. After reading the book,
the class took a trip to El Paso in order to see
the human cost of immigration first hand.
We got to meet a family that lived in Mexico,
and had the opportunity to talk through the
fence about their struggles in trying to cross
over into the United States. We also had the
chance to visit with the border patrol and hear
their thoughts on immigration. This was very
eye opening and gave insight to what our door
was going to look like.In this year’s Spanish
class, we have been working on a door
project. This door represents the dangers that
come with trying to cross the border into the
United States. The sign gives caution to the
families that are making the horrible journey,
and also cautions against thinking about
immigration simply through utilitarian goggles.
Immigration is not just about the costs and
benefits to our society; we cannot forget that
immigrants and refugees are flesh and blood
people with feelings, too.
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Análisis de costo-beneficio/
Cost-Benefit Analysis
Kenneth Adams + Jeremy Dorf
Location: Zimmerman Library
My Mother, Where Have You Gone?/
¿Madre, adónde te has ido?
Rachel Cochran + Adrian Medina
Location: Zimmerman Library
Our door proposes the views of the separation of
families through immigration. Many families are
separated during the process of immigration when
the parents leave to find opportunities in the United
States to earn more money for their children. Religion
also plays a huge part in our door, because during the
duration of immigration the children and parents will
both pray for their safety.
Our door folded in half, so we utilized this as a way to
show the separation by the border between Mexico
and the United States. We spray painted one side the
Mexican flag, and the other side the United States
flag. We used barbed wire and nails on the Mexican
side to represent the torture the child feels during the
journey of their mother to another country. Also,
Mexico is substantially more violent than the United
States, so the barbed wire and nails also represent
the danger of the child being left alone in Mexico. We
painted a child on the Mexican side reaching up for his
mother, who is on the United States side, painted as a
We used religious images on both sides of the door.
On the Mexican side, the images were in black and
white, except one, representing that in this hard
time for the child, it is very hard to find God. The one
exception of the colored photo represents that there
is a small piece of hope for the child that the mother
will return to Mexico for him or her. The American
side had religious images, but in color, showing God
is all around and the violence in America is not strong
enough to take away the religious views of the people.
The emoticons on the door were the silence emotion
and the sad waving goodbye emotion. The silence
emoticon demonstrates the mother’s silence as she
traveled on her journey, thinking about how upset her
child will be when he or she wakes up to find that his
or her mother has left. The sad waving goodbye
represents the child after he or she woke up to find
that their mother had left, and he or she waving
The door also symbolized the violence of a child trying
to cross the border between Mexico and the United
States, while trying to find his or her mother. Many
children leave their hometowns to cross the border
and try and find their parents, yet many of these
children never reach their destination and die while
trying. Our door demonstrates the danger and the
pain of a parent having to leave their child to try and
find a better life in the United States. The parents do
this not out of hate, but to try and save their child and
send the money.
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Sivan Gordon Buxbaum + Haley Kiernan
Location: Department of Spanish & Portuguese
• Chicana and Chicano Studies
• Maxwell Museum of Anthropology
Hibben Center
• Department of History
• National Hispanic Cultural Center
• Department of Spanish
& Portuguese
• Sandia Prep
• El Centro de la Raza
• Latin American & Iberian Institute
• Southwest Hispanic
Research Institute
• University Libraries
Special thanks to Chloё Medaris for catalog design + cover art
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