There are currently an estimated 11.3 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, 50% of which are from Mexico. Because the United States’ border patrol has adopted a strategy of “prevention through deterrence,” landforms such as the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts, as well as portions of the Rio Grande, are left unguarded by border patrol stations to act as “natural borders.” This forces desperate unauthorized immigrants to traverse these dangerous regions where dehydration and exhaustion claim the lives of hundreds each year. Consequently, the southern United States is now covered in trails of abandoned water jugs - a symbol in my work used to represent contemporary unauthorized immigration. 

    As a biracial Latina, a seventh-generation Texan of European descent on my mom’s side and granddaughter of Mexican immigrants on my dad’s, I have followed the roots of my own ancestry to explore this contemporary crisis. Major events in Mexican-U.S. history, such as the Mexican-American War, Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and the Bracero Program, have created a complex relationship between my two cultures: Texans and Mexicans. It is this residual racial discord, paired with the distortion and misrepresentation of history through a White male perspective, that has further contributed to the racialization and displacement of Latinx people. By representing this history through my own biracial Latina lens, I challenge viewers to accept the reality that undocumented immigration is a forced experience and the result of more than six centuries of economic, cultural, and spiritual conquest.

    In El Camino Doloroso, participants symbolically embark on a pilgrimage of Mexican-U.S. history through the context of unauthorized immigration. Water jugs, translated in terra cotta, function as both vessels of memory, time, and history, and tombstones to honor those who have lost their lives on this journey. These fourteen stations embody themes of pain, sorrow, and sacrifice in a funerary landscape to represent the gruesome reality that death occurs daily on the Mexico-U.S. border.

El Camino Doloroso Audio - J. Leigh Garcia
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All Rights Reserved © J. Leigh Garcia 2019

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