Hernan Gomez Chavez

This installation, entitled “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” speaks to the current administration’s actions against immigrants. It is a panel surrounded by spikes and barbed wire, decorated by empty water jugs, Mexican santo candles, and cinder blocks along its base. The piece references Scott Warren and the organization No More Deaths. In January 2018, Warren, a volunteer with the organization, was arrested and charged with a felony for harboring migrants after Border Patrol allegedly witnessed him giving food and water to two migrants near Ajo, Arizona. No More Deaths’s mission, a humanitarian organization based in Southern Arizona, is to end death and suffering in the Mexico–US borderlands through direct aid that extends the right to provide humanitarian assistance, which includes leaving water jugs in the desert for migrants. Border Patrol has been filmed pouring these jugs out in the desert.

My installation is pertinent to America’s current and future national antipathy to refugees, immigrants and now, as we are living through the covid-19 pandemic, anyone seemingly looking like a foreigner. It is ironic that a nation once known as a haven for refugees and immigrants has not really faced its dark past of genocide and slavery and is now home to populist xenophobia. By referencing Mr. Rogers I aimed to deconstruct the popular dictum that “good fences make good neighbors.” Separation and isolation create further division. In order to move past the divisive present and future we face as a nation and a world, we need to face the harsh realities of division head-on.