Since the 2016 election the U.S.-Mexico borderlands has become a site of renewed political attention. Demands for a wall have shed light on the existing issue of immigration in the United States, but overlooked the thousands of people who have died attempting to cross through dangerous and isolated terrain in Southern Arizona, Southern California, and parts of Texas.
The 1994 policy Prevention Through Deterrence (PTD) routed migrants away from populated urban centers along the border and into more treacherous areas. The aim of the policy was not only to force migrants into dangerous and life-threatening situations, but to hide their movement from the American public. Since its implementation PTD has lead to thousands of deaths and innumerable disappearances of people from all over the world seeking a better life in the United States.
Vistas de la Frontera captures the sights and sounds of some of the places where people have been recovered. These videos represent a small fraction of the people who have died. Each video honors the person named and breaks the silences imposed as matter of national security.
All videos captured by Alyssa Quintanilla.
Crosses placed by Alvaro Enciso with assistance from the Tucson Samaritans.
Information about migrant deaths sites provided by the Pima County Office of Medical Examiner in conjunction with Humane Borders. Their public and accessible map can be found at: https://humaneborders.info/.
Special thanks to Alvaro Enciso, Michele Maggoria, David Whitmer, Terry Stanford, Peter Lucero, Mike Kreyche, and the Tucson Samaritans.
A Note About Vistas de la Frontera
Capturing the spaces in this project has only been possible thanks to many overlapping privileges such as: access to technology (GPS and Spot), all terrain vehicles, a network of people who know how to navigate the desert, and water. I have the ability and the means to visit these spots and record them. My ability to do so should not diminish the difficulty of these spaces; rather, this is the only way I can safely capture an inhospitable landscape and make it more accessible to a larger public.
The videos in this project are meant to reflect the spaces as they are now, in a particular moment in time after the people memorialized have been recovered. In so doing, I have chosen not to appear in the videos, as my presence would only distract from the realities of desert spaces. It is not my journey which is important, but the spaces and the individuals who were recovered there. That said, there will be instances where voices can be heard and cars are parked nearby. This is the nature of videography: the camera is not placed by accident, but by people.