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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

408 Walls don’t work except as a place for hanging art

Day 408: April 28th 2021: Welcome Wall

“Walls don’t work except as a place for hanging art,”

- Marianna Treviño Wright

We have a moment now to take at how different people and communities along the Mexico / US border have responded to the building of a wall. The leadership of the National Butterfly Center on the border in Mission, Texas decided to make their statement through art.

It's s a different way to talk about the political and environmental situation that gives hope and joy. The Butterfly Center is flipping the idea of a border wall in the area with a 360 foot long mural designed by artist Ron English.

The “Welcome Wall” is located at the Center’s back 70-acres which until recently was in danger of being lost due to border wall construction.

The Center is a local wonder that attracts more than 240 different types of butterflies. The sanctuary is home to the threatened Monarch and Manfreda giant-skipper and many other species of butterflies — which make it the most diverse butterfly sanctuary in the country. with a range of plants that specific breeds of caterpillars feed on.

The wall was expected to go through the Center and other local attractions but based on language made in the Fiscal Year 2019 U.S. Customs and Border Protection appropriations bill, levee wall construction will not take place at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park or the National Butterfly Center.

“I thought, with all the talk of a border wall going on, wouldn’t it be funny if we just sort of built the border wall and that it would be kind of different. It wouldn’t be the wall that President Trump has in mind,” English said of the Welcome Wall. “It would be more of a public artwork where artists and activists could join in and it would be almost like a community bulletin board where people could exchange ideas.”

This is the second art installation in the Center that protests the border wall.

(Checkpoint Carlos)

Last February, the Center installed “Checkpoint Carlos,” a 15 feet by 16 feet long colorful tapestry woven from recyclable material by San Antonio artist Doerte Weber.

“The idea for the Welcome Wall came from people wanting to start a dialogue with people in support of the wall but not understanding the kind of consequences a wall would have,”

English explained. “There’s numerous studies and scientists talking about how the wall will create a flood zone in the area and permanently harm the environment here. So, we invited artist to come up here and talk about their experiences and we also talked to people who are losing property to the wall. We have our own wall, but it tells a deeper story.”

(Montezuma Cyprus, a 900-year-old tree)

Among the artists invited was Jessica Monroe from Edinburg. For the Welcome Wall, she drew an art piece in honor of the Montezuma Cyprus, a 900-year-old tree south of Abram Road that may be taken down as part of border wall construction.

Montezuma bald cypresses require a lot of water, so much so that the Aztecs named the species ahuehue, “old man on the water”; its seeds will only germinate in water or wet soil. As time and human intervention have moved the river’s flow about a mile away, it’s near impossible to get the tree enough nutrients.

With the wall, the federal government is taking control of the Rio Grande Valley’s final surviving tracts of native ground and turning it into a no-man’s-land. For the people who call this place home, the tree they call Monty, the abuelo (grandfgather tree) of the Rio Grande, represents what’s at stake in the fight over the wall.

“I love the idea of having a protest using art within the community,” Monroe said of her participation in the Welcome Wall. “This is a different way to talk about the political situation and I hope people find joy in this.”


Butterflies are Free

Is there any creature prettier

Than a butterfly fluttering by

A creature of the utmost beauty

Like a rainbow high in the sky

Varied paths on wings of colour

A conspicuous fluttering flight

Darting forth from flower to flower

A delightful peaceful sight

Dancing amongst the blossoms

Drawn by the sweet smelling nectar

Preserving nature's eternal scheme

This fanciful pollen collector

Is there any creature prettier

Than a butterfly fluttering by

A vision of pure artistry

These delicate wings on high

- Jack Ellison


Why do we build a wall - Anais Mitchell

Love is like a Butterfly - Dolly Parton

Ruben - Walls

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