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By Staff Writers, teleSUR
teleSUR
Sunday, Sep 10, 2017

'Giant Boy' Portrait Peers Over US-Mexico Border Wall

The boy glances down from the Mexican side at two Border Patrol officers in the United States. | Photo: Facebook / JR

When people drive near the Tecate border crossing, about 39 miles south-east of U.S. city San Diego, they can see a photo of a giant toddler standing in Mexico and peering over the steel border wall that divides the two countries.

The boy, standing nearly 65 feet tall, appears to grip the barrier with his fingers and peeks with evident interest from the Mexican side.

A French artist who goes by the name JR built the project as a way to prompt discussion around immigration.

JR told reporters at Wednesday’s unveiling of the portrait that he was spurred by a dream in which he imagined a toddler looking over the border wall.

“And when I woke up, I wondered: ‘What was he thinking?’” he said. “Like for us we know all the implications, what it represents, how it divides, but for a kid, I didn’t have the answer.”

While he was looking for the perfect spot for his project, he met the woman whose house was near the border wall in Tecate. At the same time, he also found the best inspiration for the work: her son.

"There was a little kid looking at us the whole time with two hands on the side of his crib looking at us," JR told NPR's Ari Shapiro, "and I was like, 'Damn he looks exactly like that kid I dreamed of.'"

With the mother's permission, he took the child's photograph, blew it up to gargantuan proportions and enlisted help to get the work built.

The artwork was unveiled the week President Donald Trump’s administration announced to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, which has allowed young immigrants who were brought to the United States "illegally" as children to remain in the country.

JR said he didn’t intend for the project in Tecate to coincide with the news of DACA, but suddenly many people began reaching out to JR.

“Now as an artist I think that it’s amazing that the piece arrived at a moment when it creates more dialogue,” he said. “Because the idea itself is to raise more questions.”

Artists and activists have used the 650 miles of existing wall and fencing between the U.S. and Mexico as a blank canvas to stage performances. Musicians have played simultaneously on both sides. Volleyball games and church services were held simultaneously on each side of the border.

On Friday, people on each side of the wall took photos with the artwork and waved to each other. On the Mexican side, children in school uniforms played tag under the scaffolding supporting the photo.

“It’s larger than life,” Elmond Davantes, a software developer from Carlsbad, California, said to the Associated Press. “It just draws attention to the whole issue in a positive way.”

JR said he hopes that while the artwork is up for another month or so, discussion happens not just between people on either side of the wall, but across the border itself.

He told NPR something he heard from the mother of the boy, who now sees the massive portrait of her child every day from her window.

"She said, you know, 'it's my son and I can recognize him, but I hope for the others, it represents any kid, any person — anyone that has dreams, and dreams that are not alienated by any political vision or any prejudice,'" JR said.

"I couldn't wish better for the start of a discussion."


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