Blurred Boundaries - CODAworx

Blurred Boundaries

Client: MCAD, City of El Paso

Location: El Paso, TX, United States

Completion date: 2021

Artwork budget: $200,000

Project Team

Artist

Jesus "Cimi" Alvarado

Museums and Cultural Affairs Department

City of El Paso

Overview

Blurred Boundaries is a mural depicting the history of the Chamizal Community Center neighborhood in El Paso, TX that goes back to the 1960s and the Chamizal Convention. The mural is displayed in glass panels by the entrance of the Chamizal Community Center and was a project involving people well beyond the artist.

Goals

Blurred Boundaries highlights the history of the people, family, and neighborhood where the Chamizal Community Center is located. The history and events that took place in this area are not widely known, but it had an impact beyond measure for people in the United States, Mexico, trade and industry worldwide. Having this history documented visually means it is accessible to anyone who is in the area and is affirming for those directly impacted. It can be used as an informal teaching tool that sparks conversation of history and story telling.

Process

The wooden panels where the mural was originally painted by the artist was built in the same size and shapes as the glass panels hanging in the center. Construction of the wall required the handiwork of a local master carpenter. A local photographer pieced together photographs of the mural before being sent to fabricators. Thereafter, the images were translated on to the glass panels which were later installed at the center during its construction.

Additional Information

The Chamizal is an area of over 600 acres that is divided by the Rio Grande, which made the issue of ownership of hotly contested subject between the United States and Mexico. It wasn't until 1963 that the Chamizal Convention resolved the 100-year old boundary problems in El Paso,TX/Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. The presidents of Mexico and the United States are depicted shaking hands in the mural, marking the formal decision which had immediate consequences for people living in the area. Thousands of people were displaced, many residents from Chamizal found their lives and communities were suddenly in a country not their own. The area in El Paso we now refer to as Chamizal has gone through many transitions since. Most notably, it became an industrial beacon, hiring thousands of people from both sides of the border to work in garment factories. The United States barreled forward, and in 1994, NAFTA left thousands of El Paso's workforce jobless. The mural visually references the horrific impact this had in El Paso and beyond, as well as the response of workers, who organized and fought back. Then-president Georg Bush Sr. is shown sending money down the Rio Grande, folded into paper boats.