Overriding Politics with Play

A set of pink seesaws allowed people to share some fun along the U.S.-Mexico border wall this week. Here, a woman helps her little girls ride the seesaw that was installed near Ciudad de Juarez, Mexico. Christian Chavez/AP

Despite being a few days late within the news cycle, this story deserves to be highlighted. In fact, in face of the bombardment of negatives along the border, we’d say it’s imperative to keep the power of joy as a constant point of reference.

See-Saw Diplomacy Lets People Play Together Along U.S. Border Wall

A stretch of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico was adorned with a set of pink see-saws this week — allowing children (and grownups) to play together across the barrier. The event was “filled with joy, excitement, and togetherness,” says architect Ronald Rael, a leader of the project.

The seesaws were installed on Sunday, when their steel beams were eased through the slats of the tall fence that divides Sunland Park, N.M., from Colonia Anapra — a community on the western side of Ciudad Juárez in Mexico.

“Everyone was very happy and excited to engage the seesaws,” Rael says via email, describing the mood at Sunday’s event. And while he admits to being a little nervous about the completion of a project that had been brewing for 10 years, he says it went off without a hitch.

“It was peaceful and fun — a day at a park for the children and mothers of Anapra,” Rael says.

The seesaws were created by Rael and fellow architect Virginia San Fratello; the two are partners in a design firm. By installing playground toys, they sought to tweak the meaning of a border fence.

“The wall became a literal fulcrum for U.S. – Mexico relations” once the seesaws were added, Rael said in an Instagram post about the project.

Rael, who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, added, “children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side.”

In a statement to NPR, Rael and San Fratello say the installation was made to be temporary, adding that the seesaws — fabricated in Juarez — could be installed quickly.

As for why they turned an idea from 2009 into a reality in 2019, they say the project “is incredibly important at a time when relationships between people on both sides are being severed by the wall and the politics of the wall.”

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