The Rio Grande Project documents the fifth-longest river in North America. The river rises from the mountains of Colorado, runs through the Rio Grande rift zone in New Mexico, and divides Texas from Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas, where it is known as Río Bravo, before fading into the Gulf of Mexico. The river brings continuous change, sustains agricultural communities, and drives urban development. Nature refuges along the river provide sanctuary for wildlife but not people.
The river is border is barrier – a dam thwarting the flow of refugees. Lives are lost, tent cities emerge, and detention centers are manufactured. The project has drawn me deeper into the current border crisis. I travel to border cities, including El Paso/Ciudad Juárez and Brownsville/Matamoros, meeting asylum seekers, volunteering in tent cities, witnessing the emergency.
The Rio Grande Project has given me a new perspective on how rivers – specifically boundary rivers – both serve and destroy communities, supplying a lifeline of water while drowning hopes for a better life. The project brings meaning, struggle, and recovery to viewers; it draws an emotional response as we engage with the landscape; it leads us to recognize the poignancy of the river’s bond to the lives stolen at the border.
“In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time.” –Leonardo da Vinci