Hostile Terrain 94 @ Washington University in St. Louis

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Hostile Terrain 94 @ Washington University in St. Louis

Introduction Hostile Terrain 94 is a participatory exhibition composed of 3,200 handwritten toe tags that represent migrants who have died in the Arizona Desert between the mid-1990s and 2019. These tags are geolocated on a wall map of the desert showing the exact locations where remains were found. The exhibit is based on the research of Jason de León, director of the Undocumented Migration Project, a non-profit research-arteducation-media collective. 3

Why did we bring HT94 to St. Louis? St. Louis may be far away from the border, yet the repercussions of crises ranging from migrant death to family separation have reached our region, our organizing work, our faith communities, our research projects, and our classrooms. Within our many roles, we hope that the exhibit will help us remember those dying each day as they cross the border. Beyond solemn remembrance, we hope the exhibit will allow us to engage in conversations about the global and local significance of borders and border crossings.


Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL

HT94 at WUSTL is sponsored by the Global Studies Program, the American Cultural Studies Program, the Department of Art History and Archeology, the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, and the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement and Institutional Diversity. In collaboration with artists David Cervantes, Mee Jey, Javier Torres-Gomez, and Mikki Janower.

Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL

Table of

Contents 1. The Making of HT94 Pages 7-11

2. St. Louis Reflections Pages 12-40

3. Artwork

Pages 41-45

4. Resources

Pages 46-48

Artwork by Javier Torres-Gomez


Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL

Community Remembrance October 23, 2020 The WashU and greater St. Louis community gathered to honor those who have lost their lives in the hostile terrain of our border regions, as well as to reflect on experiences with filling out the toe tags. At this memorial event, Gabriela Musickant performed “The Water is Wide” by James Taylor.

Tag Filling Workshops October 2020 – March 2021



Porch Pick-up for Remote Tag Filling October 2020-March 2021 Adjusting to the reality of the pandemic led to creative ways of distributing and returning hundreds of toe tags

Virtual Tag Filling October 2020-March 2021 Several classes and student organizations organized Zoom events to fill out tags together Photo: WashU Hillel

Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL


Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL

Contemporary Art Museum STL Workshop Event March 20, 2021 9

Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL

“It really, in a metaphorical sense but also in a very real sense, allows you to hold the lives in your hand and allows you to realize that these aren’t just toe tags, they are actually memorializing people who have passed away, whether they are identified people or unidentified people. That’s very powerful as a memorial but also, it’s powerful to recognize more broadly that we hold this issue in our hands. We have the power to do things about this.” - Mattie Gottbrath




Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL

St. Louis Reflections Authors and Artists 1. Tabea Linhard Professor of Spanish, Comparative Literature, and Global Studies, WUSTL

5. Jenny Wu MA Candidate, Art History and Archaeology, WUSTL 6. Jay Buchanan MA Candidate, Theater and Performance Studies, WUSTL

2. Mattie Gottbrath Coordinator for International Programming, WUSTL 3. Mee Jey Artist

7. Rosie Lopolito BA Candidate, English, WUSTL

4. Karla P. Aguilar Velásquez PhD Candidate, Hispanic Studies, WUSTL

8. Tishiya Carey BA Candidate, Global Studies, WUSTL


¿Quién me presta una escalera? By Tabea Linhard As we were getting ready to install Hostile Terrain 94 at the Danforth University Center in April of 2021, it turned out that getting hold of a ladder on a campus with covid restrictions in place would be a challenge. In my quest to solve this problem, the verses that open Antonio Machado’s poem “La saeta” (1912), widely recognizable thanks to the version that singer songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat popularized in 1969, came to mind: Dijo una voz popular: ¿Quién me presta una escalera, para subir al madero,

para quitarle los clavos a Jesús el Nazareno? A “saeta” is a traditional song, usually performed without accompaniment during Holy Week. It also is a poetic form that “addresses God […] directly, in a straight line, on the wings of its melody,” hence its name, saeta, or arrow [1]. The poem’s words, even more so once Serrat set them to music, evoke a sorrowful emotion that is not misplaced in relation to Hostile Terrain 94. Having said this, our need for a ladder was more immediate and prosaic than what is expressed in Machado’s and in Serrat’s “La saeta.” Our team needed a ladder to make sure we could reach the highest sectors on the Hostile Terrain map in order to be able to place the manila and orange toe tags that belonged in those places. In the end, getting hold of a ladder was not as complicated as I had feared, yet I kept on hearing “La saeta,” in my head and thinking about Machado. The Spanish poet died in 1939 as a refugee in a neighboring country (France), shortly after an arduous journey across hostile terrain, the Pyrenees. Machado is buried in lovely Collioure; his gravesite is covered in memorabilia from Spain’s ill-fated Second Republic, and fresh flowers never cease to appear. Tourists, school children, and, needless to say, emotional academics regularly visit Machado. Collioure is also not far from Portbou, where Walter Benjamin took his own life and where Dani Karavan’s Passages serves as a memorial to all those who lost their lives trying to cross borders.

[1] Edward Stanton, The origins of the Saeta, Romanische Forschungen, 88.4 (1976): 338-394 Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL


Hostile Terrain 94 reminds us that not only famous poets or philosophers deserve a

place to be remembered, as well as place for the bereaved to grieve their loss. This is about, as Mina Karavanta has put it (riffing on Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase “the right to have rights,”) “the right to have rites [2].” And before such rites are even considered --as filling out the toe tags has reminded us over and over again-- this also is about the right to leave one’s home without facing a cruel and painful death in any kind of hostile terrain, be it the Mexico-U.S. borderlands, the Mediterranean Sea, or elsewhere.

Once we were armed with the suddenly very meaningful ladder, we were ready to proceed with the installation of the exhibit. This part of the process became another act of mournful protest. It also became a sacred ritual, meaningful even for the very secular ones among us. The more I thought about, the more the connection with “La saeta” continued to resonate and to make sense. Serrat’s 1969 album Dedicado a Antonio Machado, poeta was not the last time the singer songwriter musicalized the words of poets. His album Miguel Hernández (1972) includes “Elegía,” a poem Hernández dedicated to a dear friend who had died at the young age of 22. Quiero escarbar la tierra con los dientes, quiero apartar la tierra parte a parte

a dentelladas secas y calientes.

Quiero minar la tierra hasta encontrarte y besarte la noble calavera y desamordazarte y regresarte. Hernández wrote these words in 1936, in a different place and a different time, and yet his desire to gnaw the earth with his teeth and to kiss a noble skull before returning it to a place of rest conjures up an unmistakable sense of the physical that, perhaps in these times pandemic more than ever, belongs in our acts of collective grief and remembrance.

[2] Mina Karavanta, “Riting Rights: The Apopolis and the Call on the City,” In Search of Asylum: An Interdisciplinary Discussion, University of Chicago, April 4-5, 2019. Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL


Hostile Terrain 94: Holding a Life in your Hand By Mattie Gottbrath The Disconnect: Us and Migration There are many disciplines and lenses through which we attempt to understand migration: political, economic, philosophical, historical, religion, humanitarianism, security. Ultimately, this array of lenses fails to provide clarity because what results is an image closer to that of a kaleidoscope: dizzying, distant and close all at once, a supremely organized pattern that has too many parts and too much intensity for the average person to decipher fully. Where these kaleidoscopes fall short, political parties attempt to fill the gaps. Political figures and entities feed their followers, letting them know what to think and feel about migration. Few of us take the time to investigate the issue for ourselves. Instead of treating migration like the complex and nuanced issue that it is, we treat it like a party favor. We become like guests, gladly accepting our packages upon leaving the soiree, happy that we don’t have to go through the trouble of buying any of the cheap, gifted trinkets ourselves. Adopting party ideology is much easier than crafting our own opinions on an issue. However, by opting for free, easy, and accessible, we sacrifice connection. As party guests, we willingly accept the gift without actually knowing what it includes: we are disconnected from the gift itself. Adopting such prepackaged positions also includes thrilling surprises: family separation, killings at the hands of Border Patrol officers, thousands dead at the hands of both Republican and Democratic administrations. Whether you lean anti- or pro-migration, I assume that most of us don’t wish for such death and trauma to result from the policies and people we choose to support. The grim surprise hits us when we realize that what and whom we have endorsed, have contributed to such tragedies. Our miscalculation is the result of disconnect, of ambivalence, of absorption in our own world without taking a moment to realize that our world is one in the same with everyone else’s.

The Re-Connect: Touching Hostile Terrain 94 As a participatory art exhibit, Hostile Terrain 94 allows volunteers to connect physically with the 3,200 migrants whom they memorialized with individual toe tags and geographic resting places. Each dead body becomes embodied by a location and a tag, which has now been cradled and remembered by a hand, which belongs to a living, breathing body. Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL


Imagine for a moment, petite gift bags being generously handed out as you depart the decadent party you have just enjoyed. The party host dangles the glossy bag fluffed with tissue paper in front of your giddy hand. You wrap your fingers around the smooth, sturdy, mass-produced handle. Suddenly, the gift morphs. Instead of seeing a desirable present, you give your hands permission to craft it into something…deeper. You weave the handle and the tissue paper together into a spindly, white string extending upward. You twirl and pull until it is long enough for you to tie its ends together around your hand, trapping you into its center. You flatten the shiny bag that now swings from the loop, suppressing its brightness until it is a thick, pale manila paper tag. You attempt to organize this morphing chaos by crowding the rectangular tag with the gridded cells of a data table. The labels in the top left corner of each lined cell are surrounded by blank nothingness waiting to be filled. Your hand trembles in confusion as it looks to your other hand, holding a black pen, poised for action. If hands could talk, one might ask the other, “What have we done to deserve this ominous tag and pen instead of a shiny present that we could open in our bright, shiny future?” You want to answer them, but you are only just beginning to see the specks of clarity within the kaleidoscope. On your finger’s skin, the toe tag’s texture is rough, yet the pen glides smoothly across the paper as you write the information in each space. Your mind tries its best to imagine what “Skeletonization w/ articulation/ ligamentous attachments” could possibly look like. Your pulse beats against the motionless paper. Nevertheless, you know that you hold a life in your hand. Like the question your hand wanted to ask, a similar one likely ran through the mind of the migrant who your tag represents as they withered away in the Sonoran Desert. Name: Julio Cesar Dominguez Cortez. Age: 15. Sex: Male. Reporting Date: 4/26/07. Surface Management: US Forest Service. Cause of Death: Exposure. Body Condition: Decomposed. “What have I done to deserve this?” But just as hands can’t physically talk, Julio likely couldn’t either. Mouth parched and raw. Dizzying mirages coloring his vision. Dehydration consuming him. His voice may have been silenced before his journey but now it would be silenced forever, lost in the desert along with his life. For thousands of other migrants, the desert’s sand and scorching sun steal not only their last breath, but also their names, their stories, their identities. An Invitation By holding a toe tag, by scribing a name or a mysterious “Unidentified” place-holder, by pinpointing the home of a sandy grave, the connection is made: between a life that lives and a life that was. We can choose to surrender to the chaos of the kaleidoscope and accept easy solutions that are handed to us. Or we can be brave. We can learn about the colors. We can connect the moving dots. We can rearrange the bits and pieces of the chaos into our own vision for the future. Hostile Terrain 94 offers us a step forward in that process. The exhibit grants us the opportunity to tangibly feel the lives we hold in our hands every day. Hostile Terrain 94 invites us to create an authentic, personal connection with the issue of migration: a connection that energizes us to foster change within this terrain that we claim as our country. But the decision is yours to make. Will you accept this invitation?

Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL


Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL

My Baby, Art Performance by Mee Jey Millions of people leave their homes and undertake arduous journeys in search of better future. Thousands die or go missing and as many bodies are found that remain unidentified. According to Hindu belief system, if a dead is not given a due farewell, the soul wonders on the mortal world suffering in pain. Assuming the role of a Ghost Mother, I am giving these lost-souls a due remembrance by renaming them as ‘MY BABY’ and helping them to rest in peace in the ‘Other World’.


Recordar en tiempos de pandemia By Karla P. Aguilar Velásquez En ninguna de las masivas narrativas del fin aparecía una pandemia como la del Covid. En las múltiples ficciones distópicas y taquilleras películas de ciencia ficción el fin solo podría aplacarse a través de la fuerza. La amenaza contra la humanidad estaba localizada en figuras bizarras e hipervisibles, de aquello que no queremos ver de adentro, como en el caso de los zombies, o de aquello que no queremos ver de afuera, si los enemigos se nombran extraterrestres. La pandemia, como invasión, debía ser exterminada, con todos sus recipientes, y la opción favorecida era la de la huida: y entonces las ciudades abandonadas, y entonces los vidrios rotos, y entonces los gritos, las balas, el ejercito en las calles. Nuevos documentales tendrán que retratar este fin otro, donde la única alternativa es la del cuidado, donde dependemos de las decisiones de todxs lxs que nos rodean y donde, en lugar de barricadas, la mejor forma de demostrar el cariño es estar lejos. Y entonces el silencio, y entonces las máscaras, y entonces mirar con las ventanas cerradas. Lo común para ambos casos-el real y el ficcional- son los primeros afectados por la catástrofe: los cuerpos negros y latinos no solo representan la cantidad más elevada de víctimas, sino también los más afectados económica y mentalmente.[1] Sin embargo, la lista de inequidades raciales y de clase pre-pandemia, aumentada durante la misma, no hacen parte de la normalidad tan invocada y anhelada por todos los medios. Y sí, volveremos a abrazarnos, volveremos a comer en restaurantes y volveremos a ignorar que existe algo como trabajadores esenciales haciendo los trabajos que pocos desean hacer. La cuarentena, con su inesperada extensión y con todos los sacrificios que nos requiere nos ha hecho repensar el valor de lo cotidiano, pero es en medio de tantas ansiedades e incertidumbres que debemos también notar su fragilidad. Que el virus invisible sea una invitación a un nuevo entrenamiento en el ver, o que mejor, que el virus que solo se manifiesta una vez impregnado a un cuerpo nos enseñe a entender la materialidad de nuestros prejuicios, nuestros miedos, nuestra forma de pasar cerca de los demás.

Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL


En un intento por liberar nuestra mente del encierro empezamos a preguntarnos qué recordaremos de este momento. Nos aferramos a esa promesa de remembranza, a esa remembranza futura para motivarnos: esto también pasará y de la pandemia sólo quedarán los recuerdos de los tests, los protocolos de limpieza, las clases virtuales. En medio de este reciclaje de recuerdos asistimos al Hostile Terrain 94 Toe Tag Event. En las carpas blancas que la universidad ha designado para las clases al aire libre, nos reunimos a crear más recuerdos. Aquí, sin embargo, intentamos combatir al pasado y nuestro deseo, casi automático, de superarlo. Sostendremos en nuestras manos los nombres de varios de los millones de migrantes que mueren en las más extremas condiciones en la frontera desértica entre México y Estados Unidos: una memoria que no es nuestra, un fin que no nos pertenece, una normalidad que no conocemos. Pero es justo ahora, en este día a día de la pandemia donde la empatía ha mostrado ser clave para la supervivencia donde se hace más urgente reflexionar por nuestras insospechadas interdependencias. ¿Cuáles son las manos que sostienen nuestra existencia? ¿Cuáles son los recuerdos que dejamos caer? Vivimos este momento histórico como una excepción, entendemos la constante reproducción de cifras- de contagiados, de fallecidos- como parte de un estado transitorio de crisis y son muchos los escenarios en donde la pandemia se presenta en términos de una batalla en donde aquellos que no mueran o que se recuperen del contagio serán los vencedores. Hostile Terrain 94 se nos presenta entonces como la imagen de una crisis que siempre ha sido crisis, una normalidad a la que nadie debería volver, un pasado que sencillamente no se puede superar. Una de las mejores frases que resume el dolor de la migración y su explotación sistemática por parte de distintas autoridades la tiene Jason de León en su libro The Land of the Open Graves , “traumatized is the new normal”. En tiempos de pandemia, recordar, como la búsqueda de consuelo en memorias de un tiempo que considerábamos mejor, es un acto de privilegio, pero en este esfuerzo colectivo de nombrar cuerpos, respetar su dolor y dignificar sus historias, quizás inicie el recuento de un nuevo pasado, en donde en el futuro se entienda que en la destrucción sistemática de cuerpos migrantes y en el olvido cómplice de tanta violencia no hay nada de normal.

Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL



Feet, Hands, and Tongues: Reading Cristina Rivera Garza in Oct. 2020 By Jenny Wu Rivera Garza’s latest collection of essays, Grieving: Dispatches from a Wounded Country, translated by Sarah Booker and published by Feminist Press on October 6, 2020, grapples with the U.S. and Mexico’s long history of violent erasure and with those hauntings and traces that persist in the pain of memory. The figures who haunt the book include a young woman who writes letters to the Mexican government from her hospital bed, a mother of two teenage boys killed at a party in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, and Rivera Garza’s own sister, who was a victim of femicide in 1990. Even when Rivera Garza’s reportages turn away from the personal to focus explicitly on the war on drugs, on the clay statues that comprise Alejandro Santiago’s 2501 Migrants, or on the COVID-19 pandemic, the stories—the specters—of those whose lives have been devastated by the neoliberal state are never out of arm’s reach.

Encountering Cristina Rivera Garza: Then and Now I was first introduced to the work of Rivera Garza in 2018, when the awardwinning small press Dorothy: a publishing project , based here at Wash U, published Suzanne Jill Levine and Aviva Kana’s translation of The Taiga Syndrome. At the time, I was not yet an MA student in the Department of Art History & Archaeology but rather working on an MFA in fiction writing under the founder of the press, Danielle Dutton, and Rivera Garza had not yet received the MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ that she would be awarded in October 2020. While the ongoing humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border perpetuated by U.S. government was already an issue at the forefront of our consciousness back in 2018, we also had no inkling, back then, of the COVID-19 pandemic that would come to take more than one million lives worldwide. As such, two of Rivera Garza’s essays in particular called to me in light of the upcoming installation of Hostile Terrain 94 at Wash U. The essays, entitled “On 2501 Migrants by Alejandro Santiago” and “Touching is a Verb: The Hands of the Pandemic and Its Inescapable Questions,” were first published in 2011 and 2020, respectively. The spirit of these essays is one of generosity reminiscent of the protagonist in Yuri Herrera’s fictional book Signs Preceding the End of the World, who proclaims, “You are the door, not the one who walks through it.”

Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL


“You Simply Need to Examine the Feet” In the first of the two essays, Rivera Garza hands the story over to the artist Alejandro Santiago and the thirty-two members of his workshop. In lush ekphrastic passages, Rivera Garza describes her visit to the artist’s workshop in Santiago Suchilquitongo, near Oaxaca, coming face to face with the 2,501 clay statues, “strangely lifelike beings that, at any moment—preferably between sips of mezcal—could begin telling you their stories about crossing the border.”

The number, 2,501, was intentional: twenty-five hundred people died trying to cross the US-Mexico border until the year Santiago himself crossed over. “Each of Alejandro Santiago’s clay migrants carries a signature,” Garza writes. “You can see it on each statue’s foot. […] Each signature—a curved line that extends to the ankle, a symmetrical fissure between the toes, or the faint impression of a nail—is a marker of the artist’s identity. […] To confirm the artist’s identity, you simply need to examine the feet.” The significance of the feet as markers of identity cannot be overstated, as feet not only walk, run, chase, flee, and dance but also leave traces on the land where the absence of a person is keenly felt. The feet are, finally, where toe tags are placed, or unable to be placed, in the case of those whose bodies are lost in the process of crossing. As is the case with Hostile Terrain 94, the identity of the migrant becomes a community effort to uncover—and to imagine, if need be—so as to collectively mourn. Since the time Alejandro Santiago began work on 2501 Migrants in 2000, the number of migrant deaths has risen from twenty-five hundred to thirty-two hundred, which is the number of toe tags HT94 plans to produce.

“An Intimately Political Task” In “Touching is a Verb,” written in the early months of the U.S.’s COVID-19 lockdown, Rivera Garza asks a very bare and basic question, one we ask nowadays when we touch a piece of fruit at the supermarket or a package that’s come in the mail: “Who else has touched this object that I am touching?” She then compares our attempts to trace how commodities have moved from farms and factories to stores to our homes, to Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s investigation of the origins of the matsutake fungus in The Mushroom at the End of the World (Princeton University Press, 2015), which uncovers, as one would imagine, a long chain of hands. “Those of migrant workers,” Rivera Garza enumerates, “those of businessmen, those of forest rangers, those of police, those of immigration agents. Calloused hands and soft hands.” Our attempts to protect ourselves and others from the virus, Rivera Garza argues, have led to a rematerialization of our worlds, to an increased awareness of hands. “To trace the labor of hands,” she writes, “in the processes of production and reproduction in our world—this is an intimately political task.”

Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL


It is not difficult to realize, then, that by re-inscribing the names of migrants who died trying to cross the Sonoran Desert, the hands of participants in HT94 are also engaged in an intimately political task, a task whose stakes seem higher than ever in the devastating political and ecological climate of 2020. Like the specters in Rivera Garza’s essay collection, thirty-two hundred migrants’ lives will be reconstituted through multiple re-inscriptions, multiple re-tellings, that are as fragmentary and incomplete as they will be persistent.

“Tongue to Tongue” When Rivera Garza visited Wash U in 2019 as part of a conference entitled “Crossing the Borders of Creation and Critique,” she described the act of translation succinctly and seductively, using the phrase “tongue to tongue.” She was speaking of translation in the literal sense, commenting on the experience of having her work translated from Spanish to English, but the task of translation operates on a metaphorical level as well.

When a writer publishes an essay, they are attempting to translate a subjective experience or a set of data into a meaning that resonates with the reader. When an artist oversees the creation of twenty-five hundred clay statues or thirty-two hundred toe tags, they are attempting to translate loss into a visible, tangible medium. Likewise, when the specters of history speak, they do so in another’s tongue.

Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL


HT94: Something More than Mourning By Jay Buchanan Background Borders are nothing if not attempts to govern the social through the instrumentalization of the material, and the straightforward aesthetics of Hostile Terrain 94 illustrate the consequences of this dynamic. I first heard about Jason De León’s important work at the U.S.-Mexico border when he delivered the Holocaust Memorial Lecture at WashU in December. De León discussed several of his research projects in the talk, all of which seek to understand and document the 2019 experience of crossing the border.

Much of De León’s recent work explores the grim consequences of “Prevention through Deterrence,” a bundle of policies and executive orders enacted under Clinton and upheld or intensified by the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations. Under PTD, the United States securitizes and militarizes only parts of its border with Mexico, with the strategic aim of forcing unapproved migrants to cross on foot in some of the harshest conditions on the planet. An anthropologist by trade, De León collaborates with teams of ethnographers, who train to cross the border in the Sonoran Desert. They engage with migrants in the process of crossing, but they also find the remains and/or personal effects of migrants who died making the journey. The traveling exhibition State of Exception/Estado de Excepción (2013-2017) presented traces of crossings De León and his teams found in the Sonoran. Though he was initially reticent to approach these objects as art, State of Exception/Estado de Excepción models De León’s turn to public-facing scholarship that uses art installations to confront the material realities enacted by PTD. Among the most striking elements of the State of Exception/Estado de Excepción is a full wall of backpacks recovered from De León’s research trips. These and many other items form an object record of life – and death – on the move. De León’s research for The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail continues in this vein, emphasizing the atmosphere of anonymized death that marks migration flows in the Sonoran. In his Holocaust Memorial Lecture, De León recounted the discovery of dead bodies in his ethnographies of border-crossing for the book. He also made clear that he and forensic anthropologists on his team often discovered only trace indications of migrants’ bodies or property because their remains were otherwise materially annihilated by desert heat and wildlife. Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL


Theory In The Land of Open Graves De León identifies two bodies of theory relevant to the corporeal erasure at the border. The first is Bruno Latour’s work on actor-network theory, which introduces the term “actants” to describe both the animate beings and inanimate objects that “modify a state of affairs” (71). De León calls the spectrum of actants imbricated in PTD – from desert heat and scavenging animals to human traffickers and politicians – the Hybrid Collectif.

The second body of theory De León engages is Achille Mbembe’s notion of “necropolitics,” which asserts that the primary characteristic of sovereign power is the capacity to determine who lives and who dies. De León indicts the Hybrid Collectif as necropolitical actor, exposing the multiplicitous network of actors that produce and codify the Sonoran atmosphere of death for its desecration (and often total obliteration) of the bodies of its victims. The destruction of the dead body, or necroviolence, renders the dead an example of what happens to those who defy necropolitical authority. Aesthetics

Hostile Terrain 94, so named for the year PTD formally began, is an aesthetic redress of necroviolence in the Sonoran. Unlike State of Exception/Estado de Excepción, HT94 does not present the artifacts of crossings as a traveling exhibition.

The project instead forms communities at several host sites throughout the world, where interested people convene to fill out “toe tags” for every individual who died crossing the border. All known identifying information available about a lost migrant is listed on the tag that represents them; many of the tags are marked with “unknown” on every identifying line. Once complete, the tags are placed on projected map of the border in the precise position where their remains were found or indicated. Undocumented Migration Project (UMP), which organizes HT94 and other projects under De León’s leadership, identifies memorialization and collective mourning with the families of the lost as core objectives for HT94.

Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL


A Proposal I respect the significance of these objectives as a refusal to forget the dead, especially when the conditions of their de facto murders rendered them unidentifiable nonpersons. As a participant in WashU’s iteration of HT94 and an advocate for the work of UMP, however, I respectfully call the project to conceive of its import as something more than mourning. This call is not naïve to murdered migrants’ rights to recognition and remembrance, but I fear that if we draw the line on HT94 at the project’s awareness and memorial functions that we reify the necroviolence of the Hybrid Collectif.

I propose that we instead think about HT94 as an act of aesthetic re-materialization. Yes, the project serves as a memorial and site of communal grief. So, too, it is an active refusal to relegate the stories, and indeed the bodies, of the lost to death and dematerialization. HT94 insists that these people continue to matter and forges a global community whose collective labor enshrines their stories in actual matter (the toe tags) that occupies real and symbolic space. This adjustment in frame doesn’t bring the lost back to life, but it moves beyond ruminations on HT94’s memorial gravitas to consider the project as a modality of life-affirming resistance. References De León, Jason. The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail . Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2015.

Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Mbembe, Achille. Necropolitics. Translated by Stephen Corcoran. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019.

Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL


Manila and Orange By Rosie Lopolito White plastic chair in a white tent. Hunched. Back curved, A hard beetle in the desert. Leg bouncing, once, twice. Anxious movements, but safe

(Safe and shielded from the sun). Black pen chiseling stiff words On manila and orange tags. No sweating in the sunshine, No sighing in the shade: Writing—nothing but scratch marks, Mechanical and sterile. Not waxing Stygian poetic,

Not documenting excursions to Eden and back Like an intrepid explorer, Not writing love letters with splotchy ink. (Although, in a way, it was just that, But without any impassioned blemishes, Without stains. None on the paper, that is.) And yet,

The thin numbers pressed into Each tiny box contained as much affection as Frida’s letters to Diego, Vincent’s to Theo, Steinbeck’s to his son. Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL


Sliced open, the tag was cut By the sharp tip of my pen and began to bleed. (Since when was I a surgeon?

How could I be qualified to Bring anyone back to life, Especially when they’ve been reduced to this? To a tiny tag populated by squiggles? To thick paper and crammed boxes and bloody ink? To piles of tags, displayed in a cluster and so become Indistinguishable, like soldiers who Never volunteered for such an unfair war.)

The wet curve of each letter, Shining with dark ichor, Stood out against sand-colored cardstock For just a moment before drying. Drying dark, dead and lusterless. Manilla for José, for Dante, for Natali, Orange for Jane and John and Doe. The oldest was forty, The youngest half that.

Younger, even. Younger, still.

“Fully fleshed.” Fleshed, decomposed, skeletal. Mummified. Bones degraded and bones scattered, Articulatous, ligamented—

What does it all mean anymore?

Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL


Sometimes unclear, undetermined, unknown. And so many numbers. Dates, IDs, coordinates.

How can you have no name But be reduced to a five-, six-, seven-, However-digit long number? Undetermined, unknown—how? How can we know so little, Only the smallest slivers Of who they were? They were (they are) people

(Who had favorite ice cream flavors, Who liked to dance or didn’t know how, Who had chapped lips or painted nails, Who squinted at the sun on bright days, Who sighed at the stars and smiled at the moon And dreamed of places beyond their country, Beyond this beautiful wretched world), Not nameless flesh or tarnished bones or barren husks of Who they used to be.

They have names and faces and stories (Like you, like me). But that’s all been scattered, Flecks of ash in the desert wind. Flecks of ink on a toe tag.

It’s an insult. I thought we loved,

Revered our dead:

Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL


President after president, One figure after another. Is this our America?

(I wish I was surprised.) Memorialized by the public, many Live on after their bodies are buried, But so many others are forced to die a second death, Becoming ghost citizens of a hostile world: Those who expired from exposure, Soft bodies freezing in the desert, Wasteland turned cemetery.

Or the ones who faced the opposite: Blistering, burning, broiling Under the Arizona sun. And the victims of wounds to here, here, and there Or those whose remains were too mangled, Too damaged, or too incomplete to identify How they ended up that way. Bones can’t speak, but my god, do they scream. It’s too loud to shut out, isn’t it?

The Sonoran calls, cries, Wondering when the weight will be gone. Who will tell her? No—she knows already. She’s heard this dirge before. The sand sings and the wind Wails the funeral hymns.

Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL


But this isn’t her job, The Sonoran wasn’t meant to house the dead. Desert stones form no cairn, dry soil no casket.

No urn, no grave offers a secure embrace, The bodies cannot rise once again To fall into the gentle arms Of a lover, a parent, a child, a friend. Lizards don’t give proper funerals, Vultures, poor mourners. The sludge of the earth provides No solace, no warmth, no love.

(She can give so much but not enough.) Neither can I, or you— A fruitless task, but what else is there? Is there ever an end to this kind of grieving? (An extinguished life leaves Long smoke trails, Depositing clumps of soot in their wake.) How do we share our warmth, Our hearts, heavy with life,

(Still beating. Still beating.) With those who can no longer feel it? Even writing now, I can’t (is it impossible?) capture The Who: describing the What is the closest I can get to this untouchable, unspeakable— Looking at that wall of tags tears out your tongue But a breath over 3,200 pins dare you to speak.

Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL


The wall bulges in a frozen gasp, An inhale that won’t be released. It swells like a wound full of bile

With the pressure growing, growing, No release, no movement, no words. What can you say in the face of such a beast? Is this gulf too wide, is the schism too deep, The water too capricious to cross? I hope it’s not. I hope it’s not. Who are we if this is it?

Who are we if we allow this to be it?

Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL



Public Health for Undocumented and Documented Migrants through a HT94 Lens By Tishiya Carey In beginning to do an independent study project, I wanted to focus on the connection between the Hostile Terrain 94 project, a participatory exhibition detailing the deaths of migrants crossing the border based on the research of Jason de León in the Undocumented Migration Project that extends far outside of Wash U to other institutions, groups and communities, and the public healthcare system, or the lack thereof in regard to migrants, both documented and undocumented in crossing the border. Through working with the team the Fall semester, I was able to better understand and contextualize both the lack of accessible healthcare and the lived reality of not only migrants, but people who work in healthcare serving migrant populations through interviewing them on their lived experiences and perspective on what they have perceived and learned through both serving migrant populations and patient care. To really understand the Hostile Terrain 94 Project and its correlation to immigrant access to public healthcare, I focused on the status and stance of the healthcare system particularly regarding undocumented Latinx immigrants and how that functions in relation to the Hostile Terrain 94 project. The Hostile Terrain 94 Project is ultimately composed of 3,200 handwritten toe tags that represent migrants who have died in the Arizona Desert between the mid-1990s and 2019. These tags are geolocated on a wall map of the desert showing the exact locations where remains were found. In many ways, the Hostile Terrain 94 Project focuses on the immigration enforcement strategy known as “Prevention Through Deterrence,” formally implemented by the United States Border Patrol in 1994 as a method of ultimately deterring and discouraging undocumented immigrants from trying to cross the US-Mexico Border, particularly near urban points of entry. By doing so, The United States Border Patrol hoped to push immigrants from known trails into more unknown territories that came with new unforeseen challenges and difficulties. And in using this environment as a deterrent, the United States Border Patrol ultimately failed and caused more than six million people to attempt migration through the Sonoran Desert of Southern Arizona between mid-1990s and the current day. At least 3,200 people have died in this hostile terrain migration, primarily from dehydration and hyperthermia in attempting this journey through Arizona. However, more recently, “Prevention Through Deterrence” has shifted people towards Texas, where hundreds have perished while migrating through unpopulated wilderness. Prevention Through Deterrence is still the primary border enforcement strategy being used on the U.S./Mexico border today. Hostile Terrain 94 x WUSTL


While “Prevention Through Deterrence has pushed more people on routes through Texas, Texas legislature in many ways refuses to recognize the need to care for undocumented immigrants, especially regarding the public healthcare system. Currently, there are 1.6 million undocumented immigrants in Texas, and while this population continues to increase, legislation between 1986 and 2013 has made it much more difficult to address these gaps in healthcare equality. In receiving care, federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and safety net hospital systems function as means for primary care. While both care for uninsured and undocumented patients, FQHCs are funded by the federal government and are equipped to provide both primary and preventative care. In comparison, safety net hospital systems (also called "county" or "public" hospitals) tend to be in larger cities like Houston or San Antonio) and are funded by their specific county. Although they offer a multitude of services, including specialist care and elective surgeries, a longer wait time is usually involved. One unfortunate consequence of the current system is that patients often present to the emergency room with a more advanced disease due to lack of early diagnosis or treatment. The resulting health care costs more and is often either uncompensated or inadequately compensated. Besides the relative lack of access to specialists, undocumented immigrants face cultural and social barriers in obtaining care. One major cultural barrier is language; more than 75% of undocumented immigrants come from Spanish-speaking countries, and most are not fluent in English. Two social barriers often encountered are difficulty keeping medical appointments because of an irregular work schedule and fear of deportation or exposure to the law. Regarding the lived experience of healthcare advocates helping migrants navigate healthcare, I was fortunate enough to be able to conduct an interview with Kevin Gomez, the Community Engagement Coordinator of Casa de Salud. Casa de Salud operates as the primary healthcare resource for the immigrant community of metropolitan St. Louis, and part of the infrastructure that welcomes people of all origins to the St Louis area. Casa de Salud aims to provide healthcare and healthcare access to individuals that face financial, linguistic, and cultural barrier to healthcare. Mr. Gomez has a very specific role in this organization, focusing on outreach in disadvantaged communities, facing the barriers mentioned before in providing resources and services, and helping people navigate the healthcare system here in St. Louis. For him, as a Hispanic person from St Louis, serving people in his own community is incredibly important and as his family are immigrants, it makes sense to give back and help this personal and intimate community. Through this role, Mr. Gomez has also been able to widen his perspective and help connect other immigrant groups to the proper organizations and resources; he deeply understands the value Casa de Salud provided his community and is trying to make sure other people have the proper access. Mr. Gomez sees his own lived experiences and interactions with immigrants as essential, saying; “We’re working people, laborers, restaurant workers, caregivers, and a lot of the work this population does makes things work. People are healthy and have roofs over their head. Ensuring their heath is imperative to keeping society working, play such an important role in our society. Maybe not so much in Missouri, but our population feeds, houses and takes care of America.” Unfortunately, through the work he does in these communities, Mr. Gomez has also synthesized that the American healthcare system is expansive and complicated. Insurance plays a role in if people have access to the healthcare they deserve, regardless of it being a human right.

With that understanding, Casa de Salud provides the tools to both educate and navigate the healthcare system. Paying for insurance and the costs of medical care are scary and stressful, which often affects both physical and mental health. Being able to help immigrants with these concerns in making things seems less complex and clearer allows Mr. Gomez to feel good about the necessary work he is doing in fighting both a healthcare system and insurance system designed in such a way that allows people to fall through the cracks constantly. Mr. Gomez is inspired by the immigrant population he works with and said “The population that we serve are extremely resilient people. They travel from far-away places, put up with all the societal challenges they are presented with and can carry forward and work hard to make better futures for themselves and the community. While they are marginalized, they are an inspiration, and it is an honor to be able to work with immigrants and refugees and be able to make a welcoming and comfortable environment for them. They are more entrepreneurial than your American average and work harder because of it.” Regarding what he thinks other people can or should do to better understand the issues Casa de Salud faces, Mr. Gomez hopes more people will come to volunteer, see it with their own eyes, help with administration if possible, help serve immigrant populations and build their own understanding and perspective while helping to build and support the immigrant populations here in St. Louis. Being a part of The Hostile Terrain 94 Project, this past semester provided me with an opportunity to do just what he suggested, and in being able to work as a tangible part of a team focused on something so much bigger than myself that I was able to understand in such an intersectional way, it has felt truly transformative. From my first synthesis of depersonalization of bodies in death and how I could be a part of something larger, I’ve been able to be involved in events, gain a better network of people, and incorporate more of my public health understanding into a research project built around the intersectionality of healthcare and international area studies. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I was afforded this past semester in being able to pursue a project like this one.

Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL


Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL

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“Activism is not something that one person alone can do. What makes the map of Hostile Terrain so aesthetically pleasing, is that you have so many people engaged in this act of mourning and the act of memory and it’s also an act of protest, in many ways.” - Tabea Linhard


Artist Spotlight: Javier Torres-Gomez

Artist Bio My name is Javier Torres-Gomez, and I am a licensed Architect from Mexico. Ever since I was a child, I have always enjoyed drawing in my notebook and building things with whatever I was able to get my hands on, such as cardboard boxes, popsicle sticks, paper scraps, yarn, etc. I was always drawing or inventing things in my free time. With my great interest in art and architecture, after graduating from high school, I enrolled in the School of Architecture at the National Autonomous University of Mexico – UNAM, the largest and most recognized university of Mexico and Latin America. I obtained my Bachelor of Architecture in 2006. I currently work full time as an Architectural Associate at Lamar Johnson Collaborative (LJC) and spend my free time with my wife and our 5-year-old son. 41




Artist Spotlight: Mee Jey Mee Jey received a Master and Research degree in History from India before her MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, in 2019. With an interdisciplinary approach to ideas, Mee works with drawings, paintings, sculptural installations and time-based media including performance. Cofounder of a relational art project- ARTOLOGUE: ART FOR ALL, Mee has worked with numerous communities in India and the United States since 2013. She is recipient of United States Legislative Fellowship (2017), McDonnell International Scholarship (USA 2017-19) Rajasthan State Acknowledgments Award, India (2016), and Community Arts Training Fellowship by Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis (2019-20).

ALIEN is a work conceived of an attempt to trace commonalities between all people of (USA) regardless of their skin color, race and ethnicity. Historically, we are all immigrants in this New World called America, making us all ‘Aliens’, a political term used for immigrants in the US.

Night Glow screen print on cotton t-shirts, 2020 45

Campus Contacts and Resources for Undocumented and DACAmented Students Center for Diversity & Inclusion Danforth University Center (DUC), first floor, suite 150 Dr. Mark Kamimura-Jiménez: Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Dean of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion 314-935-7535

Office for International Students and Scholars Danforth University Center (DUC), suite 330 Martha Turner: Executive Director, OISS 314-935-5991 Office of Scholar Programs Julia Macias: Assistant Dean of Scholar Programs 314-935-8379

Financial Aid Office Sumers Welcome Center, lower level 314-935-5900 Career Center Aimee Wittman: Director of Career Services 314-935-4435 Office of Student Success Student Success Fund 314-935-8380

Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL


On-Campus Resources WashU Organizations/Clubs Association of Latin American Students (ALAS) Strives to provide a space for Latinx students of the Washington University community to share in a common heritage while celebrating differences. Email: Instagram: @washu.alas

Alpha Psi Lambda National Co-Ed Latinx interest fraternity that values familia, culture, academics, service, and leadership. Features networking opportunities and leadership development roles that can help you grow throughout your career. Email: Niños, Cambios, Puertas Provides tutoring and mentoring to underprivileged Latinx youth in St. Louis. Email: Phone: 314-935-4597 Mi Gente Foster community among Latinx-identified individuals and allies so as to be able to advocate for visibility and community engagement at the Brown School and the greater St. Louis region. Email: Latino Medical Student Association National student group whose vision is to unite and empower medical students through service, mentorship and education, advocating for the health of the Latino community. Instagram: @lmsa.washu WUFuego Latin Dance Troupe Performance and social Latin dance team whose goal is to encourage a community that celebrates Latin dance and culture. Website: Instagram:@wufuego Facebook:

Latino Graduate Student Alliance Email: Latin American Law Students Association See school website for more info. Olin Latin American Business Association Hostile Terrain 94 x WUSTL See school website for more info.

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Hostile Terrain 94 at WUSTL

Off-Campus Resources

Follow these organizations to keep learning. Please consider donating your time or money if you are able.

Casa de Salud The mission of Casa de Salud is to facilitate and deliver high quality clinical and mental health services for uninsured and underinsured patients, focusing on new immigrants and refugees who encounter barriers to accessing other sources of care.

Hispanic Leaders Group of Greater St. Louis The Hispanic Leaders Group promotes and supports the advancement of our vibrant Hispanic community through networking, education and advocacy to foster harmony and diversity in the greater St. Louis region.

Latinx Arts Network STL A network for artists and art advocates who support and encourage the Hispanic/Latinx arts in the Greater St. Louis area including fine arts, performance arts, visual art, literary arts, music and all other art expressions including art producers.

STL Juntos STL Juntos unidos para compartir recursos y información esencial en español para la comunidad.


Missouri Immigrant & Refugee Advocates (MIRA) Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates (MIRA) is dedicated to working for, and with, immigrants and refugees to protect their human rights, build capacity, and advocate for a welcoming and inclusive Missouri. Migrant & Immigrant Community Action Project (MICA) A community organization committed to working with low-income immigrants to overcome barriers to justice. The MICA Project utilizes legal services, organizing, advocacy, and education to promote the voice and human dignity of immigrant communities. St. Louis Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America (IFCLA) Through education and organizing, we convene an inter-faith community to accompany the people of Latin America in their work for human rights and social justice.


Instagram: @ht94wustl

This booklet was made by Julia Orientale (Global Studies, WUSTL)


Hostile Terrain 94 @ WUSTL

Thank you to our volunteers, our sponsors, our event coordinators Tabea Linhard and Mattie Gottbrath, our construction professional David Cervantes, and our contributing local artists Mee Jey and Javier Torres-Gomez!


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