The Friendship Park: Defining America’s relationship to the border.

Flikr | Jonathan Mcintosh

“The Friendship Park”/”Parque de Amistad” once represented an impressive move in positive relations between Mexico and the US.  Standing on the border between Tijuana and San Diego, from 1971 until 2009 it was a place where families spread across the border could unite (The Friendship Park: Border Patrol Reopens Binational Park For Supervised Cross-Border Family Contact).  Conceptualized by first lady Pat Nixon during her husband’s time in office, it was a great peace offering between the two nations, an in-between area with a better reputation and mission than customary border cities. Although it wasn’t necessarily the homiest of environments with border patrol standing guard and cameras monitoring visitors’ every move, simply by existing it was a symbol that the US recognized its inherent, unavoidable familial ties to Mexico.

However, in February of 2009 it was closed down to be replaced by fence construction in the space that once united the countries.  The symbolic effects of this change were obvious: public space symbolizing family and cooperation becomes blocked by physical barriers constructed by the US.  Supposedly, this was an eight-year-delayed response to the attacks of 9/11 to strengthen homeland security.  Ironically created under a Republican president and shut down under a Democratic president, The Friendship Park seems to make border issues less about threats and negative views of immigrants and more about individuals, quality of life and the importance of family.  Although it has clear flaws (constant close observation, distrust between the guards and families reuniting, an almost zoo-like feeling because of the structure and the knowledge that one is being watched), the reinstitution of the Friendship Park at this time of election and potential change speaks volumes about the future of the U.S’s attitude toward immigration and U.S.-Mexico relations.

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