Friday, 20 November 2009

Friendship's End

Friendship Park on the border between San Diego and Tijuana, a place where divided families have been able to meet and hold weddings and Christmas parties or where lovers divided by the international border between Mexico and the US could meet since it was opened in 1971 by Pat Nixon, wife of the then US president, as part of her attempts to promote US-Mexican relations. Now it is now a less than friendly place.

Originally planned as a US park with picnic tables and a children's play area where people from both sides of the border could meet without the need to go through immigration control, it suffered its first set back in 1994 when the US put up a mesh fence to stop migrants and drug traffickers. But it was still possible to touch somebody on the other side of the fence, to kiss and hold hands, even under the steely gaze of the border patrol.

Now the park is isolated by a newly finished section of the high tech fence with sensors, radar, lighting and cameras. Now the US side can only be accessed for 4 hours on Saturday and Sunday, but only after vetting by border agents and only then for a maximum of 25 people. Needless to say it is not a universally popular move. According to Katy Parkinson, an American resident in Tijuana who runs a migrant charity "(The building of the fence) was an act of cruelty. Here, grandmothers met their grandchildren for the first time, they took photos, people could find each other again."

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