By Luis Alonso Pérez
We are living in the era of great technological advances, where computers have made information spread freely, ideas shared instantly and distances simply disappear, however, something as obsolete as a rusty metal wall keeps separating human beings and dividing them in legal, and illegal.
For cybernauts, the term “hack” means accessing without permission, not to destroy how it’s commonly known as but to explore or investigate a system with the intention of understanding it. For a group of young cyber activists, the border should be hacked, that’s the reason why the Border Hack festival took place on Saturday, September 3, in Playas de Tijuana, a corner where poverty ends and the American way of life begins.
The idea for an event like BorderHack came from the 1998 No one is Illegal Festival (Kein Mensch ist Illegal) a camp out on the border between Germany and Poland, where activists and artists could express their outrage towards immigrant abuse in the region.
The constant success of this event made it possible to move to various spots around the planet, and in the year 2000 it took place for the first time in Playas de Tijuana, under the name BorderHack. In its first edition, the festival brought together a community of cyber activists and digital artists in a camp that included conferences, workshops, movie screenings, live bands and a live event broadcasting through web streaming.
This year’s event couldn’t reach the magnitude of the first one, but this didn’t diminish the organizer’s interest to analyze the border’s strange dynamics and the paradoxical relationship between Mexico and the US, an uneven correlation of mutual need, which lately has been stigmatized by violence, hatred and racism.
“The idea was to understand the ambiguous love-hate relationship between both countries” said Luis Rosales, one of the event organizers “but also to learn about the actions everyday people can act upon, and at the same time, incorporate technology and art to find creative ways of spreading the message to the people”.
The first part of the event was a discussion about HIV in the border region by members of FABI, a binational agency dedicated to health issues on both sides of the border, two of their members talked about the narrow relation between migration and aids.
The second participation came from Rey Ibarra, a human rights defender, who had a great participation as an observer during the Minuteman visit in the Arizona border. His important work against these vigilantes consisted in following them with cameras and cell phones to make sure no abuses where made. “We saw many ugly things, nothing happened to immigrants, but the hatred we saw against Mexicans is similar to the hatred you see in groups like the KKK” said Ibarra.
Enrique Morones from the Border Angels followed Rey’s presentation. He spoke about the metal wall in Playas and the opposition they showed when the government was going to put it up, because the only thing it was going to make was force immigrants to cross further east. But they didn’t listen, they put up that wall, and because of that, more than 3500 people have died.
Morones said that according to the Border Patroll, this year more than 415 people have died while trying to cross the border, most of them in Arizona “wherever it was, those deaths shouldn’t be happening. It’s incredible that the United States government, who likes to promote human rights, is the country that violates them the most, from Iraq to Louisiana” said Enrique Morones.
He also spoke about the resistance being organized by Gente Unida, against the Friends of the Border Patrol, on the weekend of September 16 in Calexico. There are around 400 volunteers from 50 human rights associations that will participate. “We have to be strong and unite in this effort” he added.
The last talk was made by members of the Workers Information Center CITTAC, who spoke about the labor injustices and the hazardous work conditions maquiladora workers have to put up with everyday. They also spoke about their important counseling effort for victims of these types of abuses.
The event came to an end as the sun slowly went down in the pacific. The metal fence is still there, but at least the knowledge shared will remain in each of the participants and BorderHack 2005 achieved a small step towards the understanding of this strange phenomenon.