Amid notice of Kirstjen Nielsen’s resignation as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and the ongoing debate about a proposed border wall, Philadelphia-based photographer Ada Trillo presents art that reflects what she knows to be true about what is happening at our southern border.
“I know for a fact that many of the immigrants who are coming through now are very good people who are leaving violence behind,” she said. “I wanted to show why people come to the United States and what their light at the end of the tunnel is.”
Trillo is showcasing photos she took of the migrant caravan at the University of the Arts. After traveling almost two thousand miles through Mexico on “la bestia,” (“the beast,” the train many migrants cling to perilously during their crossing),, she opened the exhibit on April 5 with a panel of migrant-rights activists and artists, including Cristina Martinez-Guerrero from South Philly Barbacoa, journalist Sam Slovick and Mark Lane, the CEO of Minority Humanitarian Foundation.
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"I know for a fact that many of the immigrants who are coming through now are very good people who are leaving violence behind."
Lane talked about a 15-year-old with down syndrome named Javi, who is featured in one of Trillo’s photos and Leslie, a 7-year-old with cerebral palsy who met Trillo and Lane after her father pushed her from Honduras to Mexico in a stroller.
“Javi was very sick but his mother was even sicker. She was vomiting blood and Javi was putting vapor rub under her nose and caressing her,” Lane said. “Leslie was sleeping in the open on the floor. They didn’t have a tent. Her father was told along the way to just leave her at a hospital because she was going to die anyway.”
Lane’s organization, which provides housing, education, and legal representation for immigrants, brought Leslie and Javi into the United States. Neither child had been to school before, but now both are enrolled and living with host families.
Ashley, a trans-queer immigrant from Mexico, was ostracized in her home country.
“I can’t find jobs over there because they say ‘who do you think you are?’ I’m a person,” she said. “A person with feelings and dreams to come true.”
"We are all one humanity."
Ashley, who came to the United States with help from Lane’s foundation, asked that everyone step back from the politics and see migrants as people rather than a threat.
“Everyone should have the opportunity to live life with dignity,” she said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like. The point of the world is love and happiness and we should help each other be who they are.”
Martinez-Guerrero is an undocumented immigrant who advocates for immigrant rights through her award-winning barbacoa restaurant in South Philly. She said that art in any form, like Trillo’s photography, Slovick’s journalism and her cooking should be used to bring awareness to the struggles of migrants.
“We are all one humanity. This problem is not going to stop any time soon, but we need to start acting because it’s hurting a lot of people,” she said while brushing away tears. “Love is all we have when the world ends. In the end, we are just dust.”
Trillo’s Chasing Freedom: Portraits of the Migrant Caravan will be presented in the lobby of University of the Arts’ Gershman Hall until April 25.-30-
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