When Donald Trump promised to erect a “beautiful wall” on the U.S.-Mexico border, this probably wasn’t what he meant.
In Tijuana, the existing border fence sports a mural of the Republican presidential candidate.
He looks as he often does — head cocked, hair swept forward, index finger jabbing. But wedged in his mouth is a ball gag, and the words "!RAPE TRUMP!” have been painted above his head.
A collective of U.S. artists who call themselves indecline spray-painted the image last fall, after Trump characterized Mexican migrants in the United States as criminals and rapists. Found on a dirt road in working-class Colonia Libertad, the mural has become a tourist attraction.
“We see a lot of visitors come here,” said Rafael Serrato, 56, a car mechanic whose home faces the mural. “We even have buses of Japanese, Chinese people.”
Travel south of the border, and you are apt to encounter numerous images of Trump. He’s memorialized in murals — Tijuana has at least two — as well as piñatas and T-shirts.
“There is a great fear among the people,” said the Rev. Pat Murphy, director of Tijuana’s Casa del Migrante, which helps Mexicans who have been deported from the U.S. “They are always talking about it, what would happen if Trump gets in.”
In October, about half a dozen American artists arrived in Colonia Libertad. Over two days, they painted the Trump mural and other commentaries on U.S.-Mexican relations.
Videos on indecline’s website show that the group sometimes breaks the law to make its political statements. Members have defaced billboards, trespassed on remote military bases and smashed patrol cars’ windows. The point, says the group’s unnamed spokesman, is “to document the ills of society.” The 20 or so members include several Mexican Americans.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best...,” Trump said when he kicked off his presidential bid in June. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
The Tijuana mural also includes driving directions from Tijuana to Trump Tower in New York City.
Serrato says the mural strikes a chord. “He’s kind of a rotten bad guy to Mexicans because of what he says” about immigrants in the U.S. illegally, the mechanic said.
Across town, another critical mural makes its point more softly. The side of a large house in Otay Galerias is covered with portraits of Trump — stabbing the sky with his index finger — and four women representing Syria, China, Guatemala and Mexico.
“Todos somos migrantes” is painted in one corner, “We are all migrants.”
The mural appeared three weeks ago, the work of a team led by local artist Mode Orozco. Moises Benavides, who works at a nearby gas station, volunteered to assist. He was captivated by the mural’s many butterflies, some of which bear the flags of various nations across their wings.
“Butterflies can go wherever they want,” Benavides said. “They are not like people.”
Rowe writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune. This story originally published on April 16 on sandiegouniontribune.com.