Tuesday, 4 Aug 2020

‘We are all connected’: Seesaws unite children across U.S.-Mexico border

Children on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border have found a common language that any kid can grasp: playtime.

Dozens of kids — and adults — lined up to play on three pink seesaws set up along the border outside El Paso on Monday, where two architecture professors hope to break down some barriers with their new “Teetertotter Wall” art project.

The seesaw exhibit was designed by Ronald Rael of UC Berkeley and his wife Virginia San Fratello of San Jose State University. They brought their neon pink seesaws to a stretch of the border wall and slid them between the metal slats for anyone to use.

There’s only one catch: you need to work with someone on the other side of the border to make the seesaws work.

Rael and San Fratello shared several photos and videos of their project on Instagram Monday. The videos have been re-shared to Twitter, where they’ve racked up millions of views.


The joy that was shared this day on both sides is something that will stay with me forever. #borderwallasarchitecture #raelsanfratello #teetertotterwall #seesaw #reunitefamilies @colectivo.chopeke

A post shared by Ronald Rael (@rrael) on


Mexican entertainer Mauricio Martinez hailed the project as a “beautiful reminder that we are all connected,” in a tweet posted with one of the videos.

“What happens on one side impacts the other,” he wrote.

Rael and San Fratello hope that simple lesson will get through to supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has spent much of his tenure trying to build a wall along the border.

Rael says the project is meant to show children and adults that they are “connected in meaningful ways” with people on the other side of the border, and that actions on one side have direct consequences on the other.

He described building the wall as “one of the most incredible experiences” of his life in an Instagram post on Monday.

San Fratello posted several photos of children enjoying the seesaws, along with simple captions reading “Joy,” “Happiness” and “Togetherness.”



A post shared by Virginia San Fratello (@vasfsf) on


The Teetertotter Wall emerged from the pages of Rael’s Borderwall as Architecture, a manifesto filled with essays and ideas opposing Trump’s border wall and recommending news ways to use it for the public good.

“It is a field guide to the 650 miles of wall already in place, and proposes design solutions that build alongside, directly on, or in place of the existing wall, as a way to repair the damage caused by the wall,” Rael’s website says.

Ronald Rael, left, and his wife Virginia San Fratello are shown riding a seesaw set up at the U.S.-Mexico border on July 29, 2019.

Rael explains how architecture can be a beautiful way to communicate complex ideas in a 2018 TED Talk.

“Isn’t it fascinating how the simple act of drawing a line on a map can transform the way we see and experience the world?” he says in the talk. “There are not two sides defined by a wall. This is one landscape divided.”

Rael and San Fratello set up their teeter-totter wall between Sunland Park, New Mexico, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The site has been a flashpoint for the border-wall debate after militia members detained migrants there earlier this year.

It’s also where a group of Trump supporters built their own border wall with millions of dollars raised through a GoFundMe campaign.

Rael hopes to turn the conversation around with his stunt.

“The joy that was shared this day on both sides is something that will stay with me forever,” he wrote on Instagram Monday.

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