Two Professors Created A See Saw Across The Mexican/US Border So Kids Could Play Together

By lheidi - August 02, 2019

See saws can be found at pretty much every playground. If you’re on a playground and you don’t see a see saw, you kind of have to wonder what’s going on. Why would they not have a see saw? Was there not enough room? Did the swing set take up too much space? One of the great thing about the see saw, aside the fact that they’re fun and easy to use, is that they represent so much. They can be used as a symbol for probably anything you need a symbol for.

So when two professors wanted to make a statement, they knew that a see saw was the perfect thing for them to choose. Sure, it’s just a plank of wood that goes up and down, but it’s so much more than that. It’s something that reminds us we’re all equal and what we do effects everyone else.

Up And Down


Recently, two professors decided to install see saws at the U.S. and Mexico boarder to send a message.

The campaign quickly went viral, as people embraced the message of unification and connection. Images of children playing on the same pink see saws in two different countries popped up all over social media.

The images of children playing on the instillation are now destined to become iconic, especially as immigration continues to be a topic discussed on the political landscape.

Teaching A Lesson


The instillation was the brainchild of two professors, Ronald Rael, who teaches architecture, and Virginia San Fratello, who teaches interior design.

Both teachers also co-founded the studio Rael San Fratello in Oakland, California. They worked together to show us the importance of working together.

According to Rael, the instillation is supposed to answer the question,”What kinds of consequences take place when we separate people, both now and later?” And it shows that you can’t stop children from playing.

South Of The Border


The pink see saws were put through the slats of a boarder fence, so the see saw could reach through both countries.

Children in both El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico were able to enjoy the see saws for the short time that they were up.

Three bright pink and unmissable see saws were installed, and people quickly put them to use once they were there, showing that people have a desire to be connected despite separations.

What's The Point


See saws use the concept of equilibrium to work. When once person goes up, the other person will go down as a result.

The actions of one person on one side will affect the actions of another person on the other side, for better or for worse, like it or not.

The professors deliberately chose the see saw because there’s nothing better to demonstrate that, “the actions on one side [have] direct consequences on the other,” said Rael.

Made In Mexico


The metal see saws were crafted by Mexican metal artisans who worked with Rael and San Fratello, as well as members of artists’ collective Colectivo Chopeke.

The see saws were designed so that they could fit through the slats of the fence along the border while still allowing people to play with them.

It took about a month for the see saws to be constructed, even though they were up for just one quick day.

Pretty In Pink


The metal see saws were painted bright pink, and their color holds a lot of significance.

Thousands of women have been violently murdered in Juarez, Mexico since 1993, and pink is the color used to commemorate them.

Additionally, the color pink would strike a jarring juxtaposition between the drab brown walls of the border fence. They are completely unmistakable and clearly visible in the photos taken of the instillation. There’s a huge contrast between the see saws and their surroundings.

Big Differences


But the see saws don’t just contrast with the fence. “The borderlands are a world of contrast,” says Rael.

“The approach to our work is one that recognizes there is horror and humor at the border: There is the horror of xenophobia and immigration policy, and humor is our way of overcoming hardship in many ways.

“The project itself recognizes those contracts: there is horror and there is joy. That is embedded within its very design.”

Feeling Nervous


Rael says he felt nervous when it came time to install the see saws along the border.

He wasn’t sure how the soldiers stationed by the border would react to the see saws, however, he received a pleasant surprise.

When the officers and soldiers asked about the project, they didn’t object to the instillation. Not only that, but they smiled as they watched the children and adults play on the see saws once they had been installed.

Happy Day


It is interesting to note how quickly people are to come together, despite the fact that tensions run high.

Both adults and children were playing on the see saws as the soldiers looked on, happy. “Everyone was so happy. It was such a beautiful thing,” says Rael.

However, there was one moment of unhappiness in the day. One boy was upset when it was time for him to go. “He didn’t want to get off,” explained Rael.

Positive Reception


But it was’t just the people playing at the border who reacted positively to the instillation.

The instillation has bee well received all around, and Rael has received very little negative comments to it, a rarity in this day and age.

“There is a fundamental meanness around the concept of a wall and it is very mean to want to keep children from playing,” he said. “I do wonder if that’s why [we’ve gotten very little criticism for the project.]”

The Missing Link


The see saw along the border serves to remind us that there are people involved in the situation.

“There are communities there: grandmothers, children, mothers, fathers,” he says. People don’t cease to be people just because they live in a different country.

“What’s so important to me, and what I feel is missing from the conversation, is the recognition of the humanity that exists along the border, and an approach to thinking about immigration from a humanistic perspective.”

People Are People


Rael says he hopes that people walk away having learned something from the project.

“I have seen people who have been locked up and separated and I can only imagine what it would be like to have your child forcibly separated and not knowing if you would see your child again, or if your child will ever see you again,” says Rael.

“I hope people glean [from the project] the importance of keeping families together, of keeping that joy and happiness together.”

Post With The Most


Rael posted about the installation on Instagram, leaving an equally heartwarming message.

“One of the most incredible experiences of my and Virginia’s career bringing to life the conceptual drawings of the Teetertotter Wall from 2009 in an event filled with joy, excitement, and togetherness at the borderwall,” wrote Rael.

“The wall became a literal fulcrum for U.S. – Mexico relations and children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side.”

Here Today


The instillation wasn’t meant to be permanent and it has already been taken down, having been up for about one day. So if you want to play on it, you’re out of luck.

According to a Customs and Border Patrol official told Forbes that, “there is no playground along the U.S.-Mexico border.”

“On the evening of July 28, U.S. Border Patrol agents encountered a small group who identified themselves as local university faculty/staff at the border wall,” said the Customs and Border Patrol.

Gone Tomorrow


The entire instillation seemed to be a positive event, reaffirming a faith in humanity for some.

“They had placed boards through the wall and appeared to be playing with residents of Mexico while recording the engagement. The group removed the boards and left the area without incident after it was established that there was no advance coordination,” said the Customs and Border Patrol officer.

“Agents ensured that no people/goods were crossed during the encounter.” There was just good, clean fun.