Wallenberg Studio "alternateaccess" Returns from Laredo

This year, the undergraduate Wallenberg studios, named after the UM alumnus Raoul Wallenberg, are exploring the theme “Backstages, Sideshows, and Undergrounds.” The aim for each course is to create a framework for lively debate and exchange across all eight studios. Anca Trandafirescu is leading the UG4 studio alternateaccess, which recently returned from a trip to the Mexican/United States urban border territory along the Rio Grande River. The trip was February 5-10, 2009. Trandafirescu reports:

Through a grant from the International Institute, this year’s studio, titled “alternateaccess,” traveled to the Mexican/United States urban border territory along the Rio Grande River to the sister cities of Laredo, Texas, USA and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. As their names imply, these cities began their history as one city that became two upon the conclusion of the Mexican-American War and the creation of the international border along the Rio Grande River. Today, while there are many cultural and economic ties between the sisters, the disproportionate distribution of wealth and development between the United States and Mexico has created unequal access into each other’s cities. The studio was particularly interested in investigating the specific character of the present disparity that poses higher risk to one population and higher benefit to the other. As such, our trip toured the downtown districts of each city, explored the no-man’s land zones of the border and Port of Entry (at Bridge #1), crossed the international border (on foot), visited the Casa Del Migrante – a temporary shelter devoted to offering rest and nourishment to passing migrants in Nuevo Laredo, and screened the films of Marcela Moran with the filmmaker in Nuevo Laredo’s newest cultural center, the Estacion Palabore.

To round out the trip and provide further context, we traveled along the Rio Grande River (through Texas) stopping and border-crossing in the small, dusty sister cities of Del Rio, TX, USA and Ciudad Acuna, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

Our last stop was in Marfa, TX, USA. As a completely different type of border condition, the studio visited the remote outpost and artworks of Donald Judd and contemporaries.

The studio’s blog is, and thousands of photos from the trip can be viewed at (Flickr Group “los dos and more”).