Cypress College Displays ‘Hostile Terrain,’ Brings Attention to Humanitarian Crisis at Southern Border

Bringing America’s humanitarian crisis at its southern border front and center, Cypress College presents “Hostile Terrain,” a global pop-up installation and wall map created by anthropologist Jason De León.

“Hostile Terrain,” organized by the North Orange County Community College District Office of Diversity and Compliance, asks visitors to fill toe-tags with information about the more than 3,000 individuals who have died trying to cross into the United States through the Sonoran Desert over the past 25 years. Participants are then asked to place the tags on the map in the exact location where the person’s body was found.

“This has been happening for 20 years — people are dying in the Arizona desert,” De León told Associated Press earlier this year. “Nobody, Republican or Democrat, seems to want to talk about this.”

The display serves as a distressing reminder of the United States’ immigration enforcement policy, “Prevention Through Deterrence,” which was designed to discourage migrants from attempting to cross the border near urban ports of entry, forcing them to take a much more dangerous route. Since the policy was put into place in 1994, 3,116 people have died, largely from dehydration and hypothermia.

De León, author of “The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail,” is a professor of anthropology and Chicana/o studies at the University of California, Los Angeles and executive director of the Undocumented Migration Project, a 501(c)(3). “Hostile Terrain” serves as the precursor prototype to De León’s 2020 global participatory exhibition of the same name.

A reception with a performance of “Piedras y Luz by the Cypress College Dance Department and Maha & Company is scheduled for Thursday, September 19 from 6-8 p.m. The Cypress College Art Gallery is at 9200 Valley View Blvd. in Cypress. Additional events throughout the duration of “El Artist” include a screening of “Border South/Frontera Sur” and Q&A with director  Raúl Paz Pastrana on Thursday, September 19; a concrete casting workshop with Ed Giardina on Monday, September 23; a talk with Gustavo Arellano on Thursday, October 3; a lecture by former Director of the Museum of Latin American Art, Consul of Cultural Affairs of Mexico in Los Angeles and the First Secretary of the Embassy of Mexico in Washington DC Gregorio Luke, “Siqueiros: A Revolutionary in Art and Life,” on Tuesday, October 14; and a concurrent show, “El Artist” featuring the works of J. Sergio O’Cadiz Moctezuma.

“Hostile Terrain” is presented as part of the 5th SUR:biennial. Established by the Director of Outpost for Contemporary Art, Ronald Rafel Lopez, to explore the complex notion of globalization and exchange that takes place in the ambiguous borderlands between Los Angeles and the broader “South,” SUR:biennial features the works of local and international artists who have been influenced by the cultures and artistic traditions of Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. The 5th SUR:biennial takes place at seven different venues across the greater Los Angeles region. This year, Cypress College joins the Cerritos College Art Gallery, the Eastside International (ESXLA), the Long Beach City College Art Gallery, the Rio Hondo College Art Gallery, SPARC: The Social & Public Art Resource Center, and Torrance Art Museum.

About Cypress College:

Cypress College offers students a pathway to their future in an environment in which employees commit to joining students on their educational journey. The college’s half-million-plus alumni include actors, athletes, doctors, executives, mechanics, nurses, and teachers. For some, Cypress College is the ticket into their university of choice, and for others, it provides essential training for a prosperous career. Just one Cypress College class is often all it takes to provide cutting-edge skills that lead to a promotion or a new job.

Cypress College’s 16,000 students and the highly qualified teaching faculty are proud of the many excellent academic and vocational programs. Cypress College offers 56 university-transfer majors, 176 career-certificate programs, and degrees in 73 areas of study. The college’s traditional semesters begin in January and August, while short-term courses start throughout the year. A Cypress College education costs $46 per unit — $138 for a typical, full-credit class — California’s lowest tuition. Financial aid and scholarships are also available to qualifying students.

Cypress College is one of three campuses in the North Orange County Community College District and a member of the 115-campus California Community College system. The college primarily serves the cities of Anaheim, Buena Park, Cypress, Garden Grove, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Seal Beach, and Stanton.

Located at 9200 Valley View Street in Cypress, the college is easily accessible from several Southern California freeways, including the 5, 91, 605, 22, and 405. The campus is just a stone’s-throw from Downtown Disney and Knott’s Berry Farm.


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