Maleteros, 2005

Mark Bradford’s project, Maleteros (Porters), was an exercise in empowering and making visible an informal labor community. Through an extended process of dialogue and exchange, Bradford worked with a group of unofficial porters—who have been offering their services at various access points at the US-Mexico border for more than two decades—to co-create a visual “porter identity.” Through the supply of customized equipment, the informal branding of key work areas, and the provision of a temporary work space, Bradford provided the maleteros with a platform from which to negotiate their social representation and public visibility.

By revealing the existence of underground communities that carve out social spaces at the border and ease the cross-border flow of goods and people, Bradford sought to disrupt the familiar reading of the San Ysidro Port of Entry as a highly formal site, replete with mechanisms of control and surveillance. Instead of tracking a vertical trajectory between the cities of San Diego and Tijuana, Bradford mapped the intricate relationships of informal economic exchanges that routinely penetrate and circulate around the border.

Longstanding differences between various maleteros groups came to the surface during the process—in particular, between those who had a measure of official recognition and those who did not. However, individual maleteros continued to discuss ways in which to continue the project, hoping to secure a degree of solidarity in order to defend their work at the border, underline its importance, and work towards a unified maleteros presence.

Curators: Osvaldo Sánchez and Donna Conwell
Venue: San Ysidro and Tijuana

Octaviano A Garcia
Amparo Sillas Cirilo
Jesús Morillo Guardo
Fernando Martinez
Don Chewy
Israel Maldonado
Ruben Nunez Reyes
Ramón López
El Rafa
Dolores Martinez
(among others)

Architect of the project
Monique Birault

inSite production
Daniel Martínez
Márgara de León
Joy Decena
Zlatan Vukosavljevic
Esmeralda Ceballos

Individuals acknowledgments
Teddy Cruz
Kianga Ford
Miguel Ángel Méndez
José Schroeder
Orlando V. Chambers
Miguel Aguirre
Luis Cabrera

Tijuana Duty Free
San Ysidro Port of Entry
Delegación Centro (Tijuana)

The United States Embassy in Mexico City
Tijuana Duty Free