Assistant Professor Maria Gaspar Takes to the Sky for Immigration and Mass Incarceration Reform

Artist Berto Lule’s contribution over Otay Mesa detention facility in California | Photo: Sandy Huffaker / In Plain Sight

Over Independence Day weekend, if you lived in Rio Grande City, Texas you might have seen "DEJAME MIGRAR N PAZ" written across a clear blue sky from plane plumes. Or "NO ICE NO ICE NO ICE" in Bakersfield, California; "NOS VEMOS LIBRES" in Phoenix; or "BLACK LIVES MATTERS" in New Orleans. What these towns and cities have in common is that they are locations of US Customs and Border Protection agencies, immigration courts, and detention facilities. These sky-typed messages were part of a national campaign for the abolition of immigration detention and mass incarceration, formed by #XMAP: In Plain Sight, a coalition of 80 artists and activists.

One of the sky texts was created by Maria Gaspar, assistant professor in the Department of Contemporary Practices. Gaspar's message of "SOY PAZ SOY MÃS" was seen over the Coastal Bend Detention Facility in Robstown, Texas. For her statement on In Plain Sight's webpage, Gaspar shared, "The text I chose is based on the song: "Soy Pan, Soy Paz, Soy Más," popularized by the imitable Mercedes Sosa with Piero. The lyrics are written by Luis Ramón Igarzabal. I decided that I wanted the text to be targeted to the majority of those incarcerated and living around the facility—Spanish speakers. I spent time thinking about iconic long-time poets and singers who epitomize a desire for change and who see no boundaries. Throughout my research, I had in mind the tenderness of people, migrants, seeking to find some hope but are placed in limbo—exploited and traumatized by the US government. The pain I imagine and have witnessed in my own family made it more important for me to send a message of love. That is to say, I see you, I love you."