'Borderhack' Festival a Call to Action


Hackers and activists gather in Tijuana to protest violence and draw parallels between physical and electronic borders.
By Annaliza Savage
September 6, 2000
PLAYAS DE TIJUANA, Mexico. Activists from across North America descended on the border between the first and third world, protesting the inequalities and dangerous conditions that would-be Mexican immigrants face. Borderhack, a three-day event that took place over Labor Day weekend, promoted hacktivism as a means of protest.

Playas de Tijuana, or Tijuana Beach, is an unlikely setting for one of the world's most heavily guarded borders - or for a three-day protest that emphasized civil disobedience. The festival was held on the beach. Beach-goers sun themselves and vendors peddle balloons and cotton candy. Shacks sell coconuts. 'Those names on the fence are there for a reason, and the reason is that people are dying, some are children.'
-- Luis Humberto Rosales, festival organizer

Next to all this beauty, however, a massive wall protrudes from the ocean and extends across the US-Mexico border. Along the wall, the desperately poor line up looking for a way into the country. On the other side, a small stretch of desert is punctuated by the tall buildings of San Diego
glistening in the sun. Parked on the US side is the border patrol, looking rather bored. (This may change when the sun goes down, as most attempted border-crossings happen after dark.) A group of dolphins is spotted in the crystal blue ocean. They pass from Mexico into the United States. No one asks for their papers.

Take a closer look at the fence and you'll see row after row of names, all of them in Spanish. "Those names on the fence are there for a reason, and the reason is that people are dying, some are children, two or five years of age," said festival organizer Luis Humberto Rosales. "We're not trying to say that borders are bad or wrong, we are trying to show people what's going on."

Hacking for change

"We don't want to destroy the border, only to make us conscious of it," festival organizers wrote in the Borderhack Manifesto. "In the world of computers, hacking is understood as the penetration, exploration, or investigation of a system with the goal of understanding it, not of destroying it, and that is exactly what we are trying to do." 'The hacker and the activist are very intertwined.' -- Lucas, festival organizer

Borderhack is an extension of Documenta X, a festival of musicians, artists, and human-rights supporters that was held on the border between Germany and Poland in 1998 to express outrage toward the treatment of illegal immigrants. Borderhack's organizers decided to take the principles behind Documenta X and bring them to Mexican soil.

The aim of the event was to use technology and activism to bring attention to the border crisis as well as to bring hackers and activists together. The organizers see hacking and activism as a natural combination.

"Hacking is nothing if it's just for kicks or ego, all activists need to learn how to hack!" said Lucas, a festival organizer. "It's a powerful tool. The hacker and the activist are very intertwined. I don't know why it's been taking so long to come together. They're made for each other."

nos vemos en el futuro.

¿alguna vez soñaste un borderhack?


Borderhack, hacktivism


'Borderhack' Festival a Call to Action is a description of the 2000 Borderhack festival at the US/Mexico border. It offers several excerpts from the festival's "Borderhack! Manifesto," and links hacking and activism beyond the digital interface.


Annaliza Savage




Annaliza Savage: no commercial use without permission.


September 6, 2000




Digital Diasporas


hacktivism, Digital Diaspora, Borderhack