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Patriotic Affinity

Ronal Rael, “Borderwall as Architecture”

 “A wall on the border with Mexico would save us a lot of money.”

“I like Mexicans, but Mexico is not our friend. They kill us at the borders and they are killing us in jobs, and in trade.”

“I will fine Mexico with 100,000 dollars for every person who enters the United States illegally.”

“Banning them from entry is common sense.”


These are highly charged phrases intended to stir up voters’ sentiments, phrases which exteriorise a sense of patriotic enthusiasm. Over and above the ideological discourse, Donald Trump’s rhetoric highlights the emotional bond between citizens and their land.

As I said in previous posts, the setting where you experience your earliest emotions is the home, the public space, the land in which you grew up. Those experiences, boosted by feelings, are inscribed in your memory and make you the unique person you are. All the inhabitants of a specific territory share the same setting for our experiences, and this makes us feel part of a group that goes beyond our family and circle of friends.

But that homeland is not only the setting for your experiences: it also has to ensure that all your basic subsistence needs are met, for example by producing good crops or lots of raw materials.

If we analyse this link with our land and country more closely, we find that our collective identity – the narrative of our history – is forged in our cities, buildings, monuments, landscapes and infrastructures. And it’s those things that define our historic identity.

When all that is threatened, emotions run high, and waving the patriotic flag makes you rally, in one way or another, against the threat.

But put yourself in the shoes of the “adversary”, the foreigner. Your emotional ties with a land will vary depending on whether you’re a visitor, an immigrant or a refugee.

If you’re a visitor, your emotional relationship with the land and its people will be peaceful. You’re merely sharing their country for a while. Even though you’d be willing to spend more time there if you like it, you know and you feel that you don’t belong to the place. You’re at total liberty to return to your roots.

In contrast, you don’t have total freedom if you’re an immigrant. You’re a foreigner in a strange land out of pure necessity: you can’t cover your basic needs in your country of origin. You don’t belong. You’re not a citizen. Your emotional ties with your host country are probably contradictory and, in many cases, stressful.

If you’re a refugee, the main emotion shaping your attitude to your country of origin will be fear. Your homeland will have ceased to be a place of sustenance and shelter and become a threat, while in the host country you have a long process of adaptation ahead of you in which feelings will play a crucial role. Such a radical, enforced change of circumstances will affect your emotional world, and this will continue until you manage to adapt to your host country and its society, a process which will involve creating new emotional bonds.

Have you ever found yourself in one of these situations? How did you feel?


Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor

(Madrid 1980) Doctorando en el departamento de Proyectos Arquitectónicos en la ETSAM, Master en Proyectos Arquitectónicos Avanzados por la ETSAM, 2013, Arquitecto por la Universidad Alfonso X El Sabio, 2006. Socio fundador de Estudio Perpendicular.

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