Zulema Hernandez – A 77-year-old Mexican-American and former migrant farm worker.
In August 2017, Zulema donned her leopard print blouse, gathered her walker and her daughter Juventina, and headed to a protest march in Mission, Texas. Her body pained by 40 years of farm labor, and leaning heavily on her walker, Zulema would march almost four miles in the Texas summer sun to stand in protest against the border wall with thousands of her borderlands neighbors. She walked and gave her quiet voice to the cause, and then rested. The next day she was out again, standing on the Rio Grande levee, fighting against the construction of wall on the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge–one of the most biologically important refuges in the nation. When asked why she was there Zulema replied: “If the wall is built, where will the butterflies go?”
Marianna Trevino Wright - Director of the National Butterfly Center, a private preserve protecting a rare remnant butterfly community.
In July 2017, Marianna found federal contractors clearing land and planting stakes on the center’s property along the Rio Grande. She demanded to know what they were doing, was given no answer, but subsequently learned they were paving the way for a 30-foot barrier that would amputate two-thirds of the center’s property and leave a no-man’s-land between the border wall and the Rio Grande. Marianna and the Butterfly Center hired a lawyer and prepared themselves for a bitter fight to save a lifetime of work and one of the most important habitats for butterflies in North America.
La Mariposa - The Butterfly. The Soul.
In May 2018, a red-bordered pixie butterfly took shape in a tiny pale chrysalis upon the silver bark of a guamuchil tree standing less than 100 feet from the Rio Grande levee, the would-be site of the future border wall on National Butterfly Center land. Over the next few days the pixie chrysalis would lighten to transparency as the pixie inside prepared itself for first-flight. Nearby, a bordered patch caterpillar devoured a ragweed leaf, readying itself for metamorphosis, while a monarch butterfly flew a nectar circuit, fueling up for its journey across North America. For the pixie, bordered patch, monarch and the 340 other butterfly species that can be found on the Butterfly Center and in the South Texas borderlands region–everything depends on the success or failure of Marianna and Zulema’s fight. For the ancient Greeks, the word for butterfly, psyche, was the same as the word for soul. This character, la mariposa, will float at the foundation of this film, a symbol of the deepest connotations of a border wall as structure and symbol.