MATAMOROS, Mexico — The artist Patricia Ruiz-Bayón recently met with three migrants in a shelter in this ravaged border city and invited them to take part in one of her performance works. The piece, “70+2...,” commemorated an act of extreme brutality that continues to traumatize the region: a 2010 massacre of 72 migrants in nearby San Fernando that the Mexican authorities say was carried out by the Zetas criminal gang.
Like the slain migrants, who were pulled from buses and shot, Ms. Ruiz-Bayón’s art volunteers were on a treacherous journey north toward the United States. On the day of the performance, barefoot and dressed in white, the participants, two men and a woman, walked slowly through soil that Ms. Ruiz-Bayón had transported from a San Fernando cornfield, evoking a mass grave but also hope and renewal. Then they walked along an infinity symbol that had been carved into the dirt, signifying the eternal path of migration.