The shoes are named Brincos for the Spanish verb “brincar,” which means “to jump” —as in, across the border. They includes a compass, a flashlight because people cross at night. The pocket in the tongue hides money or some Tylenol painkillers because many people get injured during crossing.
Illegal immigrants’ primary mode of transportation is their feet. “If they go through the sierra, they walk eight hours. Their feet get hurt. There’s a lot of stones and there are snakes, tarantulas. So that’s why it is a little boot,” Werthein says. The Brinco is an ankle-high trainer which is green, red, and white – the colors of the Mexican flag. An Aztec eagle is embroidered on the heel. On the toe is the American eagle found on the US quarter, to represent the American dream the migrants are chasing. And on the back ankle, a drawing of Mexico’s patron saint of migrants. A map – printed on the shoe’s removable insole – shows the most popular illegal routes from Tijuana into San Diego.
The artist first passed out trainers for free to migrants, then sold limited edition of them at a hip store in San Diego for $215.
Only 1,000 pairs of the sneakers have been manufactured — in China, for $17 each to underscore the tensions sparked by the global spread and mobility of the maquiladora.