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Treehouses and Mansions: Life in the Shadow of the U.S.-Mexico Fence

Image: The Wider Image: Treehouses and mansions: in the shadow of the fence

Carpenter Moses and dental assistant Sara's home stands near a section of the fence separating Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico. EDGARD GARRIDO / Reuters

The rust-red U.S. fence along the Mexican border has inspired various quirky architectural structures, from a frontier-themed mansion to a humble treehouse with uninterrupted views across the Californian scrubland.

Carlos Torres, an architect in the northern Mexican city of Tijuana, has lived in a house in the shadow of the U.S. border for three decades, and the fence that U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to expand begins at the end of his garden.

Yet far from seeing the metal wall as an eyesore, he chose to make it a central piece of the design aesthetic of his lavish home, which he has named "The First House in Northwest Mexico."

Image: The Wider Image: Treehouses and mansions: in the shadow of the fence
Mexican architect Carlos Torres, 68, adjusts signs near the double border fences separating Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico. EDGARD GARRIDO / Reuters

A specially erected viewpoint provides a panoramic vista into the United States, while his garden is littered with border paraphernalia, such as a signpost indicating the start of U.S. territory.

Although Torres has embraced his little section of wall, he doubted the larger fence that Trump envisages will work.

Image: The Wider Image: Treehouses and mansions: in the shadow of the fence
A section of the border fence separating Mexico and the United States is seen on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico. EDGARD GARRIDO / Reuters

"Walls won't halt immigration," he said from his viewing balcony, which also looks out onto the Pacific Ocean. Trump, he said, "doesn't know what he's talking about. Here at this fence, people keep crossing every week."

The wall also dominates Pedro and Carmen Hernandez's garden, but unlike Torres, they don't have the means to turn it into a design feature. Instead, they use the corrugated metal that looms over their modest home to hang their clothes to dry.

Image: The Wider Image: Treehouses and mansions: in the shadow of the fence
A girl runs outside her home near a section of the fence separating Mexico and the United States, on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico. EDGARD GARRIDO / Reuters

"Sometimes, we've had people in our gardens who are trying to cross over," Carmen said. "This area has been dangerous for years. We've had murders and kidnappings. But one learns to live with it."

A few kilometers east of Torres' mansion, Guatemalan chef Joaquin set up a much simpler home in the branches of a tree, just meters from the border.

Deported from the United States a few years ago and with little money to spend, Joaquin - who did not want his last name used so he would not be identified - hoisted a scruffy mattress into the heart of the tree and spends his nights staring up through the leaves into the heavens. During the day, he often spots dozens of migrants trying to sneak into the United States.

Image: The Wider Image: Treehouses and mansions: in the shadow of the fence
Joaquin, 36, a chef from Guatemala who says he was deported from the United States, leans on a section of the border fence separating Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico. EDGARD GARRIDO / Reuters

"I've tried to cross so many times that the (U.S.) border guards even got to know me, but I never made it back," said Joaquin, who makes a living by collecting trash in Tijuana that he tries to sell to a local recycling plant.

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