Cross-Training Shoes:

Art or Transportation?

A new line of cross-training shoes has appeared recently on the feet of illegal border crossers in Southern California. The boots are outfitted with a rough map on a removable sole, a flashlight and a compass on the laces and an image of Saint Toribio Romo, the patron saint of migrants.

The fancy footware dubbed "Brinco" ("jump" or "bounce" in Spanish) is the creation of Judi Werthein, an Argentina-born, Brooklyn-based artist. She goes to safe houses in Tijuana where migrants are preparing to cross the border illegally into the United States and gives them shoes. She also sells the shoes to upscale boutiques in San Diego and New York.

"Art talks about reality; this is something that is happening," she said, adding that the piece "was responding to two cities that are separated by a wall, to social situations that are different."

The shoes, which cost $17 to make in China, carry price tags of $215 in U.S. stores. The creation "links migrants' efforts to cross the border illegally with the increasing global corporatization of goods and labor," according to the artist's description on the Web site of the border art exhibition InSite05.

-- Michelle Garcia

Judi Werthein helps a man with shoes she designed for southern border crossers.