The day after President Donald Trump announced a tariff against all products entering the United States from Mexico, a local philanthropist has decided to hoist a flag to Mexican American partnership just outside the Albemarle County-based Trump Winery.
John Kluge Jr. on Friday announced the decision to erect the “Bandera Monumental” on his land via a $25,000 GoFundMe. The flag would be designed by the Mexican American Designers and Engineering Collective, and a band with Mexican American roots would play at the flag-raising ceremony, according to the page.
“Have land, will hoist. If children are playing at government, then we will play children’s games. Viva México! #GameOn,” Kluge posted on Facebook at 7:43 a.m. Friday.
Kluge inherited the 7-acre property off Ellerslie Drive in eastern Albemarle from his father, media mogul John W. Kluge Sr.
Kluge Jr.’s mother, Patricia Kluge, owned the land around the property before 2011, when it became clear that her plans to establish a world-class vineyard were in trouble. Trump, who knew the Kluges, bought the estate after banks began foreclosure proceedings on the property.
Kluge Jr. said that he and his wife, Christine Mahoney, a professor of social entrepreneurship at the University of Virginia, have been discussing what to do with the property he inherited. They concluded that the monument could help inform long-term plans for the property, which could include an event space or gallery for immigrant artists.
“We do not harbor resentments against our neighbors. They do a tremendous job of maintaining the winery, and we appreciate that,” Kluge Jr. said. “It is just that with the change in these policies, many of us have had enough.”
Trump has threatened escalating tariffs against Mexico until they decrease the number of Central American migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. Kluge Jr. said that he wanted to draw attention to whether tariffs were the right policy choice and wanted to honor the people who make both countries strong.
“We haven’t even broken ground on the flagpole yet, and we’re talking about it,” Kluge Jr. said. “It’s created an opportunity for us to have a conversation about the importance of our partnership with Mexico and effective solutions to forced migration.”
Excess funds raised by the GoFundMe page would likely go to the social impact fund Kluge Jr. founded, Refugee Investment Network, and local nonprofit Sin Barreras, according to Kluge Jr.’s Facebook post about the project.
He said that 99% of his father’s assets are committed to philanthropy, but even if he had all the resources to make the monument happen, he wanted the monument-making process itself to honor collaboration.
“The GoFundMe was prompted by people looking for a way to participate immediately. It was never designed to take resources away from direct service work,” Kluge Jr. said.
Kluge Jr. updated the GoFundMe page on Tuesday to include links to organizations that directly support displaced people like Sin Barreras, the Charlottesville Immigrant Bond Fund, and the International Rescue Committee.
The project would face some restrictions from local ordinances.
Albemarle requires that flagpoles be set as far back from the property line as they are tall. If the flagpole were 100 feet tall — the minimum proposed by Kluge Jr. on his GoFundMe post — it would have to be placed at least 100 feet within the property. The flag itself also must be smaller than 24 square feet.
Kluge Jr. said that he intends to work with the county to ensure the monument meets local ordinances and he is not sure yet whether the full monument will require county official or administrative approval since the design is not complete yet.
On Tuesday evening, 113 people had donated a total of $7,715 to the campaign, including $500 from Kluge Jr. His original Facebook post had garnered 272 “Like,” “Love,” and “Haha” reactions and 101 comments by Tuesday evening.
Charlottesville Tomorrow reached out several times to Trump Winery for comment but has not yet received a response.
This story was updated at 9:40 p.m. June 4 to include an interview with John Kluge Jr.
Emily Hays grew up in Charlottesville and graduated from Yale in 2016. She covered growth, development, and affordable living. Before writing for Charlottesville Tomorrow, she produced a podcast on education and caste in Maharashtra, India.