A local philanthropist whose family once owned the property now occupied by Trump Winery is planning to erect a monument and flag celebrating U.S.-Mexico relations on land he owns near the winery.
In light of tariffs on Mexican goods proposed by President Donald Trump, local philanthropist John Kluge Jr. is fund raising to build the monument.
Kluge said he wanted to give the land for the monument because of his work with the Refugee Investment Network, of which he is founder and managing director, and as a private citizen of the U.S.
“Mexico has been a longtime critical ally and trading partner of ours,” he said. “Tariffs, like the one that was proposed ... will jeopardize U.S. jobs, especially Virginia jobs, and negatively impact American consumers, especially those here in Virginia.”
Late last week, Trump announced that he had suspended plans to impose tariffs on Mexico.
Kluge’s mother, Patricia Kluge, owned the land where Albemarle House and the Trump Winery sit, until foreclosures ultimately were filed on what was then Kluge Winery. Banks sold off parcels of the winery, which Trump eventually purchased. The winery is now owned by Trump’s son, Eric.
The 6.92-acre property proposed for the monument is in a private trust. Kluge said he and his wife, Christine Mahoney, have been thinking about what to do with the property long-term. They’ve discussed using it for transitional housing for refugees who are resettling into Central Virginia, a farm to table taqueria, a public art park and event space for Latinx and immigrant artists and other ideas.
“I don’t know what the long-term plan will be, but this really is kind of a step one which we’re moving forward with given the timing of these other things that are happening,” Kluge said.
The MADE Collective, a group of 15 architects, engineers and designers, five from the U.S. and 10 from Mexico, are currently working on the monument design. The flag will be designed by Latinx artists.
Local construction company Martin-Horn has offered to provide concrete, and local Mexican-American folk rock band, the David Wax Museum, has expressed interest in performing at the opening, Kluge said.
So far, he has not reached out to Albemarle County to see if the monument will need a permit, but he will once they have a design proposal.
“We fully plan on working closely with the county and adhering to the county’s code,” Kluge said.
County zoning code currently allows for tall flag poles in the rural area, where the property is located, as long as they are located further from the property line than the flag is tall.
Kluge said the project should be community-driven, which is one of the reasons that he wanted to use Gofundme to raise the money.
“The idea of the monument is to honor the collaboration between these two countries, so let’s create a collaborative process,” he said. “That can be collaborative in how it is financed, it should be collaborative in how it is designed, it should be participatory and it shouldn’t happen if there isn’t a community of people who want it to happen.”
He said the project is s not a suggestion for an alternative way to directly support displaced people or migrant communities.
“That should be done by directly supporting organizations that are doing that important work,” he said.
However, if the Gofundme receives more than what is needed to complete the project, Kluge said extra funds could be donated to Sin Barreras, the International Rescue Committee or RIN.
With RIN, Kluge said he has been working closely with representatives in both the U.S. and Mexican government and the business community to develop a “robust strategy” for addressing root causes of forced migration,
“It means creating jobs and opportunities for people to build a dignified life where they are, rather than being forced to flee somewhere else, which has also been increasingly hostile to them,” he said. “But it also means addressing the root causes of instability that forces them to move in the first place, which is really violent crime, extreme drought exacerbated by climate change.”
“Cutting off the support for these countries that are already unstable — Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador — and then penalizing our neighbors in Mexico who are working very hard to address these issues, is entirely counter productive,” Kluge said.
On Monday, $8,390 of the $25,000 goal had been raised.