Mestizo City was a 6,700 square-foot site-specific installation in the Miami Design District, which was on display during Art Basel/Design Miami in December of 2012.
In the wake of the 2012 Presidential election, which was marked by the historic impact of the Latino vote, Mestizo City explored the demographic shift taking place in the United States in a playful interactive public space. Created to represent the vibrant and varied Latino culture and its growing influence, the installation incorporated and wittily reinterpreted some of the most recognizable visual and social elements associated with the Latino culture: inflatable structures, a taco truck, Jarritos bottles, bright colors, informal concepts of space and street art.
Outside the space a taco truck served as a meeting place for visitors, where they ate, drank, and generally tasted Latino culture. Visitors entered through one of four vinyl-coated nylon inflatable structures, which were positioned between two buildings and created the appearance of a seamless facade of storefronts from the street. The storefronts were a representation of the current obsession of global consumerism and served as the backdrop for the commercial and social interactions inside the site.
The inflatables created a “border” between Mestizo City and its surroundings, which was further represented through the presence of a photobooth where guests were able to make fake visas as they entered the area. Inflatable playscapes and food trucks – long-standing symbols of street corner entrepreneurship in the Latino culture – immediately set the tone for the playful and inviting entry, which was designed to invoke thoughts of economic and social status, inclusion, citizenship and the American Dream.
Once visitors crossed the “border” into Mestizo City they were met with a large colorful 12x12x12 foot cube, which occupied the center of the space. Composed of the colorful and iconic Mexican soda, Jarritos, the cube explored the idea of informal architecture by using a non-traditional building material to create a formal structure.
An 8-foot tall photo wall wrapped the interior perimeter of Mestizo City and created a makeshift urban gallery. The images exemplified the cultural phenomenon of Mestizaje in the built environment and included such photos as houses painted with bright colors and makeshift fruit markets set-up in front of tire shops. These photos intermixed with images of architecture that employed similar concepts. Infographics were scattered throughout the site and provided data regarding Latino culture in the United States. One example – a large map of the US – depicted the Latino population of each state represented by various beans.
Included in the three day installation were various “happenings” such as a public preview/opening party for Mestizo City, Breakfast Tacos at Tiffani’s, an open air panel discussion about “Mestizo Style” moderated by renowned journalist Fred Bernstein, contributor to The New York Times, Departures and Architectural Digest, and a closing musical concert featuring El Chingon; the band led by internationally acclaimed film director Robert Rodriguez of “Machete” “Spy Kids” and “Sin City” fame.
Equally important to the installation was the process by which the Jarritos cube was deconstructed. Spectators were invited to take as many bottles of the Mexican soda as they liked; and slowly, like a melting block of ice, the cube disappeared.
Mestizo City asserted and celebrated the idea that walls cannot be built between culture and creativity and that physical borders will not fracture the growing influence of Latinos in the United States. This installation transformed an empty lot in an unexpected urban location into a temporary, vibrant social space, which promoted the ideas of Latino Urbanism and the Mestizaje, or blending of Latino culture.
Henry R. Muñoz, III
2015 Citation Award; San Antonio Chapter of the AIA