Just past the shiny glass towers, the cranes, the stately government buildings, the new modern federal courthouse; among the bustle of the Uber drivers and Metro buses, and the hourly chiming of the bells from the old Spanish church, is where this great city began.
The settlement along the riverbank where native people gathered is the place where the Pobladores arrived from Baja California to establish a foothold north, in Alta California. What began as a small pueblo, today, is a blend of cultures and histories. It is the heart of one of the world’s great cities; where visitors and tourists share the walks with immigrants, movie crews, the faithful, the homeless.
The spectre of La America Tropical looms over a quaint Mexican village, surreal, yet an honest vision of America’s diversity. Here, one is never too far from the best and the worst of Los Angeles, tents and makeshift shelters coexist with the gleaming artistry of one of the world’s great architects.
The Bracero Monument will be a tribute to the men who risked everything on a journey north. A hundred and sixty years after the Pobladores first embarked on their quest into the unknown, braceros toiled side by side in the fields of California on the promise of opportunity. A more appropriate location could not have been chosen, nor a public art project more apt and timely than this, on the site of the original City of Los Angeles. The air here is full of life, with the sights, sounds, and smells of the cultural mix that exemplifies the promise of the highest ideals of this country. Certainly, Homenaje a los Braceros belongs here, today.
I envision the image of a country that looks past the indignities carried out by the governments of two countries. Past the personal suffering and abuse, the disenfranchisement of a people. This long overdue gesture expressed in the monument is much bigger than the modern day scapegoating of a singular people.
I propose a big celebration of color and form in space. The monument is a public art project that looks back at our history, the good, the bad, and the ugly, with a clear direction towards the future overflowing with hope, beaming with dreams come to fruition, in abundance.
The imagery I have selected to use are the forms of the fruits the braceros grew and harvested in order to support their families. Consisting of the major agricultural crops of California, which made our state the greatest agricultural economy in the world during a time of global upheaval and uncertainty, a great World War and the Cold War fear of nuclear annihilation. This is an appropriate tribute to the young Mexican men who worked in America’s fields and fed an uncertain nation.
My idea is to celebrate their enormous efforts with oversized images from California’s bounty, the work consisting of giant silhouettes fabricated out of CorTen steel. The forms are scaled with the crops, which required the greatest care, therefore, represented the most difficult labor - lettuce and strawberries - the largest size. All of the forms represent agriculture crops of California, then and now. The steel structures will be installed onto concrete pads and rise out of the landscape, constructed to the highest professional standards.
The monument will be joyous, larger than life, in proportion to the gratitude and recognition due to the young men who performed a herculean task under extreme living conditions.
The structures can either be finished in brightly colored paint, designed to withstand the elements, or remain raw CorTen steel, left to patina and grow over time with the City.
A grand vision of abundance, a great bounty, is a celebration of the fruit the Braceros were cultivating, their hopes and dreams. A 12 ft. high orange and a 10 ft. lemon hovering in the parkway, a head of lettuce as big as a tree, almonds that you can sit on, a Strawberry as big as a car!
Los Angeles is a world leader in myriad fields. This endeavor should visually reflect the magnitude and considerable unsung contributions made by the braceros to Los Angeles.