Museo Grafitero (Graffiti Museum), 2004, early development stage, 2004, early development stage
The Tianguis Transnacional series is defined by a steady exploration of the aesthetic, social, and political manifestations of informal trade. It pays particular attention to the informal economy’s social networks as they exist in the current context of globalization, and its related history of colonialism.
The word Transnacional may be seen as a simple yet significant Spanish intervention in the globally recognizable Transnational. Drawing on the transformative power of the Spanish speaking immigrant population on the U.S., this one letter difference points at dramatically divergent experiences of globalization that are created by a “free” flow of goods and capital on the one hand, and a violent regulation of population flows on the other.
The word Tianguis is more obscure. It is a Nahuatl (Mexican Indigenous language) word that has survived five hundred years of colonization, and in the process has undergone very meaningful transformations. Used in pre-Hispanic times by the inhabitants of the Aztec empire, this word simply meant ‘market’ or the equivalent of our contemporary ‘shopping mall’. In contemporary Mexican Spanish, however, tianguis has become a prominent synonym of informal trade, illicit street stands, and the so-called black (or grey) market. The hegemonic Aztec “mall” has been thrown onto the street by the Spanish colony. The Indigenous street keeps fighting back, though, refusing to forget the meaning of the word, and insisting on the daily practice of a tianguis that threatens the very foundations of social and economic control, colonial urbanism and its State taxation system.
Undocumented immigrants are criminalized in the U.S. just as informal tradespeople are criminalized in Mexico. These geographically dispersed populations are literally related by family bonds, social class, and ethnic background. Tianguis Transnacional is an homage to them, built in the immediate sites of their labor and daily cultural prodcution.