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Raices: This mangrove root design draws on the artist’s City Hall mural, which portrays Spaniard, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, planting a flag beside the Miami River. The mangrove roots here, and on the ceramic works in the courtyard (Entangled, 2013) and at the entrance of the property (Roots, 2013), portray the vital replenishment of our natural habitat and the multi-generational bonds of family and culture.

Dante_RAICES_1Xavier Cortada, “Raices,” ceramic, 2013
A public art project at Dante Fascell Apartments (Miami-Dade Housing Authority), Miami, FL

Artist’s Statement

Allapattah is also one of the two Miami neighborhoods I grew up in.  My first home in Miami was nine blocks away, my library six blocks away.  It’s where I first set my roots, arriving in the summer of 1967 – not quite yet three.  We lived there until I was ten, so it is where I learned to speak English, where I first planted a tree, first cared for animals and pets. So there’s a personal connection to the place and a special connection to the elders who live in that building .

They are people who need love and need art, and they need to be cared for, and they are part of our community and our society.

So I thought we would bring them color and beauty and remind them about the natural beauty that surrounds them.

A lot of the work that I do about mangroves is to raise that awareness and engage others, whether it’s through participatory projects or through the art that I place in the public parks, university museums, and the most public of places like County Hall and City Hall

Like the art at the entrances to those deliberative halls which have mangrove themed paintings, the entrance this public housing site also depicts mangroves, a metaphor for community.

Inside the courtyard is “Entangled”  — each of us create a mosaic.  At the parking lot is “Roots.”

The work that inspired Raices for this building is one of my murals that hangs at the entrance of Miami City Hall. If you were to go down and look at the City Hall mural, I have two: one about the incorporators of Julia Tuttle and the other, “First Encounter: 1566,” about Pedro Menendez de Avila who first put a European flag on the north bank of the Miami River. The bottom of that mural is the inspiration and the composition of Raices. Literally, the bottom slice of that painting became the pattern that I used to create this piece.

“The First Encounter: 1566” depicts Pedro Menendez de Aviles landing at the edge of a mangrove forest on the north bank of the Miami River.  Upon spotting Menendez unfurl his flag, a young Tequesta releases leaves into the winds of change that have brought a Spanish galleon to his shores.  Between them a whirlwind of activity emerges: exchanges, education, friendship, disease, war, emotions surround the Miami Circle.  In 1566, a year after settling St. Augustine, Adelantado Menendez has arrived to establish the first of three Jesuit missions near the tip of the peninsula he governs for Spain, a spot that will be governed by four other flags and will eventually become Fort Dallas and the City of Miami.

Since that first encounter, we’ve all come from different places to make Miami our home, much like a mangrove seed washes up and takes root on a Florida sandbar and helps builds new land where new life can take hold.

The mangrove roots symbolize the residents who have set roots in their neighborhood and built community.  The roots depict our interconnectedness– by reaching out to others, we build a stronger community, much like the walking feet of mangrove roots do to build formidable structures and nurture new life.”

Portraying the natural world in urban spaces is also important because it reminds us of what was here before all the concrete was poured.  As generations and growth transform Miami, we as a people are grounded by nature, the one constant in this ever changing and wonderful city.

In a sense, I wanted to further integrate them into the fabric of our community.  Conceptually, I was bringing a piece of City Hall to them, which is quite fitting: This building and its artwork was dedicated on February 25, 2014.  The residents gathered inside the community room heard from many speakers, including their City and County mayors.