Raquel Rivera sent me this video about the current controversy surrounding Sofia Maldonado's new mural on 42nd Street. The Times Square Alliance is now dealing with calls to take the mural down because it "degrades" women of color by depicting them as "ghetto."
The most striking thing to me about the video and article was the conflation of working-class/poor women of color with "prostitutes." That people were able to argue that these women with their "long finger nails" were sex workers of Times Square's heyday was really complicated and problematic. It speaks volumes about the degree to which Times Square is not a space for "certain types" of New Yorkers, but rather a sanitized Disney version of New York City. In that respect I appreciate Maldonado's claim that her mural makes visitors confront an image of NYC that they much rather ignore. Maldonado said this about the mural:
“The mural illustrates strong New York City women as a tribute to the Caribbean experience in America. Inspired by my heritage, it illustrates a female aesthetic that is not usually represented in media or fashion advertising in Times Square. It recognizes the beauty of underground cultures such as reggaeton, hip-hop and dancehall and incorporates trends such as nail art and Latina fashion. Green organic forms represent the imaginary land that third generation immigrants create in their minds about their countries of origin. I represent the characters and happenings that tourists usually do not see in Times Square, even though it could be a frequent scene in the other boroughs of New York City. These women are strong single mothers or wives who enjoy life and have overcome tough experiences living in and immigrating from a third world country.”
Me personally, I rather look at this than a mural of a bunch of Latinas in business suits holding cell phones and briefcases.
*image from Times Square Arts