Interview: Mex And The City's Founder on Racial Profiling Series

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Since 2009, NYC-based blog Mex and the City has built a tightly-knit community of Mexican-Americans and nationals, pushing forth a new vision of the contemporary Mexican identity. Under the banner of Racial Profiling, they’ve delineated a web of personages in their native city and beyond, showcasing their individual successes while emphasizing one common thread: their cultural heritage.

The group recently launched a Kickstarter campaign that would see their vast collection of digital profiles––stunningly documented by photographer Carlos Alvarez Montero––abandon the constricting realm of binary code in favor of a more timeless format: the printed page. We sat down with one of Mex and the City’s founders, Marina García-Vásquez, who discussed with us the importance behind such an enterprise.

You can also learn more about their project on their Kickstarter page, as well as contribute with a donation package of your choice, prices to meet all budgets.

So what is Racial Profiling all about?

Racial Profiling,” the portrait series, first started to address stereotypes around the Mexican experience and identity in a beautiful and different light. We wanted to focus on the positive contributions of individuals, a spin on the taboo.

How does it specifically address the issue of Mexican identity?

The goal was to show a full range of Mexican experience to a New York audience, that we came in all shapes and colors and that we were also contributing to the city in meaningful ways. It was, in a way, an attempt at Mexico 101 for non-Mexicans.

Was being from New York (and being Mexican, obviously) the common thread among the selected faces? Or was there something else that you were seeking to highlight in the process?

The common thread is that the people photographed are leaders in their industry, field, specialty. The project was to do a few things at once: (1) Portray a new Mexican identity for a greater public that would change stereotypes, (2) Showcase professionalism in our community, and (3) Use this platform to create a means to inspire/motivate a new generation toward education and the future.

What spurred you to branch out of NYC and feature artists from other cities?

The concept of Mexicans in NYC is a relatively new phenomenon. When we first started the blog, it was to show that there were Mexicans in New York. Yes, the new immigrant stream from Puebla, but also these young people from Mexico City and Mexican-Americans from other states. So when we started publishing the portraits, people started to ask what Mexico City was like, so we extended the project there to combat the idea that Mexico was dangerous and poor. You know, all of the tired stereotypes that come about. Then we started getting emails from people asking to bring the project to their cities. LA seemed like the logical extension.

There’s quite a range of fields covered in the series––designers, musicians, journalists. Do you feel there’s a tightly-knit community among the creative class of Mexicans living in New York?

Ha! Not at all. I think that is the relevance of Mex and the City, validating this individuals and bringing them together as a community. They would otherwise not necessarily have found each other or found themselves in the same room.

Would you say the project has been successful in this respect?

Yes, in creating community. A lot of creative and professional collaborations have come about because of the grouping/association.

How does the aim of the project tie into the larger platform, Mex and the City?

Again, in its simplest truth. The project was created to develop both an online community and a real community in NYC and beyond and to showcase the diversity and complexity of the Mexican experience. We say it’s a global movement because of our ability to move between countries, cities, subcultures, genres, etc.

Why do you think it’s important now to launch the project as a physical object? What specifically do you think can be said in that format that doesn’t necessarily communicate through web?

The editorial exists on our site online but I don’t think it’s enough. I think a book has the power to be impactful. There is nothing like the tactile effect of pages in your hand and the weight of a book. There is concreteness to printing a book to show that this exists, that is this a fact and a facet of community.

Would the book mark an end to the series or is it meant to be ongoing?

Hmmm. I don’t know the answer to that…

I think it’s a means to develop a larger national conversation. We’d love to document SF, Chicago, and San Antonio, but we don’t have the means to do that on our own.

You already feature quite an ample and illustrious cast of individuals in the series, but is there anyone else you’d still like to profile that you haven’t had the opportunity to?

These photo shoots require our Mexico City-based photographer to travel, so a lot of times people we want to feature are also traveling. A few who have slipped for this reason are Liliana Dominguez, Paul Rodriguez (the skater), Diana Garcia. In D.F., more artists, period.

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