If you’ve ever walked from Mexico to the United States at the Otay Mesa border crossing, you’ve likely noticed the multi-colored sculpture that stands just inside the gates. It is at least eight feet tall and is a depiction of a man and woman doing the traditional Mexican Hat Dance.
“Fiesta Jarabe” is its name and it was designed and sculpted by Luis Jiménez. It was commissioned by the U.S. General Services Administration for $57,000 and erected at the site in 1991.
Jiménez was born in El Paso, Texas, in 1930 of Mexican heritage, and he attended the University of Texas where he studied art and architecture. He became well known for his larger-than-life “polychromized fiberglass” sculptures that were primarily Hispanic and/or southwest themes.
Most of his work employs an undulation in its modality and is most effectively displayed on the Fiesta Jarabe.
Jiménez’ work – especially that of Fiesta Jarabe – received critical acclaim, some of it very critical indeed. Some viewers expressed concern that the dancers were not typical: the woman appears more Spanish than Mexican and the man’s skin is very dark, also said to be atypical of Mexicans.
Both dancers are ageless and prime in their posture and musculature; their faces register the only signs that life has been strenuous and difficult.
However perceived, the sculpture reflects movement, color, and tradition. The pair may be man and wife; they may not. There is nothing to make one think they are either. Rather, it’s the intensity Jiménez was able to sculpt that speaks volumes.
Luis Jiménez was killed in a freak accident at his studio in Hondo, New Mexico, on June 13, 2006. He was working on a piece called “Blue Mustang” when a large section of a horse fell on him and severed an artery in his leg.
The sculpture, 15 years in the making, was finished by his widow and children and now stands outside the Denver International Airport where it was erected in 2008.
The Blue Mustang balances on his hind legs, his eyes brilliant in honor of Jiménez’ father, who owned a neon light shop. He stands 32 feet high and is luminescent blue. He is quite magnificent.
But controversy has run amok in Denver over the “demon horse,” as some residents of the city have undertaken efforts to remove the sculpture. Its destiny is unknown.
Beauty, it seems, is entirely in the eye of the beholder.