Mex and the City and photographer Carlos Alvarez Montero present



Ricardo Cortes
Prospect Heights

Ricardo Cortes is a man of passion and investigation. He takes on a vulnerable moment or a social predicament and weaves a story around it through illustration and narration. He researches and resists and makes sub-cultures through his thought leadership. You might have seen his illustrations in the children’s book Go the Fuck to Sleep. You should also see his latest book Coffee, Coca & Cola. (http://www.CoffeeCocaCola.com). In his spare time he teaches art workshops for young men and women at Rikers Island.

Name: Ricardo Cortés
Age: Changes all the time
Place of Birth: East Coast, USA
Parents: Italian / Mexican
Occupation/Aspiration: Publisher / Biologist

When did you move to NYC and why?
I moved to NY in the early 90s, partly to study anthropology and shamanism, and partly because this is where Public Enemy was from.

Tell us about a passion project you are working on now or are dreaming about.
I'm interested in the discovery of otherness that we go through as a species. I mean truly foreign, incomprehensible moments of confronting the Other: the apes meeting the monolith; the "Old World" of brown people meeting white men of the "New World"; 9/11—many Americans' first awareness of violence of such scale. How we react reveals a lot about human nature and, I believe, faith in our convictions. Ah, so... I'm writing a children's book about this.

New York City is a city that….
has a lot of pretty amazing theme songs.

Share with us the most fascinating NYC subculture you have come across.
I was a bike messenger in ‘95/‘96, where you flip from mailrooms to executive suites, passing through a sweatshop on the way. There are so many extremes here and I love how we overlap. What drives me crazy is people who will never become familiar with the opposite end of their spectrum: over-confident "everyone has a chance to make it" people born with wealth who can't imagine the obstacles that still exist for so many trying to engage the metropolis, or on the other hand 17-year-olds locked up in Rikers Island who've never been out of their neighborhood.

What’s your drink of choice?
Agua fresca de melón.

Who is your favorite designer? Favorite label or product?
Designer: I like Tom Otterness’s bronze pieces in the subway. Label: A Peace Treaty (www.apeacetreaty.com) makes some beautiful scarves.

In your personal life or profession what is an example of the nexus between technology, culture, and community?
Bike loops around Prospect Park.

What Mexican do you most admire and why?
I'll go out on an unpopular limb here and say when Hernán Cortés first came here with his crew, and they wanted to go home, and he burned all their ships, their rides back, and said "ain't nothing we can do now but move forward into the unknown." That was pretty hardcore and worthy of admiration. He also did some less-admirable things as well. Oh wait, he wasn't a Mexican really.

Describe a fun or interesting fact about you.
I have at least tens of thousands of species of organisms in my body working mostly together (1-5k in the mouth alone), some of which have complete distinct DNA trails from my own, suggesting foreign life forms that have colonized my corporeal ecosystem. So I'm like a planet.

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