On Tuesday night, March 19, a little piece of Miami burned. It was a fantastic sight to behold. On the bay at Bicentennial Park, artist George Sanchez-Calderon held an American Falla, where he lit ablaze a reproduction of a model home from Levittown – the first planned suburbia in Pennsylvania. The model had been up in Bal Harbour as part of a public art project called Pax Americana.
Las fallas are an old Spanish tradition, where effigies and other items are burned, sometimes in honor, sometimes in satire. In this case, March 19 was St. Joseph’s day, and the birthday of the artist’s father, who recently passed away – this falla was held in his memory.
So, with the spectacular lit-up skyline as a backdrop and Miami-Dade fire and rescue on hand, Sanchez-Calderon, with the help of Santore Fireworks, started the burning at dusk – around 8 p.m. Slowly at first, the little house started to release smoke, with small flames growing underneath it. Then it exploded, the heat became intense, revealing how powerful fire can really be. Eventually just the frame remained, and then that too collapsed onto itself. Just beautiful. Visitors left, and the family stayed for the blessing, above the smoldering embers.
While an homage to his father, Sanchez-Calderon was also playing with some metaphorical fire here too – the little Levittown house, an example of the first types of affordable housing for the middle class, was being demolished in front of the profusion of glimmering high-rises that now cover downtown. For the most part, not affordable, or accessible, to your average citizen.