When you stand in the main foyer at Sonia Sotomayor Elementary, you are about to enter a very special place. One that teaches you how to enter another world deeply—to symbolize and communicate with your Spanish-speaking neighbors—some who live here and some who live half a world away. Looking through the two sets of glass entry doors is much like looking through the cobalt blue geometry that frames the mosaic “El Jardin de los Suenos”—they both suggest perceived windows.
The artwork is made from approximately 10,000 pieces of hand-cut ceramic tile, and offers an additional invitation for you to reflect on this idea of looking inside and out. One that asks you to travel the distance between time, landscape and cultures through language, color, symbol and texture. The artwork celebrates Latin America today by including numerous pre-Colombian antecedents. For example, two Mayan glyphs aligned along the center vertical axis known as juun and winik, translate as “book” and “person,” two important ideas about what a school is and does. Some symbols included here appear more than 5,000 years ago in the archeological record. Images of stars and constellations also celebrate and suggest our ancient connections to those who have gone before us. Throughout the mosaic are images of prairie flowers, such as Columbines, which offer a metaphor for education which blossoms or unfolds into the very fabric of our lives.
I have lived and traveled for many years in Latin America. From refugee camps, to war zones and orphanages, to watching Haley’s comet from a high Andean plaza, canoeing in the Amazon rainforest, paragliding in the Atacama desert, and climbing the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán, I have tried here to express my love for the amazing complexities and interwoven realities of the Latin American people and landscape.
A word of deep gratitude and thanks to the United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor for contributing her words of wisdom to our children in this artwork.