Detroit–The Grandmont Rosedale neighborhood is a bit of a hike away from Mexico City.
But that distance was bridged Saturday with the help of a gold shipping container.
Neighborhood residents and others stopped by 8 foot high and 20 foot long container to chat with Mexico resident Samuel Ordonez, 25. Ordonez, who is fluent in English, sat comfortably in a chair wearing brown sneakers and holding a microphone on a huge screen, conversing with people in the shipping container as though they all were in the same room.
Ordonez rose from his chair and said, “This is my dad,” as his dad sat in the chair. “He’s an old guy as you can see — he’s 45 — and he’s blind. He has to go through a lot of challenges every day. He would be happy to answer any questions you have and I will translate for him.”
He then asked if the people in the shipping container on Grand River would give their names and their ages when they ask a question.
Uh, no. The six people standing in the container all were females.
“First, this may be a cultural difference, but you don’t ask a lady’s age here,” said Ber-Henda Williams, the portal curator chuckling. “But I think its safe to say we’re all 27.”
Ordonez also laughed and said he understood.
Ordonez ’s father, also named Samuel, who said he is a merchant, was asked by Asia Hamilton to tell her about Mexico City.
“It is a beautiful place, but I think the city is divided into two cities — Mexico City for the tourists and the real world where we Mexicans live,” he said as his son translated. “It’s wonderful either way, like I believe Detroit is.”
Ordonez said the Mexico City for the tourists has great avenues, large hotels, nice neighborhoods with sidewalks and a place where “everyone is taken care of.”
“The other Mexico City is where we have real problems, where 23 million people live and where public transportation is collapsing,” he said. “There is a lot of traffic jams at all times so it is a big deal.”
Hamilton responded by comparing their two cities to the two parts of Detroit.
“It is similar to what we have going on in Detroit,” she said. “There are the neighborhoods and then there are tourist attractions in Midtown and downtown. There are two separate cultures but we’re trying to bring the two together. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Portals, a public art initiative, are gold shipping containers equipped with audio-visual technology. After entering a container, one comes face-to-face, live, full-body, with someone in an identical gold shipping container somewhere else on Earth—in this case, Mexico City.
The Detroit Portals installation is supported by a partnership between the Quicken Loans Family of Companies, and the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation, a non-profit community based organization working to preserve and improve the Grandmont Rosedale Neighborhoods of northwest Detroit.
“This is part of the Quicken Loans more than for profit philosophy that private enterprise should be able to use the fruits of our business to support local communities, and we’re trying to support local entrepreneurs in a thousand ways, and this is one of them,” said Gabrielle Poshadlo, communications manager for Bedrock Detroit.
Participants were treated to a light brunch at the Everything Detroit shop next to the shipping container.
The shipping container will remain at 19600 Grand River through June 30.