Plaza Las Américas is a celebration of who we are as people. It is a new world where the abundance and diversity of our natural resources is celebrated, as well as the history and culture that we all share.
The last great renovation and expansion of Plaza Las Américas, which concluded in the year 2000, incorporated a vision of Puerto Rico’s discovery through art. The new artistic elements recreate the Island as it was when discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493.
While it is true that the art medallions and the sculptures create a collective tribute to our Island, each one is still unique and has Myrna Báez, Nick Quijano, Marta Pérez García and Antonio Martorell. However, your awareness of the medallions below your feet may be compromised if you become distracted by one of Jo Schneider’s gigantic sculptures floating from the ceiling, suspended in mid-air, as if unaffected by gravity.
While it is true that the art medallions and the sculptures create a collective tribute to our Island, each one is still unique and has a special story to tell.
The art medallion at the Grand Court – “Montañas” (“Mountains”) by Myrna Báez — symbolizes in abstract form, the encounter between the “taíno” Indian and Christopher Columbus upon his arrival to the Island “Borinquen.” Because it is a work of art, the artist’s intent is for each individual to experience it in a singular, personal way and interpret it for themselves. Its beauty will not cease to amaze you.
While in the Grand Court, enjoy the enormous hanging sculpture created by Jo Schneider. It slowly revolves as if buffeted by the winds, evoking the historic sails of the galleons in which Christopher Columbus navigated.
As you continue down the corridor that leads to JCPenney, you will come upon another art medallion: “Riachuelo” (“Stream”) by Nick Quijano, which depicts rivers, streams and other bodies of water that feed our rainforest “El Yunque” and other forests on the Island. Nick Quijano recreates a stream that collects the water that falls from the skies, which interacts perfectly with the extraordinary Jo Schneider sculpture overhead, recreating hundreds of multicolored rain drops appearing to fall into the stream below.
At the court, in front of the JCPenney main entrance, you will discover an art medallion that represents the Puerto Rican fauna, “Fauna Puertorriqueña” (“Puerto Rican Fauna”) by Marta Pérez García, and shows an exotic bird “Guaraguao” carrying a snake in its beak. Once again, the environment is completed by an overhead component. When you look up, three impressive sculptures – a coquí, a lizard and a snake by Jo Schneider – float in the air, almost as if coming to life.
Continue your artistic journey through time and history, and between JCPenney and Macy’s, you will discover an art medallion as impressive as the others. The stars in our skyline, “Cosmos” by Nick Quijano, are presented in a dramatic way, to illustrate the key role they played in the lives of the “Taíno” Indians. Raise your sight and another amazing sculpture by Jo Schneider will captivate you. Of immense proportions, this sculpture artistically forms the sun’s rays.
In front of Macy’s Court, on the first level, submerge your imagination in the Island’s marine life. Stroll around the fantastic fountain filled with Jo Schneider’s sculptures, where the manatee, the turtle and various fish, share the waters in an artistic vision of the wonders of the sea. Even though some of these depicted species are endangered, they will swim forever here.
The Island’s flora comes to life in “Palma” (“Palm Tree”) by Myrna Báez, an art medallion dominated by a mountain range of palm trees that, though similar to those at the beach, are more representative of the vegetation found in the mountainous region of Puerto Rico. This art medallion, located in front of Old Navy, will without a doubt stimulate memories of past trips, or encourage future trips around our island.
The sixth art medallion, at the Sears Court, “La Flora y La Fauna de Puerto Rico” (“Flora and Fauna of Puerto Rico”) by Marta Pérez García, exemplifies the richness of the Puerto Rican forest. The bird symbolizes the diversity of birds that fly over the natural beauty of our island.
Puerto Rico is home to delicious foods well-known around the world; therefore our artistic journey includes a taste of Puerto Rican gastronomy. Take the escalators from the Grand Court to the third level, stroll by the restaurants, and you will find the seventh art medallion, “Arroz con habichuelas a caballo” (“Rice and Beans mounted by Eggs”) by Antonio Martorell, which presents a typical Puerto Rican cuisine classic. Look above and you will see “Festín en el Platanal”, the fork, spoon, and knife sculpture, created by the artist Ángel Giovanni Ruiz.
Now with your tour complete, from the magnificent works of art under your feet to those above your head, you will have discovered Puerto Rico once again or for the first time. And each time you come back to admire them, you will remember the beauty of the Island and the richness of its history and its culture.
That is why at Plaza Las Américas we have recreated this New World that is truly ours. When visiting us with family or friends, share this unique experience with them. Through art we are reminded of who we are, and we hope you always feel this magic when visiting our center. Our history and culture is all around us.
Made out of resin and marble stone, these works of art presented four talented Puerto Rican artists with a special challenge, as none of them had worked in this medium before. Six of the art medallions are 10 feet in diameter and the seventh – the one on the Grand Court, celebrating the encounter between Christopher Columbus and the “Taíno” Indians – is 12 feet in diameter. All of them were designed by Puerto Rican artists and reproduced in terrazzo by the company Artistic Surfaces.
On the third level, Grand Court, you will find the Ricardo Alegría Cultural Hall, which was founded in 2007. Over 30 Puerto Rican artisans will greet you and share with you their original arts and crafts that include, wood carvings, engravings, and ceramics, among others.