Prada Marfa

On July 13, 2005, 22 miles north of the U.S./Mexico border, patrol agents from the Marfa Sector of the United States Border Patrol surrounded five people traveling through the Chihuahua Desert in West Texas. Suspecting illegal activity, the agents had been informed that illegal immigrants were detected by the tethered aerostat radar system hovering overhead that provides counter-narcotics and border crossing surveillance and can distinguish targets down to a meter across at ground level.

It is not uncommon that coyotes, smugglers involved in the profession of human trafficking, drive the desolate roads searching for “wets”, the derogatory term for illegal immigrants, in the vast desert expanse surrounding Marfa. When the five suspects were questioned on the nature of their business the answer was not so clearly comprehended by the Border Patrol. The suspects were a gallery curator, a photographer, an artist, and two architects who were discussing the selection of the future building site of Prada Marfa, a minimalist sculpture that replicates the luxury boutique where the Fall 2005 line of Prada shoes and bags were to be displayed.

A large percentage of buildings in the region surrounding Prada Marfa, are also traditionally constructed of mud brick. Often made directly from soil excavated from the build site, mud brick, called adobe in Texas, is a brick made from soil mixed with water and straw and left to dry and harden in the sun. Historically, this was the traditional construction method used by the Mexican and Mexican American population. In the case of Prada Marfa, the 2,500 mud bricks used to construct the building were made by machine and express shipped to the site from a mud brick yard in Alcalde, New Mexico, over 500 miles away. Not unlike the luxury goods that fill the faux-boutique, the mud bricks arriving from this adobe yard are primarily manufactured to supply a growing population of southwestern affluence enamored with the romantic notion of living in a house constructed of earth. Increasingly, the demands made by wealthy interstate immigrants longing for mud brick residences have had a dramatic effect on the cultural and built landscape.

Taken from