A New Take on an Old Tradition

During the final weeks of Expanding the Walls 2017—an eight-month photography-based program at The Studio Museum in Harlem—participants had the opportunity to work with artist Miguel Luciano.

Miguel Luciano with Expanding the Walls 2017 participants
Photo: Ginny Huo

Miguel Luciano's "Pimp my Piragua" pushcart
Photo: Carlos Rosario

Miguel is known for “Pimp my Piragua,” which he describes as a mobile public art project that honors the tradition of Latino street vendors. He transformed a normal pushcart for selling shaved ice, or piraguas, into a hi-tech, modern version with built-in mini screens and loud speakers. After listening to a vast playlist full of oldies—ranging from hip hop to merengue music that filled the Lenfest Center for the Arts with vibrant tunes—Miguel enthusiastically explained to us how honored he is to represent a tradition as old as piraguas are. The shaved ice treats with tropical-flavored syrups such as lime, tamarindo (tamarind), and cocó (coconut) are typically sold from early spring to late summer and carts can be seen in neighborhoods like Corona, Queens.

Meeting Miguel Luciano was significant to me because as a Dominican, his work took me back to my country where I used to eat piraguas on a hot, sunny day. He offers an interesting and tasty twist on a refreshing treat.

— Carlos, Expanding the Walls 2017

My name is Carlos and I am from Queens, New York. I love to listen to bands such as the Gorillaz, Marina and The Diamonds, and Crystal Castles. My hobbies include playing video games, spirituality, and exploring unknown places. I aim to utilize photography as a muse to tell my story, day-to-day.