Ruido Fest, a Latin Alternative music festival held in Chicago, has been dubbed “Rock en español’s Lollapalooza” by the Chicago Tribune. The three-day festival, which took place from July 7 to July 9 this year, takes over Addams/Medill Park located in Pilsen, Chicago.
Located in Chicago’s Lower West Side, Pilsen has a population that is 78% Latino according to Local Initiatives Support Corporation(LISC) Chicago. This makes it the perfect place for a festival exclusively dedicated to alternative Latin music.
Along with the music sets and various food options, different sponsored booths are spread throughout the park with vendors and activities for attendees to enjoy. But this year during the second annual Ruido Fest, controversy ensued over a Home Depot branded booth. The booth included an art installation allowing festival-goers to decorate a tile to add to a wall as reported by Remezcla.
Those attending Ruido Fest sensed symbolism between this art installment and the 130-foot wall on the U.S.-Mexican border that President Donald Trump promised throughout his campaign. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection will begin construction on the wall in September, so the Home Depot installation seemed as insensitive as ever to festival goers.
Not to mention one of the co-founders of the company, Bernie Marcus, penned an essay in support of Trump last June. Although he doesn’t work for Home Depot anymore, the installment seemed less than coincidental which caused uproar from many Ruido Fest attendees.
Many individuals confronted those working the booth, Amara Betty Martin, a visual artist and community artist based in Chicago was one such individual. “I explained to him the climate that we’re living in and that this is an all-Latino festival…this art project – even though it seemed innocent – it was psychologically sending another message to the community,” Martin told Remezcla.
After others expressed their concerns to Ruido Fest organizers with no response in return, festival-goers started a protest in front of the booth. The demonstration started verbally with chants of “Fuck Trump” being shouted near the booth, but when the booth workers refused to take down the installation protesters took matters into their own hands and removed the tiles and tipped over the wall according to the media outlet.
Eventually, the Home Depot representatives took down the installation themselves and security guards were called to the booth where a physical altercation then ensued. Security chased protesters across the festival grounds and one demonstrator was taken into a choke hold.
Although Home Depot’s Director of Corporate Communications, Stephen Holmes, explained to Remezcla that the sentiment behind the booth was, “to show attendees how easy it is to lay tile for bathrooms, backsplashes, and other applications.” Attendees thought that the idea was inappropriate, especially considering the history of gentrification and overall racial climate in Pilsen.
On Sunday, the last day of the festival, the booth and installation was removed completely. In light of this controversy, Martin hopes that in the future Ruido fest can, “get more people from the community to sit on the organizing board,” to ensure that such incidents won’t happen again.