De manera asentada, el origen de MECA es una fuente de apoyo social; un frente cultural que empuja y reta los parámetros de existencia y supervivencia de las industrias creativas. Y como acción puntual, MECA busca motivar inversión en arte, generar nuevas galerías y coleccionistas, y hacer puentes de comunicación y acción con el publico general acerca de lo que está ocurriendo en la región caribeña.


San Juan, despite its recent billing as one of the art cities of the future, has none of the splashy hallmarks of a twenty-first century art hub. That is, there are no grandiose private museums, no sterile government-funded arts districts, no starchitecture vanities.

The city’s art scene, instead, exists in a strange symbiosis with a long-simmering financial crisis, concentrated in the neighborhood of Santurce, where unused commercial buildings beget studios, artist-run galleries, and sprawling murals.



MECA’s goals are ambitious—some might say idealistic—but if the tenacity and support that bolstered this first edition is any indication of its future, this upstart fair is well positioned to enrich Puerto Rico’s art scene, and maybe even economy, by helping its artists and galleries find community and stability, despite the chaos around them.



The inaugural edition wrapped up yesterday, highlighting the region’s vibrant art scene, while forming connections with the art world outside of the Caribbean. Over 30 exhibitors including White Columns, Marlborough Contemporary and Embajada showed in both the main and special projects areas of the fair, culminating in a weekend that brought together community and art. 



"One of our main goals is to bring these international galleries here for them to explore the local scene and hopefully connect with it. I’d love to open opportunities for them…who knows maybe some can find a place in the North American, European, South American market as well. There’s a lot of things going on in the Caribbean arts scene and they deserve the chance to showcase their capabilities, without being inhibited because they can’t leave their countries or because other countries don’t usually come to them." - Daniel Báez



"We definitely have to start with the idea that a healthy market here on the island, as in the entire Caribbean region, is almost non-existent. Although there are many collectors in Puerto Rico their purchase option is rarely local; usually purchases are generated in galleries from abroad. Having said that, and knowing that there is no concept of art fair in the entire Caribbean region, we decided to create MECA, which is that market hope that has been non-existent for almost a decade." - Tony Rodríguez



"Caribbean artists are often grouped in with Latin American artists but they are different," explains Daniel Báez, who co-founded MECA with Tony Rodriguez. Caribbean artists comprise 35% of the artists represented, an impressive number considering the domineering presence of white artists at international art fairs.



It may not be the best time to launch an art fair in Puerto Rico, where an increasingly dire economic crisis recently forced the U.S. territory to file for bankruptcy to handle its approximately $123 billion in debt. But that didn’t deter Daniel Báez and Tony Rodríguez: After two years of planning, Báez, who is based in New York, finally opened the inaugural edition of MECA this week alongside Rodríguez, who is an artist based in Puerto Rico.



“Buscamos crear en MECA un modelo diferente a otros modelos de feria, en el que recibimos a estudiantes de diversas comunidades y organizaciones para que estén con nosotros en un pasadía cultural educativo, enfocados en comenzar a crear esa sensibilización por las artes visuales y un conversatorio con profesionales del campo de la cultura para acercarlos a este sector y vean todas las posibilidades”, mencionó Hazel Colón, directora cultura de MECA.



It’s been seven years since Puerto Rico’s seen an international arts fair, but that’s no indication of its art offerings. The island’s buoyant scene is mainly kept afloat by DIY and grassroots work, not outside investors or collectors. In contemporary art, the Caribbean in general is often left out of the conversation—but that dialogue is about to hear a loud interjection from new art fair MECA, (short for Mercado Caribeño).



En unas semanas, del 1 al 4 de junio, comienza la primera edición de MECA (Mercado Caribeño) una feria de arte que agrupa artistas locales e internacionales, veteranos y emergentes, como muestra del quehacer cultural que sucede en la Isla y en el Caribe.

El evento, que convertirá al Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico en una gran galería comercial en pleno Santurce, exhibirá piezas de diferentes medios artísticos dando espacio a piezas plásticas y performáticas.



“MECA viene siendo esa esperanza de crear un mercado que no existe en Puerto Rico. Queremos unificarnos y, aunque sea por una semana, ser un foro de exposición para el ‘scouting’ de artistas locales. De ahí pueden firmarlos, pueden terminar en alguna bienal o creando nuevas exhibiciones”, resaltó [Tony Rodríguez, director y co-fundador].



MECA—shorthand for Mercado Caribeño (Caribbean Market)—comes at a time when art fairs are a staple of any big city. In 2014, Baez and Rodriguez met through mutual friends and discovered a year later, during arteBA in Buenos Aires, that they had a common dream: creating a contemporary art fair that would round up the top players in the Caribbean art scene.



Puerto Rico has fallen on hard times. The island’s debt crisis has peaked and it bears a striking resemblance to the financial collapses of Greece and Detroit. Last May saw a $422 million default become the biggest municipal default of bond payments in United States history, and with another $72 billion in unpayable debt looming on the horizon as well. Congress imposed a federal fiscal board, which has taken control of Puerto Rico's government. Things don’t look promising for anyone.



If you’ve ever visited San Juan, you’ve undoubtedly walked past or perhaps even browsed many of the Old San Juan art galleries, with offerings ranging from tourist kitsch to cutting-edge, avant-garde works. And in fact in recent years the serious, world-class art scene in Puerto Rico’s capital has been growing apace especially in recent years. And now it will be showcased in the high-octane, Art-Basel-style affair (for now on a smaller scale, of course): the first annual MECA (short for Mercado Caribeño, Caribbean Marketplace), which aims to put this island and the larger Caribbean on the international modern-art map.



Back in the capital, art collectors will gather in June for the inaugural editions of MECA (Mercado Caribeño), which will bring together 40 local [and International] galleries for this new, smaller-scale international art fair.