El Correo NY

Monxo López with the exhibit, which showcases work by artists, designers and data analysts using the city’s data population numbers. (Credit: El Correo NY)

Read the original story in Spanish at El Correo NY
Translated and condensed by Carlos Rodríguez Martorell

Talking about the Census immediately makes us think about monotonous and formal numbers, data and logistics. But did you know the Census can be fun, and even lead you to finding love?

The exhibit “Who We Are: Visualizing NYC by the Numbers” at the Museum of the City of New York seeks to show how the Census – which exists to help us know how many of us there are to guarantee fair political representation and distribution of funds for education, infrastructure and social programs – also has a fun side.

Exhibit curator Monxo López explained the details in an exclusive interview with El Correo NY:

For a long time, Census data has been a tool to better understand New York City and the dense and chaotic mosaic formed by its eight and a half million residents. How were you able to make it entertaining?

The exhibit shows the way data and the Census can be fun as well. For instance, there is a map displaying unique words and how they appear in dating app profiles, and it is hilarious! Each Census item has a specific word associated to that part of the geography. You can locate the area where your best friend lives to see what people there are writing about themselves online in order to attract a partner. You can find love or find out about your neighbors’ perversions (laughs.)

Aside from entertaining, what is the aim of the exhibit?

On a civic level, the initiative seeks to make people aware about the importance of participating in the Census, for everyone to be counted. It is a legal, constitutional requirement. One of the goals of the exhibit is precisely to make people aware of the importance of letting the census count them.

Does the exhibit explain why people should allow the Census to count them, and what the Census entails? 

The number of delegates in the House of Representatives at the federal level is determined by the Census. The more representatives we have, the more power we have. That is why citizen participation in the Census is so important. Proportionally, New York has been losing political power in the United States. 

Many federal aid programs are determined based on the population reflected in the Census. If people do not participate, it will look like there are less people living in that state. The funds allocated for social assistance programs will be meant for fewer people, meaning less money. 

Why is it important for undocumented immigrants to participate as well?

It is crucial for everyone to be counted. The Census states that everyone in the U.S. must be counted, and the reason it was built that way is because these aids are needed, particularly by immigrant communities. If we don’t take part, it is us Latinos, the minority communities, who will pay the consequences.   

Aside from this initiative of the Museum, what are the city and the state doing to encourage more participation?

Very cleverly, the city and the state have finally admitted that they are unable to lead the process of trying to get people to participate and that there are community groups and activists who are much more connected to the different ethnic communities who can carry out that job of encouraging people to take part. 

Why should people see the exhibit before the Census begins?

The exhibit demonstrates the capacity of the Census to be an interesting and fun process beyond its importance at the political, economic and representation levels. The Census offers us a great deal of interesting information about ourselves. I think that the beauty we see here in this artwork shows us that there is much about ourselves that we do not know. We also have an audio guide in Spanish.