A Home Unlike Any Other: Puerto Nuevo’s Mermaid House
Do not try to label Puerto Nuevo artist Armando Munoz Garcia as different or eccentric, as he does not fit in any kind of mold. He dropped out of school at the age of 11, and started teaching himself art at 14. Armando first became known in Baja in 1991. That was the year he completed Tijuana lll Millennium, also known as La Mona, or The Doll. The artist first proposed the naked lady be “built” to Tijuana city authorities. He wanted to present the woman to commemorate Tijuana’s 1989 centennial. The city declined the offer, which was probably wise since La Mona was not completed until two years after the celebration.
Tijuana’s rejection did not deter the determined artist. Armando crafted the five-story tall house in the shape of a woman in Colonia Aeropuerto, where it became the home for he and his wife. Their bedroom was in the woman’s breasts. There was a study in her head. The kitchen was located in her stomach. And, to be anatomically correct, the bathroom was located in her bottom. Today, the 18-ton woman still stands proud. However, it is easy to see that she needs some cosmetic surgery, something which should come as no shock given her constant exposure to the elements.
During this time period Armando said he would like to line the border by building giant nude Amazons. Instead, he created a mold of La Mona and began selling statues. He sold them for $20, mostly to tourists, in order to fund La Mona and his new project. He created other statues, including one of singer and actress Lillian Russell with a corn cob in her hand and others stuck to her belly. Carmen Miranda and Betty Boop are were also honored among the hundred plus statues that are now referred to as the Infamous Babes. The money raised still funds the gentle facelifts for La Mona, as well as his current project.
Instead of lining the border with nude Amazons, he eventually moved to Puerto Nuevo. It is no surprise to people who know Armando that he has built his new home in the shape of a mermaid. According to Armando, “She’s in a very nice place right in front of the ocean.” The house is known by several names, including Eve of the Sea, La Sirena, and The Mermaid.
Ladies of the sea are one of the most popular characters in world folklore. She is usually seen as a young girl with long hair and a fish tail. Eve of the Sea appears as a young woman, and, if she is ever finished, will certainly have long hair. She will not have a fish tail, however, as her body ends at her waist, next to the swimming pool.
The second floor houses a French restaurant which recently opened. Armando, a self-trained chef, cooks the four-course meals. The food is served on white-linen tables set with china and wine glasses. The average cost of a meal is 200 pesos. Going to the third level one will discover Armando’s gallery. He places a number of his art pieces there. He plans to have a show with the Infamous Babes one day in the future.
The artist’s bedroom is on the fourth floor. The fifth, and highest floor, is his open air studio. The concrete and steel structure is nearly complete according to Armando. He said it will be finished in “a few months.” One of the most glaring unfinished parts is the mermaid’s hair. Steel poles poke out which will eventually become her hair. The painting of the statue is nearly complete, although she needs retouching in a number of areas.
You might want to make an offer to buy the mermaid, to Armando, as he is interested in moving on and developing new projects such as a 150-foot tall man. The man would house part of a resort complex. Eventually, Armando says he wants to develop a housing development. No, this would not be your typical development. It would be a street lined with a variety of houses in the shapes of individual men and women.
If you want to see the house, take a left at the only stop sign in Puerto Nuevo (there is an OXXO store on your right), take the first right where the street splits, and you’ll see the Mermaid looking out at the ocean. She’s hard to miss.
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