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Vallarta’s amazing Tile Park

It wasn’t long ago that Puerto Vallarta’s Parque Lázaro Cárdenas, anchoring its world-famous Old Town, or Zona Romantica to some, was a dark hole of danger littered with used condoms and drug paraphernalia.

pg16bNow, the plaza literally and figuratively sparkles and shines, beckoning tourists and locals alike to what has become known as Tile Park, as outsider artist, Natasha Moraga –- with an army of volunteers and paid staff of four – transforms the centrally-located square with a project to cover virtually every inch of plain, ugly gray concrete with mosaics in a rainbow of colors, patterns and plaques.

The transformation of the traditional Mexican plaza has resuscitated the heartbeat of one of Vallarta’s most heavily-trafficked and charming tourist destinations. But it’s been a bumpy path, with Moraga navigating a litany of figurative topes and roadblocks, from an oftentimes ineffective or disinterested local government to the usual change-is-hard crowd of critics, particularly locals.

“It’s definitely been a rough ride,” Moraga said recently during an interview in the park. “When you’re doing a public installation, everyone gives you feedback and since it is a public space, feel entitled to give you their opinions, solicited or not!”

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