Southern LA Watts neighborhood has its name associated with the infamous riots that burned the township in 1965. But beside its ill fated history it also hosts an incredible feat in art, the Watts Towers, or the Nuestro Pueblo, built by an illiterate Italian immigrant here. Simon Rodia came in America at the beginning of the 20th century to earn a living for his family but he was almost obsessed that he was meant to build something big. For thirty years, against all odds, he decided to build on a lot he bought here in Watts, a number of 17 towers on a re-bar structure covered in cement and decorated with shards of pottery that he collected from various sites. The structures create a dreamy ship, a tribute to his heros, Michelangelo, Marco Polo and Christoper Columbus.
Simon Rodia started his work when he was forty years old and worked constantly for the next thirty years. When he finished he packed and moved out of Watts and never came back again to see his towers. He died in the summer of 1965 right before the riots. His colorful towers were not perceived as art by the city of Los Angeles that intended to demolish them just to discover that the illiterate immigrant built very robust structures that could withstand earthquakes, so they gave in to the neighborhood’s desire and left them standing.
When asked if he look for inspiration from the work of Gaudi to whom the towers resemble, Simon stated that he never heard about him and asked if Gaudi had helpers and if he finished and after that he stated: “I did not have any helpers because myself I did not know what I was doing so many times but I finished while he both had helpers and he did not finish” and walked away from the interviewer. Beside the comparison with the Gaudi’s work the towers and their decorations resemble more with the work of Fuster in Jaimanitas in Havana.