'Taxilandia' experiential theater confronts gentrification in Bushwick

BUSHWICK, Brooklyn (WABC) -- He's a modern-day renaissance man.

Modesto 'Flako' Jimenez is an artist, a teacher, and a historian.

"Gentrification is real and it is still happening. Just because a pandemic is happening it doesn't mean that all of those urgencies that were happening before are no longer happening," Jimenez said.

The 39-year-old was born in the Dominican Republic but came to Bushwick when he was 9. The changes he has seen in the neighborhood over the last three decades influence his work.

"These are the hope garden projects built in the 1980s after Bushwick was burnt to the ground. Hashtag - the great white flight," Jimenez said.

Several times a day, the former cab driver welcomes guests into his tricked-out 2004 Lincoln Town Car for a ride-along show called 'Taxilandia.'

He hosts a 90-minute history lesson through the streets of his beloved neighborhood, entertaining and educating his riders with a style that is both theatrical and professorial.

It makes perfect sense considering this theatre major also teaches Shakespeare at Sarah Lawrence College.

"Taxilandia was a passion of mine that when gentrification started happening in the neighborhood I stopped doing art with companies, but I still wanted to create art. So I started creating art in the back seat of the cab," Jimenez said.

Kelly and Andre Hunter came down from northern Westchester County to enjoy the show and learn all about the Bushwick of old and the Bushwick of today.

"Renaming, confusing, displacing, that's what he talked about. It went from Bostwick to Bushwick, from Knickerbockers to Knicks, sort of an erasure," Kelly Hunter said.

"I mean it's a great history lesson. He's an archaeologist in a sense," Andre Hunter said.

"As an artist, I felt the urgency that I needed to create something that taught people what we were all going through," Jimenez said.

The $25 tickets for 'Taxilandia' are available on the show's website.

Jimenez will even provide you with a notebook to jot down some of the many insights he has to offer.

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