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An Expo is not just an Expo

Updated: Jun 23, 2022

An Expo is not only what happens between its opening and its closing. An Expo is not what its open pavilions contain, nor its street shows, nor its lights or fireworks. An Expo is not stones, bricks, iron, and glass with an expiration date. An Expo is not the workers who open and close the doors, who start up the machines and computers, or who turn on the lights every morning and even at night.

An Expo is nothing like that, or at least it should not be.

Photo by Jason Griffing

An Expo should be a transformative element for the place where it is organized, it should be the catalyst seed that will cause a change that will last over time beyond the closing date, it should be the beginning of a change that goes beyond the echoes of the lights, sounds, and crowds of the event.

An Expo should be the necessary beginning to generate a change wherever it has been held.

The bad reputation that Expos sometimes have among those who do not understand what they really should be, is caused by spending millions of dollars in economic resources for a finite and relatively short time. And seen and felt this way, they would be right.

Photo by Jason Griffing

Criticism of this type of event is simple for those who do not want to look at the real reasons that many cities have for wanting to organize an expo, and if we only look at the most superficial part of what an Expo is, it is difficult to refute the transience of a temporary party and the expense it entails for its hosts.

But it is not like that. Not at least in "MY EXPO", not at least in the Expo that I saw dreaming, believing, imagining, growing, living, and transforming.

The vital process of "my Expo" was born from the dream of transforming a city with more than 2000 years of history and which was crossed by a great river that no one looked at, no one touched, and which divided two parts linked by cement and iron bridges.

It was a city located in the dry northwest of Spain, a land of wind and steppes, with a great desert at its doors and even so, it was a city of water that no one looked at while crossing over its bridges. There was a need to provoke a radical change in its urban fabric and make the river become the main street of this urban space that until then had been a natural scar that separated banks and minds.

Photo by Jason Griffing

With this need, a transforming Expo of a city and a land was dreamed of, and thus this dream became a reality of open spaces, parks, riverbanks, artistic interventions, and up to twenty bridges that were built so that the rivers were not scars but points of union and encounter.

It was achieved that the water Expo of that city, mine, Zaragoza in 2008, was an endless Expo, an Expo that did not end and that even today, continues to be lived and enjoyed by a land and its people that from that moment never they looked at the river as something dangerous and distant.

That is the true legacy and the true raison d'être of the Expos, of all of them... of those that are born with the purpose of creating, transforming, and lasting over time beyond their period of fireworks.

When Expo 2008 ended in Zaragoza, some of us understood that there was a need to fight and protect the legacy that the expo had left in the city. We believed that there was a need to defend the interest of our Expo and all Expos as agents of change for cities and that someone should ensure that the legacy of a city endures over time.

Photo by Jason Griffing

Thus, one year after the end of the Expo, an Association was created in defense of the legacy of Expo 2008. The Expo Zaragoza 2008 Legacy Association is an association that is made up of citizens, who, moved by the concern caused by the state in which the legacy of the International Exhibition Zaragoza 2008 finds itself, have decided to legally associate themselves to try to raise awareness and demand from the authorities, entities and the rest of the population of Zaragoza, the need to conserve it in an optimal state and ensure that said objective is fulfilled for the use and enjoyment of everyone.

Today, we are more than 800 partners who continue to make this a reality.

Photo by Jason Griffing

The Expos, all of them, must be part of the city and the citizens must feel part of that transformation process that each Expo has in its territory. Expos must be defended by those citizens to whom they belong and when the time comes, know how to demand from those who know how to take advantage of the legacy that each of them leaves where they are built.

If this link does not exist, Expos are only iron and cement, lights and music, beautiful but empty of soul, dreams and without meaning or reason... empty and with an expiration date.

On this side of the world, that did not happen and my exhibition is still alive. We are more than 800 people who keep it alive and defend it. We are part of a dream that did not end and that still continues.

Juan A. Ibáñez San Martín

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