¡Ay Ay! is the latest in a series of 3D balloon murals that popped up in West El Paso over the weekend.

Tino Ortega

For months El Pasoans and travelers visiting our beautiful city have been taking pictures with the 3D balloon murals around town. The convincing 3D murals made up with real strings attached to the wall give the illusion that people hold actual floating balloons when they take a photo.

Tino Ortega is the incredibly talented artist behind these interactive and lifelike murals that he began to make last summer to honor the August 3 shooting victims to help unite our community.

Tino Ortega

Since then, Ortega has created six interactive 3D balloon murals, including his latest mural, ¡Ay Ay!, located at The Substation in West El Paso.

Whether you are a native El Pasoan or not, you’ve probably heard the phrase ¡Ay Ay! before – but what does it mean?

Tino Ortega

Urban Dictionary describes ¡Ay Ay! as:

Used heavily in El Paso, Texas, USA and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, "ay ay" is the repetition of the Spanish word "ay" which is equivalent to the interjection "oh" of the English language. When "ay" is said twice, i.e. "ay ay," it functions as an expression or acknowledgment of frustration, absurdity, disdain, and other "negative" feelings.

Some Mexican dude: I'm going to run for president.

Some Mexican chick: Ay Ay.

Before I moved to El Paso, this all-encompassing phrase was not part of my vocabulary. But, after years of living in and out of the city – the term ¡Ay Ay! has stuck with me as if it was purposely encoded in my Latino heritage roots.

The phrase is more of a reactionary response where inflection, tone, and emotional emphasis all play a role in determining its meaning. But it’s also one of those phrases that we don’t put much thought into it – sometimes we don’t realize that we’re saying it. So it seems more of a reactionary phrase in response to someone saying something wholly absurd or funny and ironic, and the initial response will always be ¡Ay Ay!.

No one is even sure how the phrase got started, but it has everything to do with the fact that the borderland influences our everyday vernacular.

Tino Ortega

For now, this addicting phrase continues to embed our everyday speech. Until we deprogram our slang idiom, the term remains part of our vocabulary and now in our art space, spilling over into future generations thanks to local artists such as Tino Ortega and his mesmerizing ¡Ay Ay! 3D balloon mural.

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