Zócalo Public Square, a project of the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University, is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism. We partner with educational, cultural, and philanthropic institutions to present free public events and conferences in cities across the U.S. and beyond, and to publish original daily journalism that we syndicate to more than 100 media outlets nationwide. At a time when our country’s public sphere is narrow and polarized, Zócalo seeks to be a welcoming intellectual space where individuals and communities can tackle fundamental questions in an accessible, nonpartisan, and broad-minded spirit. We are committed to translating ideas to broad audiences and to engaging a new, young, and diverse generation in the public square.
Gregory Rodriguez founded Zócalo—which means “public square” in Spanish—in 2003 as a response to what he believed was a deeply segregated civic life in Los Angeles. Although filled with community activity thanks to its wealth of museums, universities, and specific community organizations, L.A.’s cultural landscape was essentially segregated. Public events were in fact semi-private, targeted by ideology, race, or ethnicity, or promoted to paying members of particular organizations. Rodriguez designed Zócalo to invigorate and integrate the city’s public discourse.
In 2003, Zócalo hosted four events at one Los Angeles location. In 2004, we hosted 12, and in 2008 we hosted 50. In 2012, we hosted 70 events in 11 cities at 27 different venues. In addition to roaming across L.A. and Phoenix, we have also traveled to Bakersfield, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Tucson, Washington, D.C., and as far as Shanghai, Berlin, and Guadalajara. In 10 years we have featured over 1,000 compelling thinkers and doers from a wide range of fields—politics, governance, humanities, health, economics, education, technology, foreign policy, arts, science, and beyond.