Ana Castillo's New Memoir Black Dove

 On Día de la Madre or what some call Mexican Mother’s Day, the writer Ana Castillo read a passage from her essay ‘My Mother’s Mexico,’ before a crowd assembled at Pen + Brush center in Manhattan. Castillo, the Chicana feminist writer who has published over 20 books of poetry, essays, and novels, is on a national tour promoting her memoir Black Dove: mamá, mi’jo and me.

Black Dove, a reference to the famous Mexican ranchera ‘Paloma Negra,’ is a collection of personal essays on the theme of motherhood. In it, Castillo tells stories of her strained relationship with her distant mother; the alternative mother figure she found in her flirty Tía Flora; her own experience as a single mother raising a brown boy in Chicago; and what it was like to eventually become an abuela.

For many Chicanas, Latinas, and brown women taking ethnic-studies classes for the first time, Ana Castillo’s relatable writing opened the door to ideas about feminism. Castillo is credited with coining the term ‘Xicanisma,’ to refer to Chicana feminism (in her dissertation and book Massacre of the Dreamers), and she was part of the first crew of Chicana feminists who began integrating ideas about race, class, ethnicity, and language into their writings and theories on feminism in the 70s – alongside peers like Norma Alarcón, Lucha Corpi, Sandra Cisneros, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Cherrie Moraga. At the reading, Castillo emphasized that at that time when she began writing, no brown or Latina women were being published. Now, she says, she can rest in peace knowing her granddaughter can go to a bookstore or library and see the likes of Sandra Cisneros and Texas poet laureate Carmen Tafolla on the bookshelves.

With her commanding presence, signature raven black hair, and apple-red lipstick, I can’t help but mention that Castillo is nothing short of intellectual and aesthetic #GOALS. During her conversation with Aurora Anaya-Cerda, owner of La Casa Azul Bookstore, she focused mostly on the contents of her memoir – essays she has written over a period of 20 years. However, a large part of the book and the discussion also revolved around the incarceration of her college-educated, cellist son, as well as the cycles of social inequality and racism that suck brown and black youth into the criminal justice system. “Today in 2016, when you are brown in this country, you’re still brown in this country. It doesn’t matter where I raised my son. If I raised him in the suburbs or in New York or in Gainesville, Florida. This is the experience he would have had– being perceived as a brown man.” Black Dove is a poetic reflection of the complicated and overlapping identities of being a daughter, a Chicana, a single mother, an artist, and a paloma negra.

 

Ana Castillo will continue her book tour throughout the month and summer. Here is a list of some of Black Dove’s tour dates:

May 11: Word Up Bookstore; New York, NY
May 12: South of France; Bronx, NY
May 20: Seminary Co-Op Bookstore; Chicago, IL
May 22: Unabridged Bookstore; Chicago, IL
May 24: The Guadalupe Theatre; San Antonio, TX
May 26: El Sol y la Luna; Austin, TX
May 28: Good Samaritan Auditorium; Las Cruces, NM
June 3: Cafe Mayapan; El Paso, TX
June 11: Printers’ Row Book Fest; Chicago, IL
July 17: Bookworks; Albuquerque, NM

We Asked These Young Latinos Why They Support Bernie Sanders. Here’s What They Had To Say.

Waves of brown and black people of all ethnicities and genders flooded St. Mary’s Park in the South Bronx on Thursday to show support for Democratic presidential primary candidate Bernie Sanders.  The crowd, estimated at a whopping 18,500, challenged the “Bernie Bros” narrative that has permeated much of media conversation surrounding the candidate – a conversation that recently led to the #BernieMadeMeWhite hashtag rebuttal on social media.

#BernieMadeMeWhite entered the Twitter conversation after an American writer living in Japan became fed up with the media’s suggestion that Sanders is only winning with whites. As you can see in these photos from Thursday’s rally, the narrative that only white people are “Feeling the Bern” is far from the truth. Sanders is winning the young Latino vote 2 to 1, according to a recent report from NPR,  and also has majority support among young black voters.

 

We attended Thurday’s South Bronx event to talk to supporters of a campaign that many assert hasn’t received the mainstream media coverage it deserves. One attendee’s poster read, “Hey, CNN are you seein’ this?”

Rosario Dawson, who has been on the campaign trail with Bernie and introduced him at several rallies, also referenced the media black-out claim in her speech, citing Trump’s $1.9 billion of free media coverage compared to Sanders’ $321 million.

Photo: Itzel Alejandra Martinez for Remezcla

Other speakers who showed up for Bernie included undocumented Dreamer Erika Andiola (who serves as Sanders’ National Latinx Press Secretary), Spike Lee, and René Pérez, aka Residente of Calle 13, who talked about Bernie’s historical opposition to the many dictatorships in Latin America, including Pinochet in Chile, Rios Montt in Guatemala, and Videla in Argentina. “If Senator Sanders wins the upcoming election, people will see the United States in a different light, ” Pérez said. “It will no longer be a country that invades, that provokes wars, that quiets people. It will not be a country that tortures or believes in colonies. Instead the United States will be a country that strives for unity, equality, and peace.”

While the entirety of the tremendous crowd could not get into the park where the main speeches took place, overflow spilled into an adjacent baseball field with a big screen and speakers broadcasting the speeches. And although some were irritated they wouldn’t get to see the Senator up-close after waiting in line for more than 4-5 hours, Bernie made a surprise entrance at the back of the field to deliver a quick yet impassioned speech to the overflow crowd before his main address inside the park. People climbed the fences and trees to get a better view.

In his main speech, Sanders went on to talk about the tenets of his political platform, which include access to free and quality public education, healthcare, affordable housing, the removal of marijuana from the federal list of dangerous drugs, and the elimination of privately-owned prisons among many other points. The Bernie chants were constant throughout the night, and “¡Sí se puede!” was one of them.

Remezcla had a chance to talk with people at the rally, including Bernie supporters and even some who were still on the fence about their candidate of choice. Here’s what they had to say:

All photos by Itzel Alejandra Martinez for Remezcla.

Rosalba Bujanda (12 years old ) & Jacinta Bujanda (14 years old), Washington Heights.

“I found out about him over the summer and told my parents, and now they’re voting for him. I can’t vote though. I like how he’s very direct and straightforward about climate change. The other ones try to please everybody. There was a question about fracking where Hillary gave this long answer and he just said NO.”  – Jacinta Bujanda

Edwin Cuevas, South Bronx, 27 years old.

“First and foremost Bernie is very moral. Same as the way I felt when I went for Obama. I sense it. I feel it. Bernie has no grip attached to him. Bernie is very original and there is nothing to doubt when you can see what he’s all about.”

Leanny Tineo, Bronx, 13 years old.

“I feel like Bernie has the passion to be a very good president. I feel like there’s going to be a new revolution that’s going to be good for us.”

Paulo Rivera, Brooklyn

“I’m here because my mind matters and my mind is part of a greater collective. I’m seeing that collective around me right now and it’s becoming one force. And that force cannot be ignored because the voice of that one force is unstoppable. I am so excited to be part of what’s looking like a revolution– a plain out revolution in America. I have not been excited for any presidential candidacy since back in the 70s since Jimmy Carter was around and I was knee high.”

Ingrid Morales, Los Angeles, 23 years old.

“I’m hoping to hear more of Sanders ideas about immigration reform and see where I stand after that. It affects my family, my friends, my neighbors. It’s an issue that affects all of the U.S. and there’s many people living in the shadows and we need to change that. We can’t live on forever like this.”

Wilson Ramones, New York, 18 years old.

“I’ve researched him and I see that he’s been consistent with what he’s said and what he’s done. For 30 years he’s been saying the same thing. He’s big in activism especially with civil rights. He likes grassroots politics and I really respect that.”

Kellen Insfran, Bronx, 21 years old.

“This is the first time I’m going to vote. The views he has seem more positive than Clinton and Trump of course. The fact that he was arrested for being in the Civil Rights Movement also really touches me. Black people and Hispanic people – we need that push especially from a white man. If a Hispanic man says what Bernie does, it’s not going to be as respected in our society. I hate to say that, but it’s true. Yes, he is a white man, but I see the sincerity in him. Also– the Republicans– we have to get them out of here. Once the Democrats are in, I think there will be a lot of good happening.”

Kaila Paulino, NYC, 24 years old.

“Today we are here to raise awareness about political prisoners. There are many political prisoners in this country. We are saying that all of these prisoners, that are prisoners of war who are fighting for freedom and for all people on this planet, do not deserve to lose their lives behind bars. It is completely unfair and unjust. We are saying hands off Assata Shakur and hands off our liberation warriors. I don’t really place much faith in this political system, so what I believe in is grassroots organizing and supporting those people who are constantly silenced. Any politician that wants to support a more just world, power to them but power to the people. “

Kyer Bustamante, Harlem, 46 years old.

“I came here with my husband, and I’m supporting Bernie because he’s very progressive. He wants us to have free college, and he’s very pro-gay rights, pro-equal rights. And no more wars. As a veteran, I think going to war for oil is not what we need. We need to chill out and relax.”

Raquel Rodriguez, Woodbury, CT, 21 years old.

“I am here to support Bernie Sanders because we finally have a candidate for the common people. People are scared these days. You turn on the news and everyone’s pointing blame at one party or another group of people. It’s stressful. And that’s part of the reason why people are in such a tizzy this election, and why there have been so many violent outbreaks at political rallies. Bernie Sanders is giving us a way to settle these problems without violence, without hatred, without anger. He’s really trying to get everyone to sit down and work together and that’s a beautiful thing.”

Las Piñatas Art Project

Originally published on Remezcla.

For Tejanos, it’s pretty common knowledge that for a party to be a success, a piñata has to be involved. Ain’t no party like a piñata party. Drawing on its cultural symbolism in Tejano culture, a local architect out of Austin has created a public art project called Las Piñatas. With the help of the City of Austin Art in Public Places Program, citizen architect David Goujon has erected three burro piñata sculptures at Edward Rendon Sr. Park on the East side of Austin, and will have a mass piñata-breaking picnic as a means to celebrate the Latino ancestry of Austin’s East side – an area that is rapidly gentrifying.

The installation went up October 17th to much of the community’s delight, with kids climbing all over the burros, families having picnics around them, and visitors snapping photos of the colorful art pieces. However, not everyone was as pleased with the piñata presence, and nine days after the sculptures were installed, they were vandalized.

Beer cans and muddy fishtailed tire tracks littered the scene where the three sculptures had been shoved over. “They weren’t destroyed but they were uprooted from their concrete foundation, which was no easy task. The people who did this stayed at it for a while, which is what really hurts,” Goujon, the artist who made the structures, said. The large sculptures were designed with a waffle construction that required 25 sheets of plywood each, and were sturdy. Park services told Goujon that this was the most vandalism they had seen on a sculpture since the initiation of the art in public places program. Someone really didn’t like the piñatas. Or maybe it was what they represented.

The project is inspired by Jumpolin, a family-owned piñata store that was illegally demolished overnight.

What’s ironic is that the project was inspired by the story of Jumpolin – the family-owned piñata store in East Austin that was  illegally and unethically demolished overnight by newcomer developers in January of this year. The former Jumpolin site was left in shambles, a pile of rubble sprinkled with crushed piñata parts. Many handmade and imported piñatas perished in the destruction, as well as cash registers and other property, because the owners Sergio and Monica Lejarazu were not expecting the demolition; they had secured a lease until 2017. The tragic story spread like wildfire as evidence of the evils of gentrification and greedy insensitive developers. And in an interview about the razing of Jumpolin, one of the landlords Jordan French even compared the owners to cockroaches.

Austin’s East side is one of the more rapidly gentrifying parts of a city where rents are skyrocketing, new condos are sprouting at high rates, and people who have lived there for decades are being pushed out. Goujon says there’s a reason people are attracted to Austin and it’s because of this diversity and culture. Not to mention the foods. People want the juicy tacos, bubbling queso, and icy margaritas, but not the Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and their long-standing businesses? “We have to be able to show resiliency,” Goujon says. “These acts of destruction will not tear down the community. The Hispanic culture here is going to persevere.”

These acts of destruction will not tear us down. The Hispanic culture here is going to persevere.

He says the community’s response to the sculpture’s vandalism has been humbling. In fact, the whole chain of events has become a motivator to make his project even stronger in order to emphasize and honor Austin’s Latino heritage. Goujon wants to focus on getting as much of the community to come out for the Piñata Picnic event on November 14th. The event welcomes all neighbors – new and old residents – in an effort to unite people of the neighborhood. There will be a free piñata for everyone who comes and even a moonwalk provided by the former owners of Jumpolin. In order to make this event happen, Goujon is asking the community to pitch in by contributing to acrowdfunding campaign. Proceeds will go to reinvigorating local piñata businesses and to a scholarship fund distributed by Latinos in Architecture– a committee of the American Institute of Architects.

The symbols of our culture can be so pertinent to our trials. The piñata is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship that must be destroyed for its purpose to be fully realized. Goujon recalls sitting next to the damaged burros, heavy creatures knocked down on their sides, and calling Sergio Lejarazu who said, “They tore down my store, and they tore down your piñatas, but we have to show them we’re better than that.”

“It’s incredible because I’m here trying to support them, and here they are supporting me.”

Carving Through Borders Exhibit is an Homage to the Migrant Spirit and Struggle

Originally published on Remezcla.  

As a thoughtful way to conclude your travels through the Young Lords, contemporary collage, and Rodriguez Calero exhibits at Museo del Barrio, stop by the last stretch of the museum, which holds a mini exhibit of migrant-themed block prints by  artists. The prints elucidate various aspects of the migrant experience, including labor, border mentalities, the building of communities, and the migrant’s persevering spirit.

The messages of migrant empowerment embedded in the works come amid a political climate where immigration activists are spit upon, pulled by their hair, and violently assaulted at Trump political rallies. While the orange-faced billionaire vilifies undocumented immigrants and threatens mass deportations if elected, mainstream media plays along. They help spread the xenophobia with disrespectful language– like calling people “illegals” – and targeted story choices about immigrant crime. CultureStrike’s works are an antidote and a rebuttal to politicians who blame the undocumented for many of the nation’s economic woes, claiming they don’t pay taxes, siphon resources like education and healthcare, and ”steal” jobs from “real” Americans.

Consider Oree Originol’s piece, depicting a fruit picker and a student or possible community organizer work side by side. The words ‘Mi Labor Sostiene a la Comunidad’ float across the image. The words are an assertion: my labor, my sweat, my hands nourish and sustain the community. Even though the United States is powered by and relies on migrant labor, migrants are one of the least respected labor groups, working for minimal wages with little protection from exploitative employers. The apple is also a choice inclusion – a reminder that every time you sit in front of a salad, you are enjoying a plate delivered to you by migrant labor.

The idea that a border wall will keep people from migrating is a conservative pipe dream. You can’t kill an ancient human instinct.

The apples in Oree’s print can also be interpreted as an allusion to Apple the brand. In this reading, the work points out that migrant workers not only do back-breaking work like harvest fruit and vegetables, they are also intellectuals, thinkers, and academics. There’s a message in this piece that it’s time to create more nuanced, complex depictions of migrants; to give them voice without singularizing their experience.

Other concepts in the works are freedom beyond borders. Erin Yoshi’s piece features birds that pierce the ropes that bind someone’s hands. The caption is ‘No Borders Fly Free,’ a similar sentiment to ‘Move Freely’ in DJ Agana’s print, where a woman doubly rendered as the Virgen of Guadalupe and the Statue of Liberty wears guaraches as she walks over rain clouds and holds a torch made of corn. She’s encircled by sun rays like those jutting from the Virgen de Guadalupe. Both works illustrate the idea that people will progress and move regardless of political climates, regardless of their assigned nationality, and regardless of the flushed-faced haters who have forgotten that they too descend from immigrants. The idea that a border wall will keep people from migrating, from escaping, from moving is just a conservative pipe dream. You can’t kill an ancient human instinct.

Lastly, in Santi Armengod’s print, two young girls swirl around a caracol – a symbol for movement and community – as if in a dream. The girls are in a peaceful trance, yet one is marked with the symbol of resistance – a Zapatista mask. Optimism is all good and dandy, but nothing is won without struggle, the piece suggests. ‘Mija, haven’t you learned by now that there are fields of soldados, soldiers swimming through your veins’ is another reference to struggle in Rommy Torrico’s print– a portrait filled with the battle scars left by 287G, deportation, border laws, NAFTA, and the spirits of those who didn’t survive the fight.

The message is that in order to rise and in order to assert an existence, you have to fight and demand to be heard. And that is the exhibit’s function. It’s asking for the migrant experience to be recognized as part of a collective humanity.

With that, El Museo sends you back off into the world.

Cervera's Skinned Latino Gangster Rug Sculptures

Originally published on Remezcla.

Have you ever fantasized about getting revenge on the gangster bully that tormented you as a kid? Are you still salty about the humiliations you experienced at the hands of the local cholo? Maybe it was worse than humiliation, maybe they terrorized you and your friends by robbing you, beating you senseless, or inspiring an omnipresent fear that left you feeling powerless. Well, these sculptural artworks that depict the tattooed bodies of MS-13 and 18th street gangbangers skinned and splayed like animal rugs might provide some type of psychological catharsis.

But the Mexican artist behind these striking works, Renato Garza Cervera, had a very different intention with his quite terrifying series ‘Of Genuine Contemporary Beast.’ Cervera began the project in 2005, after seeing reports of Mara Salvatrucha gang members caged in cells, as though they were zoo animals. He began contemplating the images of Latino gangsters that appeared in the media, and which functioned as an “othering” and a dehumanization of people grasping at power in the only ways available to them.

Even though they look realistic, the rug sculptures are not literally made from human skin. The bald heads and skin are made from leather, polyester, and polyurethane foam. The squinted eyes are made from glass, and wax colored pencils were used for the tattoos covering the body including the face, head, and the bottoms of feet.

The threatening facial expressions, displaying gritted teeth are what make the pieces scary, but the tattoos are actually the more humanizing aspect of the artworks. Besides the obviously gang-inspired tattoos, there are mundane markings of names like Milton, Stephanie, and Martha. One sculpture even has a buttcheek tattoo of a teddy bear holding a flower. Cervera is literally objectifying the gangster concept and turning it into a deconstructed rug – something meant to be trampled. Could he be suggesting this was always the case? Gang members have always occupied the underbelly of society, and maybe instead of seeing them as one-dimensional criminal killers, we should consider the societal circumstances that created them.

Gangs and gangsters are a complicated societal product. Many times people join gangs out of hopelessness– they see no way out of their poverty and gangs provide a sense of belonging, family, and larger community. According to Latino gang scholar James Diego Vigil, “For many cholos, the gang subculture provides a source of identity and avenues for personal fulfillment.” Racism, white supremacy, and an overwhelming lack of resources in communities of color don’t do much to deter youth from crime or gang life either.

There’s an interesting variance in the way the Latino community views gangsters. I have many friends who detest cholos and gang members, were bullied by them, and have nothing but disdain for the subculture. Others have a more empathetic lens due to family members who got involved in gang life early on, out of a need for their own sense of control. Then there’s those who glamorize the powerful, notorious gangsters, and revere their dangerous lifestyle. [Ed Note: For more on the complicated nature of this reverence, check out our review of the film Narco Cultura.]

But I believe most Latinos have a sprinkle of each of these views. While the nuanced views of people who have corollary experience with gang subculture are often missing from the larger world of media, news, and sensationalism, Cervera’s “rugs” may allow one to understand that gangsters – even Latino gangsters – are people.

Maybe one day we won’t have to see brown bodies symbolically skinned in order to understand that concept.

Brooklyn Zine Fest: 4 Artists to Check Out

This weekend is Brooklyn Zine Fest where all the nerds, hipsters, fanboys and fangurls unite to show off freshly printed copies of their DIY booklets, containing cult connoisseurship, illustrations and comics, and lots of obscure knowledge. Not sure what a zine is? Well.. many still aren’t. That’s kind of the the root nature of the elusive zine and its niche audiences.

A zine is a booklet of any size or shape made independently, and it usually deals in an ultra-specialized, underground, or taboo topic. Zines can be heady or academic, say, a collection of essays on anarcho-feminism; they can be artsy and illustrative, including comic book cats who fight crime or drawings of smiling succulents. They can be serious, silly, educational or simply beautiful. These homemade booklets are a cheap way to publish content and spread ideas and images that might not get expressed were it left up to corporate or even independent publishers. Therefore, zine-making and outlets for zine exhibition put the power of knowledge exchange in the hands of the people.

Honestly, as a previous attendee I know that Brooklyn Zine Fest is overwhelmingly gringo, even though people of color, minorities, and queer communities have BEEN using DIY measures such as zines to tell their stories and share enlightening information left out of traditional avenues. However, there are a sprinkling of Latin@ exhibitors of note at this year’s fest.

I wanted to highlight a few of these exhibitors at Brooklyn Zine Fest but also encourage other Latin@s to start making zines. Imagine the multitude of topics the diverse rainbow of Latinidad could be covering???? In the zines of my dreams, there are zines compiling motivational Selena quotes, zines outlining notes on Xicana feminism, zines documenting our abuelitas use of herbs and natural remedies, and zines assembling pozole recipes.

On that note, please go to this year’s zine fest, get inspired, and start making some zines gente! The event is both on Friday and Saturday, April 25th and 26th, with different exhibitors each day.

Vice Versa Press

As a part of Vice Versa PressJulia Arredondo is quite a zine-making star. Her zines include ‘Baltimore Break Ups: A Pop-Up Memoir,’ ‘Guide to Being Alone,’ ‘Moving Back Home,’ and a zine all about Corpus Christi (the hometown of Selena, duh). However, my ultimate favorite zine of hers is ‘Guide to Dating Gangsters’ which has two volumes. I can verify having dated my share of what she calls “traditional thugs” that her knowledge of the subject is legit. Her advice is also sagely and discreet: “Please don’t date broke-ass thugs. If he or she got too many kids, got no job, is disrespectful to his or her momma, or is just plain lazy… Keep on Moving. Life is too short and there are too many fine mofo’s out there. Just sayin’.” I feel that.

Exhibiting Saturday April 25th.

Cósmica

All-girl art collective Cósmica is debuting their second zine called ‘Baby Girl Dreams’ this Saturday. ‘Baby Girl Dreams’ is an ode to the teenage creative class, their style, and artistry. Each contributor compiled diary entries, memories, and visual symbols from their youth to summon 90s girl power while allowing the reader to contemplate their own teenage artistic production. In the vein of summoning childhood memories, Cósmica member April Ibarra Siqueiros will also be exhibiting her personal zine ‘Valley of Paradox’ which talks about the multiplicity of historical narratives and her own stories from back when. Additionally, Itzel Alejandra Martinez will be selling her zine ‘Lupes’ – a compilation of photographs taken of the Virgen de Guadalupe during her travels around the Southwest U.S..

Exhibiting Saturday April 25th.

Dave Ortega

El Paso native Dave Ortega is a great mind, illustrating comics that unearth microhistories about colonialism of the Americas, Mexican-American histories, and the stories of his ancestors. His newest zine ‘De Las Casas’ outlines some of the horrific acts of the Spanish conquest and centers on the friar Bartolome de las Casas and his championing of a more humanist approach to Native American relations. He also has zines revolving around stories his abuelita told him about escaping from Mexico during the Revolution. Another zine I picked up last year was ‘Dichos’ an illustrated booklet of proverbs en español. His work is meaningful, and gives a much-need historical perspective in an accessible format.

Exhibiting Sunday April 26th.

Usagi Por Moi

Jannese Rojas, tabling as Usagi Por Moi, has a zine called Friducha where she juxtaposes illustrated elements of her daily artistic life with those of Frida Kahlo. Her white shaggy puppy next to Frida’s xoloitzcuintli or Mexican hairless dog, her brick Brooklyn studio and the studio mansion Frida shared with Diego, her sweet treat of creme puffs with Frida’s limes with coconut etc. It’s cute. Check out Friducha and her other zines on Sunday.

Exhibiting Sunday April 26th.

How to do SXSW with no Credentials

This week the city of Austin will morph into the musical media monstrosity that is SXSW. People from all over the world will flock to the city to see music, film, and participate in the tech/interactive elements of the festival. In recent years SXSW has been critiqued for becoming controlled by corporations and inaccessible to not only festival-goers (a music badge starts at $650,) but also to budding musicians who don’t agree with the restrictions participating in official SXSW events entails. To many, the festival is no longer an event to see and hear undiscovered musical talent but is now just a tool for corporations to shove its products and Miley Cyrus-esque musicians down your throat.

In other words, SXSW has lost its indie appeal.

But instead of just giving in to the man, many culture creators and curators have opened up alternative spaces for a parallel unofficial SXSW experience. I’ve been doing the unofficial SXSW for years and never had a badge or wristband, and it’s always a good time. There are always strategies to see shows for free (and get drunk for free) on the corporate dime. However, the local and unofficial scene has grown into an alternate festival and is pretty damn fun in and of itself. Here are a few unofficial SXSW shows showcasing Latin@ talent at SXSW 2015.

Friday, March 20, 1pm-7pm: Global Local

Global Local, previously ‘Listen Global, Act Local,’ is a space curated by the Sol Collective– an organization that aims to bring together art, culture, and activism. The vision for the show seeks to unite global sounds with an air of consciousness. There will be an eclectic showcase of musical talent as well as live art by Kalakari, Trust Your Struggle, and LURAC. Artist collective Mujeres Mercado will also be vending an array of handmade goods at the event. Artists performing at this year’s showcase are: Scatter Their Own, Etagg, WiseChild
Quese IMC, Buyepongo, RDACBX (Rebel Diaz, Vithym, King Capo,) Tef Poe and T Dubb-O, Gabriel Wolfchild, Queens D. Light, El Indio , Precolumbian, DJ Riobamba, Royal Highness, DJ Sound Culture and other special guests.

Kenny Dorham’s Backyard
1106 East 11th

Friday, March 20, 2-7pm: Future Sonidos

Future Sonidos is a punk music showcase put on by Queer Qumbia en Tejas and House of Shakur — community organizations that create explicitly safe spaces for queer people of color. Performers will be Chulita Vinyl Club, Sodium, Tiarra Girls, OlmecaMalportado Kidsand Pink Leche. The event will be held at Treasure City Thrift where they will be having a $1 sale. Yessssss.

Treasure City Thrift
2142 East 7th Street
Austin, TX 78702

Saturday, March 21, 12pm: The People's Party // Fiesta Popular

Everything about this party is badass: it’s supporting a cause, it’s being held at an anarchist bookstore, there will be tamales, and the musical acts are great. All proceeds will benefit Youth Rise Texas– a youth leadership project aiming to fight against immigrant detainment, deportation, and the prison industrial complex. Tamales and other foods will be sold from local Austin caterer Conjunto Contigo, and performers will include: LLAMV LLVMA, Rebel Diaz, Olmeca, Krudas Cubensi, Marcus Frejo/Quese lmc, The ReMINDers, and more.

MonkeyWrench Books
110 E North Loop
Austin, TX 78751

Saturday, March 21st, 12pm: All Latino Auditorium Shores Showcase

This is actually an official SXSW event but it is open to the public. You simply have to pick up a guest wristbands which will be available for pick up before you enter the event. Tejano legends Intocable, energetic tropical Bomba Estereo and Compass – a collab between Mexican Institute of Sound and Toy Selectah – will be performing. The event is part ofSXAmericas, SXSW’s effort to include the work of more Latino and Latin-Americans.

Auditorium Shores
800 W Riverside Dr
Austin, TX 78704

Sunday, March 22, 12-7pm: Latin American Cultural Showcase

On the last day of SXSW, when most people call it quits, there will be another specificallyLatin American showcase of artists Diogo Poças, Estrela & Teo Ruiz, and Buyepongo. DJ Busca will be spinning and there will be art, food, performing arts and dancing.

Kenny Dorham’s Backyard
1106 E 11th.
Austin, TX 78702

Sunday, March 22, 5-9pm: #CODESWITCH

This party has it all: “ethereal goddess trap operas to the diasporic global thump of hot and sticky beach cumbia riddim, to Black American proverbs and PSAs.” Sounds like a really fun way to end your SXSW weekend if you still have the energy. This event is also put on by Queer Qumbia en Tejas and House of Shakur in an effort to unite black and brown people through the celebration of culture.

The Sahara Lounge
1413 Webberville Rd
Austin, Texas 78721

 

Sunday, March 22, 5-9pm: PELIGROSA

Last but not least, you can always get turnt to the cumbia/trap/hiphop/all things danceable mash up mixes of the Peligrosa djs who will be playing unofficially all week. Tuesday will be their SXSW opening ceremony at The Volstead, and Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday they will be posted up at Chupacabra Cantina.

Volstead Lounge
1500 E 6th St,
Austin, TX 78702

Chupacabra Cantina
400 E 6th St,
Austin, TX 78701

10 Best Places to Grub in Austin for SXSW

 It would be really sad and dangerous if all you consumed was the free sweet tea vodka and energy drinks during your time at SXSW. Austin is not only a Tex-Mex paradise but also a vegan/vegetarian food mecca if you’re into comida sana. If you’re visiting Austin for the first time, you’ll quickly learn that real tacos are cheap and that this whole time you’ve been bamboozled– charging $5 for a taco is an actual sin. With the help from a few Austin foodies and as an ex-Austinite, I present you with a list of some recommendations on where to grub. If the list is heavy on the margaritas and tacos, sorry but not sorry!!!

Buen provecho – and please add any other recommendations in the comments section. See you in Austin!

1

Veracruz All Natural Tacos

This is the taco trucks of all taco trucks. You can’t go wrong with an al pastor taco, but really every single taco kicks ass here. The aguas frescas are a little pricey at $4 pero son ricas. There are 3 locations the demand is so high.

Veracruz Tacos
1704 E Cesar Chavez
1403 East 7th St @ East Seventh Eats
4208 Menchaca Rd. @ Radio Coffee & Beer

2

Takoba

This is a tight brunch or happy hour spot with a romantic ambiance and a beautiful patio. Their spicy mango-habañero margarita is on point, and they have mezcal cocktails. The owner is from Aguascalientes and brings that legit Mexican flare to the food.

Takoba
1411 East 7th Street

Photo via Amanda SG.

3

Mr. Natural

This is a vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free haven where there is a special vegetarian Tex-Mex section. Sunflower tamales exist here and they are bbbbbbomb. Order them in the tamale plate or the soya guisada–their vegetarian take on carne guisada. Licuados and jugos are also on the menu. Props to the spinach pineapple agua fresca

Mr. Natural
1901 E. Cesar Chavez St.

 

4

Mi Madres

A sweaty tall glass of horchata with a plate of spicy migas, huevos rancheros or chilaquiles. If you have an undying hunger, the beef fajita burrito stuffed with fries is a great way to kill yourself slowly with Tex-Mex. The cafe de olla is pretty damn good as well.

Mi Madres
2201 Manor Rd.

5

Taco Window on Manor (formerly Taco Mex)

This is a taco window, not a taco truck. The taco de nopales con huevo is the best, and they’re so, so fresh. People rave about the fish tacos, and the green sauce? I’ve seen Facebook posts about the green sauce.

Taco Window
2611 Manor Road

6

Tyson's Tacos

They serve breakfast tacos all day, and if you’ve never heard of a breakfast taco (many New Yorkers haven’t) they are what will power you through your SXSW adventures. Their tacos also have the best names: the “White Girl” is a basic potato, egg, and cheese taco. lololol. Also, some of their tacos have crushed Takis inside. Yessssss.

Tyson’s Tacos
4905 Airport Blvd.

7

Juan in a Million

This is a really popular Mexican breakfast spot. They have a huge taco called the Don Juan, and Juan is always there giving out handshakes.

Juan in a Million
2300 East Cesar Chavez St.

8

La Condesa

This is a bit fancier spot than the rest. They have a great happy hour with very yummy cocktails. I’d get the watermelon elderflower martini. I’ve also heard great things about the ceviche and elote.

La Condesa
400A West 2nd Street

9

Mother's Cafe

This is really an Austin brunch staple. It’s very easy to forget to eat during SXSW but if you start your day here, you will be good to go. Everything is organic and vegetarian — a good balance for all that free alcohol you’ll be ingesting.

Mother’s Cafe
4215 Duval Street

10

Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ

Alright, so how could I make a list of Tejano foods and not mention BBQ? This place truly blends your Mex with your Tex. They have “traditional” BBQ like brisket, pulled pork, and mesquite bbq chicken while also offering fajita, carnitas, pollo or brisket with lime and guacamole twists.

Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ
600 West 6th street

 

Missing Students in Mexico Have Inspired a Wave of Protest Art

originally published on Vice. 

There's a rage blazing across Mexico. It's due to the disappearance, and most likely massacre, of 43 unarmed male students from Ayotzinapa Normal School, a teacher's college known for it's radical and leftist politics that is located in the southern state of Guerrero. 

It all started on  September 26 in the town of Iguala, when police opened fire on three buses full of students, who were en route to protest education reforms and to demand more resources for their college. In that altercation,  people were killed and 43 students were arrested. The cops then handed the students, who were mostly from indigenous and rural campesino towns, over to cartel itmen from the drug gang Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors). They haven't been seen since. 

Days after the brutal scene in Iguala,  ass graves were found in the nearby jungles. However, the corpses have ot yet been identified as those of the Ayotzinapa 43. The bodies could be victims of some other violence perpetrated by the drug war and the accompanying political and olice corruption prevalent in Mexico. Police and criminals are often synonymous and carry out crimes, murders, and kidnappings with impunity. 

Early Tuesday, mayor of Iguala and fugitive Jose Luis Abarca and his wife Maria de los Angeles Pineda, who stand accused of ordering the assault on the students,  ere caught and arrested in Mexico City. uerrero governor Ángel Aguirre has also tepped down after evidence arose that he ignored the corruption in Iguala.

In reaction to the disappearances, protests have resounded across Mexico demanding the Ayotzinapa students be returned alive. Along with the outrage has come an outpouring of art—protesters carry  arge-scale printed portraits of each student as they march in the streets demanding their return. 

Yescka is a Oaxacan street artist and founder of the political art collective ASARO (Assembly of Revolutionary Artists of Oaxaca). He created wheatpaste posters of five young men in postures of surrender as red spray paint drips off their backs. Three figures with their pants at their ankles wear soccer jerseys that read "Justice," "Ayotzinapa," and "October 2"—the day of the  laltelolco Massacre. Yescka says the piece functions as a memory connecting the Ayotzinapa student disappearances with the assassinations of an uncertain number of students by military police in the Tlaltelolco neighborhood of Mexico City in 1968. Both events were horrific and have the ring of state-sponsored corruption, though they happened 46 years apart.

art by  Gran Om

Gran Om, a visual artist who comes from Mexico City, illustrated a more mournful piece (above) inspired by the missing young people . The graphic says. "Friends, students of Ayotzinapa, your town awaits you. They took them alive and that's the way we want them. Alive!" This demand has been the protesters' chant since communities from Mexico to Barcelona organized in gatherings of solidarity.

Online, graphic artists from all over have added their own portraits of the missing students to a Tumblr called Ilustradores con Ayotzinapa or " Ilustrators with Ayotzinapa." Each illustration is a detailed portrait of the missing student: a face in a dreamy watercolor of rainbows; another face, crying and rising from Mexico choked by cactus; a third face gagged with the Mexican flag. 

"I am Alejandra, and I want to know where Antonio Santana Maestro is," one portrait declares. Each day the number of illustrations grows while the likeliness the students are alive diminishes.

This past weekend, as communities celebrated Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a Mexican tradition where families honor loved ones who have passed on, many people included portrait images of the  ayotzinapa 43 in their altars. Others left them off their altars because they maintain hope that the students are alive. Either way, the hashtag #Ayotzinapa and the art associated with it has become a vehicle for drawing attention to the national problem of injustice toward the young, poor, and progressive.

Object Solutions: An Art Endeavor by Ernesto Morales

originally published on Remezcla.

Ernesto Morales is quite the jack of trades. He runs a design firm; he’s a DJ known for a party in Boston called Picó Picante; he’s a video producer, inventor, photographer and brand strategist, and now he’s entering the world of fine art with a project called Object Solutions.

At first you might not see Object Solutions as an artistic endeavor but upon closer inspection, the project reveals itself as multifaceted. Object Solutions is a semi-fictitious design firm inventing and producing products that provide solutions to dark and obsessive first world problems. Take a look at the videos and you’ll see an array of products aimed at curing exaggerated emotions like poisoning resentments and obsessive compulsive cleanliness.

One of the videos in his series explains the Full-Body Moist Towel as “a personal, portable hygiene blanket.” The targeted audience for the Full-Body Moist Towel is a person who wants to devour a particularly messy meal like saucy ribs without restraint and leave no trace of their sticky consumerism. This product taps into the human desire for an uninhibited hedonism where all the consequences can pristinely be wiped away. “Life offers an onslaught of filth at every turn and the full-body moist towel offers a refreshing alternative,” the narrator explains.

We’ve all seen the As Seen On TV ads for gadgets that fix life’s small yet troublesome tasks like fast vegetable choppers or wall devices that release high-pitched sounds only animals can hear and act as bug and rodent repellent. My mother is obsessed with these devices. I own a ridiculous plastic tuna can strainer and several soda tops that retain the carbonation for your unfinished canned soda because of her appreciation for little inventions. Mexican moms love things that promote conservation.

The products of Object Solutions share qualities with these As Seen On TV or SkyMall products, but include a twang of irony. Other products include a magnifying spoon that allows you to inspect food in public before eating it. Then there’s the rotisserie patio table, which allows dining partners equal sun distribution when sitting outside. The quiet resentment that builds when your partner has the optimal seat is described as the time when “a moment of would-be beauty becomes a moment of private agony.” And then there’s the lint investment system for chronic recyclers. Expelled lint can be accumulated and reused as a new piece of clothing– “a simple laundry cycle becomes an investment into the future of fashion.” Can product design go beyond fixing task efficiency and actually delve into the realm of optimizing emotional equilibrium?

One might view the videos as sketch comedy, others may see the critique of consumerism embedded in the sarcasm. Then there are those who want to actually buy the products. Maybe it’s design theater or a new form of philosophical invention art, but maybe there’s something deeper and darker about the human condition to be seen in these absurd fabrications. Check out Object Solutions at http://www.objectsolutions.net/ and decide for yourself.

‘Listen Global, Act Local’: A SXSW 2014 Recap

originally posted on Remezcla.

SXSW, the music festival that turns Austin, Texas, already dubbed the “Live Music Capital of the World” into a musical mecca and media frenzy came and went in the last weeks [Ed Note: this is roughly the amount of time needed to recover from the festival...hence the late recap]. At some point in the past, SXSW was a homegrown festival offering 20 shows for $20, but now the official showcases attract literally thousands of musical acts and multi-billion dollar corporations seeking music festival cred and advertising opportunities. Alongside the official SXSW that requires a music badge costing somewhere between $600 to $800, is an unofficial free scene with venues providing spaces for alternative sounds. Although, even massive unofficial parties like the Fader Fort are super commercialized at this point, providing free entry via limited RSVP tactics, free booze, and superstar acts like Rick Ross and Julian Casablancas. Still, it’s possible to find that ray of underground musical sunshine spotlighting blossoming musicians on the come-up in certain parties. The ‘Listen Global, Act Local’ showcase put on by Sol CollectiveConrazón, Kenny Dorhman’s Backyard, and DiverseArts is one of those covert parties flying low on the SXSW radar but hosting a hotbed of talent.

This backyard party presented by The Sol Collective, an organization that intersects art, community and activism, gives exposure to global artists with unique sounds that challenge the status quo and often get lost amid the mainstream corporate-backed acts dominating SXSW. On March 14th in a beautiful hilly space couched in colorful graffiti and local vendors, the carefully curated mix of artists on the bill for ‘Listen Global, Act Local’ came through with a cosmopolitan blend of international musical artistry.

From 2pm to after midnight, the party maintained a consistent offering of artists on the cusp of new and interesting sounds. I showed up as activist-minded artists ‘Quese’ and ‘Nymasis’ performed their conscious hip hop act that set an energetic and charged tone for the day. Later, Oakland-based Panamanian duo ‘Los Rakas’ got everybody live. Their smooth Cali vibes and plena, dancehall, rap musical blend was on point. Electronic First Nation DJ group ‘A Tribe Called Red’ from Canada “headlined” the event in the middle of the showcase right before ‘Zuzuka Poderosa’, along with ‘El Nego Mozambique,’ gave us an intense Brazilian baile funk performance. DJs from the Austin-based DJ collective ‘Peligrosa’ also injected their personal flavors of cumbia mixes in between acts. Peligrosa DJ ‘King Louie’ fulfilled cumbia dance dreams with a chopped and screwed version of Selena’s ‘Bidi Bidi Bom Bom’ track. Ugh it was just so good. Olmeca, Buscabulla, Las Krudas, Scatter Their Own, El Indio/ World Hood, Dre T, Luke Tailor, GTW, Atropolis, Canyon Cody and Precolumbian were also performers at the event.

Along with the music, vendors like Flores y Canto vintage clothing and radical bookstore MonkeyWrench perched their tents on the sidelines. The event was free, open to the public and all ages. ‘Listen Global, Act Local’ put a community-minded activist twist on what a music festival event can embody. Human rights activist and rapper Olmeca said, “En la oscuridad that is SXSW, venues like the Sol Collective showcase gives us alternative artists a place to shine.” It brought together members from the activist community, those wanting to hear autonomous music unchained from corporatized brands, and the musical artists themselves who need a space to share their creativity. I really can’t wait to see how this event evolves in terms of providing voice and space for this globalist collection of artists and people who make change. Hope to see you next year in Austin at the unofficial SXSW ‘Listen Global, Act Local’ party!

Artist Profile: Miguel Ovalle

originally published on Remezcla.
all photos by Miguel Ovalle unless stated otherwise.

all photos by Miguel Ovalle unless stated otherwise.

A human body draped with silver sequined textile slept on its side at the center of a room lined with photographs documenting a psychedelic celebration. ArtNowNY exhibited the remnants of an event named Glitterati, an imagining of artist Miguel Ovalle aka Dizmology. Photos at the gallery provided evidence of a party that recreated live distortions of everyday movements. Ovalle’s Greenpoint studio/living space supplied an atmosphere reminiscent of 90s clubkid warehouse raves but fashioned by an artist’s eye.

Spandex walls produced liquid partitions that allowed guests a tangible trip off the textures their bodies formed behind the fabric. Gold mylar created a mirroring effect around the rest of the space. And in a bluetron room, live projections of performers in LA, surround sound and a nice supply of party-enhancers contributed to the environment. Who were the partygoers? A select group of 40 to 50 artists, writers, curators, creators… people open to embracing a bizarre environment. Ovalle substituted party scene faces with silhouettes of sparkling texture and opalescent reflections. The photos are like the cloudy memories of a druggy hangover. Your memory of the night before is a blur of glitz and half-recognizable faces. “There’s beauty in these errors, distortions, imperfections…” Ovalle says.

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Miguel Ovalle grew up in Opa-Locka, Florida, one of the more violent hoods north of Miami but had what he calls an “exit out of poverty,” which was his access to art magnet schools. Since 2nd grade Miguel commuted hours to a school out of his district to receive training in the arts. He grew up in a very religious, ultra conservative Pentecostal household and when it was time for him to fly, his family was against him going to college. They dubbed him “el pajaro loco” as he escaped on a full ride scholarship to Maryland Institute College of Art where he eventually graduated with honors.

After a stint in Tokyo where he got deported for doing illegal graffiti, he hustled his way into becoming Marc Ecko’s senior designer for the brand Ecko Red. He then worked with Victoria’s Secret PINK line doing their branding and logos for 6 years. He’s done apparel design for The Roots, Erykah Badu, Common, Lil Wayne, and MF Doom. But even though he’s made his name in the corporate world, his nights are dedicated to his personal art.

Although actual mentors were few for Miguel, his personal art is steeped in influences that range from street art, graffiti, hip hop to b boy and Japanese culture. In his show at ArtNowNY ‘Encryption,’ the street art and graffiti scene appear as important influences. Especially in his neo-futuristic architectural piece where he seems to be paying respect to the art of graffiti. Another human figure draped in a sequined cloak functioned as a kind of sacrifice laying elevated in front of his architectural tag piece. However, the sensation from the piece is not morbid. Instead it feels positive, more like an immortalization.

photo by Barbara Calderon-Douglass

photo by Barbara Calderon-Douglass

Miguel’s exhibits are always multi-sensory, which is what makes Miguel so interesting as an artist and why he can throw such a badass party. He understands how our conscious senses intersect. At the Encryption show, a cellist played in the corner while everyone drank their alcohol and peered into his glitch-inspired idea of the world. Intricate drawings of underwater femme fatales, architectural graffiti, dissected 3D paintings and human figure casts all populated the space showing the diverse mediums he uses to create his art. These unlikely juxtapositions are all over his work and not just in Encryption. In ‘Black Market,’ an exhibit Ovalle did with Citizen Kroger, he exhibited very taboo works -- motorcycles like orgasm machines, art that were also weapons, swords, and machine guns.

Miguel’s parents are both Dominican, raised in Williamsburg Brooklyn and the Bronx. His neighborhood growing up was a primarily Dominican and Black community. But when asked about the Latino element in his work, he says he doesn’t feel his art reflects that “Latino” thread that gets play at museums like Museo del Barrio or galleries that primarily exhibit Latino artists. He also doesn’t see his work as political; he sees it as therapeutic. The art world and institutions in general like to compartmentalize and pin people’s work as one thing or another, but Miguel’s work is hard to label. His thesis at MICA involved taking his professors to an abandoned tunnel behind a railroad track where he presented his thesis of atmospheric aerosol graffiti-- something that few if any other art students had done. But even those Latinos that fall through the cracks of art history eventually get their day.

Keep up with Miguel Ovalle on his instagram Dizmology and his website. We’ll update you with any future art shows in State of the Art.

A Romanticization of Mexico

originally published on artluxmag.

I have a very Mexican mother in Texas who almost choked on her mid-afternoon pan dulce when I told her I was traveling to Mexico this past summer. The border violence and drug war circumstances--beheadings, sequestrations and drug cartel violence-- are what most media outlets cover in regard to Mexico. Oh, and of course immigration, the other hot topic. If a news story on Mexico isn’t about human bodies being hung from bridges, it’s some xenophobic diatribe about how undocumented immigrants are destroying the pristine United States of ‘Merica. The word ‘Mexico’ can sometimes feel like a bad word, highly charged and controversial. This is particularly problematic for me and many people I know because to many Mexican-Americans and Mexicans in the U.S., Mexico is the Motherland. There are untold histories about the ancient civilizations, cultural relics destroyed or hidden during colonization and a sinkhole of untapped art history.

I flew over the golden-sparkled cityscape of Mexico D.F. to land in the Mexican state of Oaxaca for a day of solitude before my friends’ arrival. The margins of the capital Oaxaca city are lined with mountains where many Oaxacans live. About 48% of the population in Oaxaca is indigenous and speaks an assortment of native languages-- the most of any other Mexican state. Streets are made from round stones and the walls that border the avenues are an amalgam of bright colors. My first morning in Oaxaca began at my hostel Casa Angel where ladies from the mountains cooked fried eggs with fresh salsa and bread for the guests.

Art is omnipresent here. Scattered around the city are open air galleries with centers of fountains and gardens, no roofs to halt the sun, like a Turrell skyspace but au natural without all the LED bullshit. Flyers for poetry readings, book discussions, film viewings and art-making workshops signify an active art community. And the political street art in the form of stencils, graffiti and murals critiquing the government, predatory corporations and political corruption make it known there is a politicized youth.

I talked art and politics with a few of these artists, most affiliated with the art collective ASARO, a collective aimed at creating public art with a social consciousness. Associated with the collective is an artspace and printmaking studio called Espacio Zapata where I spent a chunk of down time drinking jamaica-infused mezcal. The space has an attached cafe called Café Colectivo Atila del Sur where bohemian artist boys serve tasty breakfasts and lunches while graphic t-shirts, prints and stickers are for sale in the entrance. Things like the revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata drawn as a punk with a mohawk are plastered on most objects.

Even though Oaxaca state had a 16.3% illiteracy rate in 2010, libraries are in abundance.* Home of the most calming menagerie of a study area, complete with drooping plants and fading sunlight, Biblioteca del Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca has the art book goods. They even had the recently published ‘Mexican Portraits’ by Pablo Ortiz Monasterio ready to peruse. Another library, Biblioteca Infantil de Oaxaca, a children’s library full of hot topics explaining religion, philosophy, and sex to young ones, was another beautifully planned out space with an open veranda, no shortage of trees or treasures.

After my first day of exploring libraries and art spaces, I began to saunter into unknown areas with glazed eyes, and I was outed as a tourist. A young guy asked me if I was German and told me he was a native Oaxacan, legit Zapotec, who knew everything about the city. He wanted to show me some sites! Woohoo, I met a local! He escorted me to Pochote, an organic market in Xochimilco where I drank Tejate, a drink made from cacao and other mountain-dwelling plants. Then, we sipped Espadín mezcal at a mezcalería closeby and talked politics until the topic turned to astrology and I had to make my way home.

My three Xicana power sisters from Austin, LA and Guatemala City showed up and we became the Oaxaca 4. Together, we tasted grasshopper-laden tlayudas (a giant fried tortilla like a tostada with beans, salsa and veggies,) bought textiles and artisan jewelry, and took a six-hour overnight bus to Mazunte, a beach where we moon-bathed and saw the sun dip out of the ocean. To access beaches in Oaxaca, you have to travel hours outside the capital through windy mountains, so yes dramamine was necessary. However, the beaches are godly. It’s like there’s no such thing as pollution; people are conscious of their waste and actively reuse and recycle. After eating a pineapple tamale on the beach, the seller asked me to return the corn husk.

And of course, the more institutional art world was not forgotten. We visited the contemporary art museum, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca, and Museo de Ferrocarril, an abandoned train yard beautified with murals, but Museo de Textil de Oaxaca really took the cake. Museo de Textil is a textile museum with tapestries, traditional dresses and other clothing made from organic fibers and dyes of the region showcasing the weaving techniques artists have passed down for generations. In addition to their permanent collection, they had an exhibit ‘The Decent Women of 58th Street’ by Elena Martinez, a show centering on the status of female prostitutes in Yucatán. Paintings of nude women like paleolithic venus figurines were depicted in soft blues and pinks lounging or flaunting themselves for the painter. Photographs, bare ink illustrations and stitchings of an array of women were displayed on the walls leading up to more sculptural installations. Then, a bed stitched with an image of a woman covering her face, a stream of red yarn bursting from her vulva. In spanish, the words stitched on the bed read, “I am the prostitute and the saint. Always respect me.”

There’s something sacred about the ground in Mexico, and it’s not just some romanticization or exoticization of the foreign. That earth teems with a buried history. One of the last places we visited was the Museo de Arte Prehispánico Rufino Tamayo, which held Pre-Columbian artifacts from all over Mexico. Clay men and anthropomorphic animals from Aztec and Mayan civilizations stared out from behind glass. “They’re angry,” my friend Maribel said. “Their anger is palpable.” The true history of Mexico is what seemed most relevant to me after my trip. In the U.S., Mexico is degraded by sensationalistic media outlets with an agenda. It is also economically pimped out by the U.S. for it’s land and it’s people. There’s a tree I visited called “Arból de Tule” that was planted for the Aztec wind god Ehecatl. It’s magnificent and now thousands of years old, slowly dying a human-induced death. The ancient ruins of Mesoamerica speak for themselves.

View a slideshow of Oaxaca here. 

PINTA NYC 2013

originally published on Remezcla.

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The PINTA Latin American art festival came to a close yesterday and whisked away an assemblage of polished art professionals along with their cosmopolitan art pieces that included (among many others) a gold painting of Fidel Castro, a world map realized in colored-pencil shavings and a life-size dollar bill, slashed and coiled in a corner.

 

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The scene at PINTA included a gathering of modish gallerists, curators, and artists smattered among two floors of exquisite installations. Art admirers floated among the gallery walls nipping at champagne and brie along the way. For fancy treat and drink offerings, the Latin-inspired restaurants Novecento and Comodo provided bars and seating areas for the diverse and stylish crowd. And the center of attention, the art, came in all forms: velvet knots, tropical bird chandeliers, and Yves Saint Laurent lipstick scrawlings were a few. And in addition to the visuals, lectures boasting keen analysis and contextualization accompanied the festival, even though most of the art spoke for itself.

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This is the seventh installation of PINTA in NYC, and it’s sure to return next year. But in case you missed the art fair and would like to keep an eye on the Latin American art market, several art galleries in NYC host work from Latin American artists including: Cecilia de TorresHenrique FariaJosée BienvenuSalon 94Cristina GrajalesY Gallery andJulian Navarro Projects.

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