New Book: Latinx Literature Now Between Evanescence and Event

Latinx Literature Now engages with a diverse collection of works in Latinx literary studies, critical theory, and the philosophy of history, as well as a wide range of Latinx literary texts, in order to offer readers an alternative model of how Latinx literary scholarship and Latinx literary criticism might go about doing their work. It encourages practitioners in the field to reflect on literature and latinidad together as both parallel and intersecting historical-cultural formations, and to assess from that reflection how literary works might uniquely condition and depict latinidad as something other than a fixed, stable category of identity, as instead an ongoing process of becoming, one always capable of promise, but also always vulnerable to risk, threat, precarity and even disappearance: that is, as always more prone to the performative flash of an evanescence than to the ontological solidity of an event.

 

About the author: Ricardo L. Ortiz is Associate Professor of Latinx Literature and Culture at Georgetown University, USA.

Advertisements

Arte Público Press Receives Prestigious National Literary Award

Written by Toni Mooney Smith for U. of Houston: http://www.uh.edu/class/news/archive/2019/january/literary-award/?fbclid=IwAR3ODLXDPbWWl-zcXY6IzseYxkxIEhQDObJ_U6pQvJjkt7AxcyJIDhGOvwU#.XFHWj6oSAO8.twitter

 

The National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) has announced that Arte Público Press, the nation’s largest publisher of U.S.-based Hispanic authors, has received the prestigious Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. Named after the first president of the NBCC, the award is given annually to a person or institution with an extensive history of significant contributions to book culture.

“The award comes as a total surprise because it typically goes to authors,” said Dr. Nicolás Kanellos, founder and director of Arte Público Press. “This recognition will help us amplify voices in Latino literature throughout the United States.”

The National Book Critics Circle Awards, considered among the most respected literary awards in America. Past recipients include Margaret Atwood and Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison.

“The University of Houston has given Arte Público Press an intellectual space in which to create and thrive, and has provided Latinos the opportunity to make a nationwide cultural imprint through literature,” said Dr. Kanellos. “I am proud that the Arte Público Press staff continues to strive for literary excellence. We labor not for our own recognition, but for the benefit of the authors we publish. Our mission to create a space for Latinos in the national culture guides us forward.”

Dr. Kanellos founded Arte Público Press in 1979, and the press has published over 600 books in English and Spanish in its 40-year history.

“This is a well-deserved honor for Dr. Kanellos,” said Paula Myrick Short, UH provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. “This initiative is one of many that demonstrates how the University of Houston relates to its community. We are proud to be recognized as a designated Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education.”

Arte Público Press’ Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project, now in its 27th year, is the first nationally coordinated attempt to recover literature by U.S. Hispanic authors. Arte Público also indexes and publishes lost Latino writings from the American colonial period through 1960.

“I am especially excited about this national literary award presented to Arte Público Press,” said Dr. Antonio D. Tillis, dean of the UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. “As the M.D. Anderson Professor of Hispanic Studies, I not only feel the award is well deserved, but I am also proud that it sheds light on Dr. Kanellos’ innovation. Dr. Kanellos is a true leader in bringing much-needed attention and conversation to Hispanic and Latino literature.”

The NBCC Awards will be presented on March 14 in New York City.

With A New Book, Louie Pérez Of Los Lobos Is Master Storyteller

Check out this NPR article by Felix Contreras and Marisa Arbona-Ruiz. If you go to the site, you can even here an interview: https://www.npr.org/sections/altlatino/2019/01/18/686408433/with-a-new-book-louie-perez-of-los-lobos-is-master-storyteller

 

“There is no such thing as Chicano hippies! And playing Mexican music??”

That was my father’s reaction when I described seeing five honest-to-goodness Chicano hippies with beards and ponytails playing mariachi music at a Chicano student leadership retreat at UC Davis in 1975. Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles, the group called themselves.

Three years later, there was a bright yellow album cover with a drawing of a nopal plant and an inlay photo of those very same Chicano hippies that proclaimed themselves as ‘Just Another Band from East LA.’ They were still playing Mexican folk music and that record was a staple of Chicano activist parties during my college years in Fresno, Calif.

Then, nothing. For five years. Until they came roaring out of the LA punk scene with electric instruments turned up to 11 rocking corridos, a Ritchie Valens song and the first three originals by David Hidalgo and Louie Perez, a song writing team that would redefine Chicano musical expression and win legions of fans around the world.

Good Morning, Aztlán : The Words, Pictures and Songs of Louie Pérez (published by Tia Chucha Press) has just been published and it is a breathtaking examination of Pérez ‘s masterful storytelling in the name of sharing the lesson that we have more in common than we are different.

This week, Pérez sits down for a wide-ranging interview about the book, his own story, his creative bond with David Hidalgo that stretches back to the 11th grade and his commitment to telling the stories of the world as he has seen it from countless tour buses.

Good Morning, Aztlán has songs as well as short stories, poetry and philosophical riffs all written by Pérez and we selected a few to include in the show. Big thanks to Alt.Latino contributor Marisa Arbona-Ruiz‘s multi-talented acting skills for the dramatic readings on the show this week. Get your tissues out for her reading of “Little John Of God” one of Pérez ‘s most powerfully emotional songs.

With David Hidalgo as his writing partner and the rest of Los Lobos as the vehicle that brings those stories to life, Louie Pérez has created an imaginary world full of real life joys and pains and wonder that seems worlds away from the hippie mariachi I saw. But the through line going back to 8-year-old Louie Pérez of East LA has been his fascination with the written word. And we all have benefited from that.

Tia Chucha’s online bookstore

SOLAR & SUPER ASTRO, THE LATEST LUCHAVERSE COMIC FROM CHIDO COMICS

https://graphicpolicy.com/2019/01/22/exclusive-preview-solar-super-astro-the-latest-luchaverse-comic-from-chido-comics/?fbclid=IwAR2nOZCF-VUatJHM7wh-9mfyzktQzQWHY4Jg51Sf_7jl7aahEImWYqytdqo

 

(W) Marco Lopez, Ivan Plaza
(A) Alessandro Micelli, Bryan Magnaye
(CA) Alessandro Micelli, Leo Colapietro
Price: $3.99

At the triumph of a centuries old galactic war, all that was left of the warriors were Solar and Super Astro. They headed off into space to never to be heard from again…or so they thought. After a millennia of intergalactic travels, their ship crashed on Earth. Their powers had vanished and they settled into their new mortal lives. Now, years later, a message from the deepest corner of the universe has interrupted their ordinary lives. A recent accident has released an immense destructive power back into the world, a power that they thought was lost forever. What epic adventure awaits them? Who’s attempting to contact them and how can they save not just our planet, but the universe itself?

CfP: Immersive Pedagogy

CALL FOR PROPOSALS

Immersive Pedagogy: A Symposium on Humanities Teaching and Learning with 3D, Augmented and Virtual Reality Carnegie Mellon University, June 27-28, 2019

Call For Proposals

3D, augmented, and virtual reality technologies are becoming increasingly useful for advancing humanistic inquiry and pedagogy through immersive visualizations of spaces, artifacts, and data. Although some academic institutions offer technical support for specific tools, a range of obstacles still deter researchers and students from experimenting with these emerging technologies as teaching and learning tools. As a result, critical engagement with 3D and XR technology remains embryonic.

Immersive Pedagogy: A Symposium on Humanities Teaching and Learning with 3D, Augmented and Virtual Reality, hosted at Carnegie Mellon University on June 27-28, 2019, seeks to bring together librarians, educational technologists, students, scholars, and artists to generate accessible, scaffolded pedagogical materials that integrate scholarly inquiry with technical training. Alongside multiple keynote speakers, during the day-and-a-half symposium participants will collaborate through creative exercises and peer workshops to develop and revise pedagogical material for immersive technology, including lesson plans, learning exercises, course syllabi, and disciplinary curricula.

We invite proposals from scholars across the humanities focused on pedagogically oriented projects, particularly in the fields of Latinx, Latin American, and Caribbean Studies. Proposals should showcase how 3D/XR technologies and related digital humanities and data curation practices intersect with methodologies derived from the following studies:

● Community archives
● Critical digital studies
● Cultural heritage
● Disability studies
● Intersectional feminist theory
● Immigration and migration
● LGBTQ studies
● Minority/underrepresented archives
● Postcolonial/decolonial theory
● Public humanities
● Race and ethnicity

To apply, please submit a 500-word proposal along with a cover sheet with your full name and contact information to ImmersivePedagogy@gmail.com. Applications are due by February 1, 2019. Questions can be sent to the same email address.

Submissions should engage with the pedagogy of 3D/XR technology. They may describe 3D/XR projects for scholarly or public engagement, lesson plans, course syllabi that use existing 3D/XR projects or resources, or theoretical and scholarship on pedagogical practices with 3D/XR technology, among other relevant topics. No previous experience with immersive technology is required to apply, but applicants should specify their level of experience and their reasons for working with the technology from a pedagogical, humanistic, and decolonial perspective. Participants acknowledge and accept that pedagogical materials produced for the conference will be made available to the public under Creative Commons (cc) license.

Participants will be credited by name unless otherwise requested. This symposium is supported by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Council on Library and Information Resources.

For more info: https://immersivepedagogy.wordpress.com/?fbclid=IwAR3Q-zP5gLF7NWAP-MV4bw0X7B2FR4iOSlyGqAk2wbJFRWd4RTJluENiJq0

CRUCIAL STORYTELLING: ‘TALES FROM LA VIDA: A LATINX COMICS ANTHOLOGY’

By Christopher C. Hernandez, Comicosity

“THE INTERPRETATION OF OUR REALITY THROUGH PATTERNS NOT OUR OWN, SERVES ONLY TO MAKE US EVER MORE UNKNOWN, EVER LESS FREE, EVER MORE SOLITARY.”

— Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1982 Nobel Lecture

Gabriel Garcia Marquez recognized the importance of Latin America’s self-representation in storytelling. Marquez points out that Latinx peoples have a history of our stories being told for us and about us, but rarely by us. It’s an important realization that is still trying to be impressed upon both Latinx and non-Latinx peoples alike.

Only in the past few years are we starting to see some headway made in the U.S. as to how our cultures…our lifestyles…our stories are portrayed in entertainment media. This fundamental blasé attitude towards representation of Latinx stories is what makes works like Tales from La Vida: A Latinx Comics Anthology monumentally important.

The importance of Tales from La Vida lies, in part, with the nakedness of which each creator’s confession is presented to the reader. Anthology editor Frederick Aldama’s charge to the authors gave life to the spirit of the book: share a hinge moment in their life as a Latinx. There are many important events in our lives that, if allowed, can take part in determining how we react in any given situation. Some events in our lives have the power to completely reshape the way we think about our world. The stories shared in Tales do exactly that for the authors. These stories are those in which the protagonist is set apart from the rest of the world and yet brought home to where they belong. They are moments of plurality. We are set apart from others and at the same time made part of a larger whole. Aldama’s simple thesis enables the participants to beautifully capture and release these truths to the readers.

Whether or not it was easy for the authors to share these intimate “ah-ha” crossroads, they are indeed laid bare and done so passionately in word and illustration. In some stories the reader can even tangibly discern the struggle of the creator’s story unfold. The storytelling is that good. Some authors use simple methods and others use more nuanced and symbolistic devices but all of them hit home runs. No one entry, though, “beats” another for best story of the anthology. They are all equally weighted. Whether it is about paths not taken, gender issues, sexuality issues, family issues, discrimination issues, or culture issues, each carries the impact of being life changing for the creator.

“THE STORIES GROUP US TOGETHER WITH THE COLLECTIVE FEELINGS OF OUR ELDERS AND PEERS. THEY IMPRESS UPON US THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT OTHERS HAVE FACED BECAUSE THEY ARE JUST LIKE US.”

The anthology is also a form of self-therapy for both creator and reader alike. As each creator works through, or shares what they have already solved, it does the same for readers. They may identify with some or all the issues presented. For some readers it may be the answer they have been looking for, or it may unlock a path towards finding that answer. For others it may reveal a hidden issue that has yet to be stumbled upon. This works on both an individual and on a group level. The stories group us together with the collective feelings of our elders and peers. They impress upon us the emotional impact others have faced because they are just like us. We may never face those same moments, but we do become affected by them by proxy.

Again, the frankness of the stories aides in this but also the variety of the way the stories are presented. For just as many different issues are dealt with there are an equal amount of art styles rendered. The styles are realistic, photo-realistic, sketches, paintings, cartoon-y, and abstract. There is artwork from seasoned creators and new comers, but all are people baring their souls, as every artist does, for other people and other times to see. Art has a way of reaching people that cannot, do not, or will not be reached. It involuntarily stirs the mind like a masterfully composed violin piece. It forces people to react. While words can be glazed over, the language of art only takes a fleeting glance and it’s there in the brain. The subconscious takes that input and puts it to work. Complex messages and emotions can instantly be imparted to the observer with thin or thick strokes, color, black and white, or blank page with just a few words. Whether or not the creators consciously endeavor to attach this meaning to the art it still can’t help but be there. The art of Tales is so varied and impactful that just a glance at its pages captures the reader’s attention, pulling them in for more.

Reading these stories feels very personal and nostalgic even, like flipping through the pages of a family photo album. Readers may feel both the urge to hide it away—protecting it from the prying eyes of strangers—and the prideful urge to show it to everyone. Like the chismosa Tia that wants to tell all the stories of her family to a newly married-in addition. It is, however, extremely important that Tales from La Vida be shared with everyone. It is up to each reader, of course, to do what they will with Tales but it can be used as a guidebook for a better understanding of Latinx peoples.

“READING THESE STORIES FEELS VERY PERSONAL AND NOSTALGIC EVEN, LIKE FLIPPING THROUGH THE PAGES OF A FAMILY PHOTO ALBUM. READERS MAY FEEL BOTH THE URGE TO HIDE IT AWAY—PROTECTING IT FROM THE PRYING EYES OF STRANGERS—AND THE PRIDEFUL URGE TO SHOW IT TO EVERYONE.”

Of all the stories and creators, Jules Rivera’s piece, “The Continuum”, stands out amidst the others as possibly representing the overall message. Her own experience is unique and yet communal at the same time, but it is her conclusion that helps bring the rest of the voices of the anthology into focus. “The Latina experience is not one moment. It’s all the moments.” While Aldama’s original guidelines require the storyteller to pick one moment, it is the sum of all the moments within the pages of Tales that makes us who we are. Just as the human body is made up of different systems, organs, and cells: collectively they make one person. Rivera continues: “I am Jules Rivera and that’s what it means to be a Latina.” The experiences have and will continue to shape us as we move through this world just as Rivera’s art shows her travel down the path of life. Do we let those experience control us, or do we control them as she now does?

In 1562 a Franciscan monk burned 27 illustrated Mayan books that contained our ancestor’s way of life and later set about interpreting our reality through his own patterns. Centuries later we are still trying to relearn what was lost by this act. Collecting our own stories in anthologies like Tales reincarnates the traditions of our forebearers.

These are all our stories. Every single one. We have dealt with all these issues at some point or another because we are Latinx. We are descendants of the indigenous peoples of the Americas—mixed, colonized, and gentrified with foreign blood and ideas. We are who we are now because of the past 500 years of key moments. Because of this we need to hold on to and uplift collections like Tales. They are crucial to propagating our stories and our lives.

Breaking Barriers Latinx Youth Conference

In the event there are any youth out there…

 

Breaking Barriers/ Rompiendo Barreras

Saturday, February 9, 2019 at 10 AM – 6 PM

Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center

600 River St, Austin, Texas 78701
Breaking Barriers Latinx Youth Conference is a day of art, music, and community dedicated to Latinx youth, presented by the teens of the ESB-MACC Caminos Teen Leadership program. On February 9th, teens will collaborate with emerging artists and cultural activists to facilitate exploration and self-expression around the theme of “breaking barriers”.

Latinx teens may face barriers including cultural sterotypes, negative self-image, gender discrimination, family structure hierarchy, as well as wider issues such as gentrification, language barriers, education roadblocks, immigration status challenges, and even the physical barrier between México and the U.S. How do we break these barriers? How can we build resilience and empower our youth to share their voices? What can we offer to our fellow teens to help us suceed at our personal, professional, and artistic goals?
Conference activities will include screen printing, an open mic stage, self-published zines, live mural painting, a mosaic art project, and teen-facilitated discussions. This event is uniquely created BY teens, FOR teens.

Schedule: 10am – 6pm, with a live music performance by the Tiarra Girls at 5pm.

This event is free for any teen age 13-19 who wants to connect with others through art and culture. Please RSVP on Eventbrite or Facebook. RSVP not required to attend, but those who RSVP will be guaranteed a spot.

What to bring: A blank t-shirt for screenprinting. Snacks are provided and it is recommended to bring $10 for lunch at on-site food trucks. Please come willing to share your voice. To participate in the open-mic, bring any needed instruments. Free parking is available on-site. Students may earn volunteer credit at their school for attending if they get pre-authorization from their school and bring any necessary documentation for a staff signature. Adults may contact the organizers to volunteer at the event.

More about Caminos: CAMINOS is an immersive paid internship empowering Austin-area Teens to carve their own path in the creative arts. Students apply and are accepted into the program for one year, during which they are actively engaged in the various elements of the program which include working with ESB-MACC professional staff; artist mentorships, community engagement, special workshops and cultural events.

Contact: Frederico.Geib@austintexas.gov

More About Tiarra Girls: Multi-Award Winning Best Performing Band. With many musical influences both in English and Spanish which has allowed them to make up their very own unique brand of Alt/Indie/Pop/Rock that is undeniably influenced by their strong family.

BORDER STORIES TOLD THROUGH COMIC ART

Jasmin Medrano gives a dynamite write up of the comic El Peso Hero to promote its exhibit at Texas A&M University: http://maroonweekly.com/border-stories-told-through-comic-art/?fbclid=IwAR1NBjBZNGnevMC3f7OzsENR8SydtCKf8_3cr6v-ELdR3Hd6BoFAYx7E4uc

With all of the negative drama at the border spiraling, one artist turns the tables, making it a positive platform for a public servant vigilante. The MSC Visual Arts Committee is proud to present artwork by comic artist Hector Rodriguez that will feature a Latino comic book superhero series known as “El Peso Hero” who shows the struggles of both sides.

Based on a rogue hero battling border issues such as Mexican cartels, human trafficking, and border corruption, the popular series has gained wide international media attention, including coverage by CNN, UNIVISION, and TELEMUNDO. And even though his comics are captioned in Spanish, his audience remains large and open to all.

Rodriguez himself is not superhuman but a bilingual educator who works with low-income students who come from the same unfortunate background as the refugees in his comics. The hero is said to defend Mexican refugees that cross the border to evade violence and government corruption, and is highly skilled in hand-to-hand combat with strength and immunity just like Superman. The cartoon style makes it more accessible to kids. Not only is the hero relatable, but the series also shares the border struggles in a different light. Latinos are not typically featured in comic books, much less featured on the covers, and it became a goal of Rodriguez’s to give his students a role model.

While the comics do not take a political stance, Rodriguez does try to counter the negative rhetoric he feels is incited by 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump. Rodriguez even created a special Donald Trump cover that shows the main protagonist, “El Peso Hero” knocking his fist into President Trump’s face.

With the comic series being a unique and tasteful blend of history, art, and current events, it is a powerful demonstration of art with a message. The showcasing will take place Wednesday, January 16, 2019, at 9:00 a.m. through Sunday, March 3, 2019, at 8:00 p.m. in the MSC Reynolds Gallery.

Rev. of Halsey Street

Elliot Turner gives a stellar review of Naima Coster’s Halsey Street for Latino Book Review: https://www.latinobookreview.com/halsey-street—naima-coster–latino-book-review.html

A rapidly changing Brooklyn serves as the backdrop for this complex novel about family and acceptance.

Penelope moves back to New York to be close to her elderly father Ralph, and is shocked at how gentrification has displaced her old neighbors with rich, corporate, mostly white yuppies. She teaches art at a local public school, but has an unfortunate tryst with her landlord’s husband. After moving in with her dad, she sees his physical and mental ailments up close, and must decide if a care home may be necessary.

Around the same time, Penelope’s estranged mother, Mirella, contacts her from the Dominican Republic. The prospect of a reconciliation is mixed with her mom’s own point of view as an immigrant to the US and her life beforehand on the Island. Penelope agrees to visit her, but has a big favor of her own to ask. 

Coster does an excellent job of crafting characters with flaws that you still feel attached to: Ralph is affable, but a workaholic who put family and marital duties on the backburner for too long. Penelope herself has not yet reached that stage of young adulthood where you see your parents as they are – flaws and all – not as you want them to be. Mirella’s views on parenthood, and notions of authority, prevented her in part from bonding with her daughter.

An engrossing tale of a black Dominican-American family in New York that feels ripped apart at the seams both from within and outside. 

Naima Coster’s novel, Halsey Streethas been named a Best Book of 2018 by Library Journal (for pop fiction) and Kirkus Reviews (for best literary fiction and best debut). New York TimesCatapultArts & LettersThe RumpusKweliGuernica, The Paris Review Daily, and elsewhere. She has taught writing to students in jail, youth programs, and universities.

Halsey Street is publication by Little A. Click here to purchase.

Gay San Antonio Artist Jose Villalobos Earns Grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation

Original post by Marco Aquino found here: https://outinsa.com/gay-san-antonio-artist-jose-villalobos-earns-grant-from-the-joan-mitchell-foundation/?fbclid=IwAR0L-_uUWBSrlBGOhTMlTFAXmxvaiMUcbVoe0fR-Z62h1_Wjfiwh1lrtP3Y
The Joan Mitchell Foundation recently announced the 2018 recipients of its Painters and Sculptors grants, and this year’s list includes none other than Jose Villalobos of San Antonio, the lone Texas artist to receive $25,000 in unrestricted funds.

San Antonio artists who’ve previously received the grant include Ruth Buentello and Ana Fernandez, who both won the award in 2017, and Vincent Valdez in 2015. As reported by ARTnews, this year’s list of winners (25 total from across the country) is among the most diverse with 70 percent of the recipients identifying as female and approximately 80 percent as non-white.

Speaking to ARTnews, Joan Mitchell Foundation CEO Christa Blatchford said, “As demonstrated by the diversity of this group of grant recipients, we work with a spectrum of artists, whose practices, backgrounds, and careers vary widely, but we hear consistently that day-to-day financial support — the kind that rarely makes headlines — remains critical.”

“It was surreal that I was selected,” Villalobos told the San Antonio Current. “When I got nominated to apply, for some reason I had this self-doubt. But that goes to show that the work speaks for itself. I feel very honored to be among the recipients for this award … Amy Sherald has been a past recipient … Peter Saul … you have Ana Fernandez. This reassures what I’m doing and I feel like someone is looking at my work.”

Currently, the artist is working on several pieces that will make their debut over the coming months in various exhibitions across the country including “Queer Craft” at the University of Minnesota and an upcoming performance at the McNay.

Born along the U.S.-Mexico border in the city of El Paso, Villalobos is largely influenced by the merging of cultures and takes a particular interest in the use of language and its ever-evolving nature. His work explores gender norms, gay identity and the effects of an overbearing patriarchal society. He is a 2016 graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio and currently a resident artist and co-director at Clamp Light Artist Studios and Gallery.

Here’s a look back at some of Villalobos’ most memorable work of the last two years.

De la Misma Piel

In 2016, Villalobos was among five artists selected to receive the Artist Lab fellowship grant and participated in the Artist Lab exhibition at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. For this show, Villalobos created a series of leather belts, each inscribed with a Spanish-language derogatory term meaning “gay,” on the area of the belt typically reserved for a family name. Among the belts was one that read Maricón. Another one read Jotito. Villalobos, who came out as gay in his early 20s, grew up hearing these slurs from both friends and family members.

Hanging on the Guadalupe’s gallery wall, the series of belts appeared nondescript until closer inspection. Hiding from view, the underside of each belt was painted in pink. Titled De la Misma Piel (Of the Same Skin), the series references the artist’s sexuality while deconstructing a symbol of masculinity often found along the U.S.-Mexico border. The series draws attention to the pain one might feel when on the receiving end of these derogatory terms.

On the popular website artofmanliness.com, a guide for choosing the perfect belt states, “Belts are worn for both function and style. A seemingly small accessory, they can have a surprisingly large impact on the impression you make.” For Mexican-American men who have adopted a Western aesthetic or Norteño style, the leather belt is often a symbol of pride, and its use is one way to assert masculinity.

A key component of the Western-style belt is an oversized buckle. Along with this series, Villalobos presented a series of belt buckles, each consisting of a capital letter that makes up the word JOTO (meaning fag). De la Misma Piel marks the beginning of Villalobos’ explorations into men’s fashions and deconstructing of masculine symbols by repurposing Western attire.

Speaking to the Current’s sister publication Out In SA in 2017, Villalobos reminisced on his early beginnings in fashion. “When I was a lot younger my mother used to always say that I was going to be a fashion designer and I would always deny it,” he said. “I would always say ‘No, that’s gay!’ because I was hiding myself. … I’ve always loved creating something that goes over a person, clothing and accessories and things like that. … I think my goal is altering certain things … to change the perspective people have of certain clothing. It’s like bending reality.”

Sin la S

In 2017, the Austin-based Mexic-Arte Museum brought together eight emerging artists from around the state for the 22nd installment of its Young Latino Artists exhibition. Guest curated by Alana Coates, the exhibition’s themes centered on some of today’s prominent issues — from widespread economic inequality to increased racial tensions along the U.S.-Mexico border — while also exploring the ever-broadening topic of gender. Most striking was Villalobos’ installation, Sin la S, which featured a series of suspended cowboy hats “meant to explore the dichotomy of feminine and masculine materials within cultural symbols.”

In the installation, 10 cowboy hats hung from the gallery ceiling in a flamboyant yet elegant display that seemed to allude to the fragility of the Mexican-American male ego. “It’s almost like poking fun at it, but it’s also this way of breaking down and deconstructing these symbols of masculinity,” Villalobos told Out In SA. “Especially something that has power. … I always see this in my family … the men wear these hats or sombreros as a symbol of power.”

Here, the layers of fringe draped around the edges of the cowboy hats transformed these otherwise ordinary objects into an outrageous spectacle blurring the lines between what is considered feminine and what is considered masculine.

For many men on both sides of the border, the sombrero has become tied to the idea of manhood. A tradition that spans cultures and stems hundreds of years back, it has been adapted by American men as part of a contemporary cowboy uniform and continues to be popularized by musicians and entertainers. After the Spanish arrived in Mexico in 1519, ranches were established and horses were imported from Spain. The native vaqueros were born (what we now call cowboys) and their traditions spread throughout Mexico and as far south as Argentina.

In Sin la S, each hat is assigned a jewel in the shape of a letter from the Villalobos name, save for the letter “S” which was markedly missing. Beneath each hat was a small pile of soil where, symbolically, the hat could plant its seed — except for a pink hat devoid of its letter, preventing the Villalobos name from being spelled in full. Translated from Spanish, the title of the work literally means “without the S.”

“The work is about my inability to pass on my last name in the tradition my family wants, which would be by giving a child to a woman,” Villalobos said. “It becomes kind of like a broken chain.”

At the exhibition’s opening, which set an attendance record for the museum, Villalobos arrived dressed to the nines in a white cowboy outfit with the word “Macho” inscribed on the back. Just underneath that term was the word “Maricón” obscured by fringe. A Spanish term that also translates as “fag,” maricón might seem an odd choice to juxtapose against the term macho. But it was a bold statement and Villalobos’ decision to arrive in costume gave the installation a performance aspect as well.

“I think it just shows how versatile he is,” Coates explained. “Jose was trained in ceramics and his powerful installation work in YLA really demonstrated his ability to take his conceptual practice to new heights … His outfit was just as carefully and ingeniously designed … from the hidden text under the fringe and the glitter on the boot heels.”

We Have Always Been

In the summer of 2018, Villalobos participated in “We Are,” the first exhibition of LGBT artists to be presented by the City of San Antonio. Bringing together both established and emerging artists, the exhibition marked a historic moment for the community at large.

In his installation We Have Always Been, Villalobos presented an intricately bedazzled horse saddle alongside a pair of cowboy boots. Hanging in layers underneath the boots (which were also strung from the ceiling), were the boots’ detached soles with colorful pink and yellow flowers and a green mockingbird hiding in between.

A label for the work read, “In We Have Always Been, Villalobos uses traditional masculine objects typically glorified by Latino men to challenge paternal-centered narratives by incorporating a materiality that softens the virility; an interstitial space where [machismo] is the delicate signifier.” The work’s title suggests gay men have existed since the beginning of time, despite being considered “in fashion” during the modern era.

The title of the work also alludes to the fact that the Southwest, where cowboys roam free, had been occupied by Mexicans long before the U.S. annexed the area from Texas to California after the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), America’s first imperial war.

In an era when Mexicans and Mexican Americans are often vilified and made to feel like foreigners in their own land, We Have Always Been is a gentle reminder of Mexican-American history. For all his efforts challenging power structures and patriarchal systems, Villalobos’ work remains unapologetically Mexican.