Latinx artists forging their future in the artworld

Please take a look at this wonderful article by Maria Trujillo for Art Critique


Latinx artists and advocates are pushing the boundaries of language and gender in the art world. By relinquishing the gendered terms of latina or latino, creatives are exploring their art practice with renewed freedom. Adding Latinx to their lexicon of identifiers, more and more museums and galleries are applying the term to artists of Latin American descent. Latinx artists are gaining traction likely because of the wave of social justice activism around the globe and the poignant themes tackled in their work: immigration, debt, and sexual identity.

The term of Latinx formed roots in 2004 through the LGBTQ community but gained popularity across social media in 2016. Although many cultural institutions are including the word as part of their best practices, who the term actually includes remains ambiguous. Dictionaries define the word as: “relating to people of Latin American origin or descent (used as a gender-neutral or non-binary alternative to Latino or Latina).” This identifier thus departs from the patriarchy inherent to the Spanish language, where a mixed group of gendered people takes on the masculine identifier – in this case, Latinos.

The definition of Latinx is inclusive, but because the term has strong sociocultural connotations and is politicized in the art world, some artists and curators to whom Latinx applies are hesitant to use it. Some people question whether they are enough of an activist or sufficiently Latino or Latina – either because only one of their parents emigrated from Latin America or because they are part of the second or third generation to be born in the United States. An associate curator with whom I spoke last year felt hesitant to use the term to describe herself despite her willingness to adopt it. She needed to identify herself for an upcoming symposium on Latinx artist but was concerned that, because her parents came from Brazil, she may not be able to use Latinx.

Latin American artists living in the United States and those who choose to identify as Latinx already face significant barriers from art museums. Analyzing over 40,000 artworks in the collections of 18 museums across the US, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Detroit Institute of Arts, to determine the gender and ethnic diversity of their collections, a recent survey by the Public Library of Sciences (PLOS)found that 85% of artists represented in these collections are white and 87% are men. This data does not represent the makeup of the United States; the last census concluded 18% of the US population to be of Latin American origin and 50.8% of the total population to be female.

Several Latinx artists use the artworld’s gender and ethnic inequity in their work. Barbara Calderón is an artist, writer, activist, and founding member of the art collective Colectiva Cósmica. With a dynamic background in journalism, art history, and Xicana studies, she aims to increase awareness of Latinx’s importance while also exploring the complexity of gender in her practice. In an interview with the New York Times, she elaborated on the driving force behind her work: “History is always kept from us,” Barbara Calderón said. “When we start learning about our histories, and we start gaining pride in our personal history, we want to incorporate that.”

While the landscape of cultural institutions continues to evolve, an awareness of the lack of diversity and efforts to overcome shortcomings is a leap in the right direction. The Latinx, Chicanx, and other such movements challenge us to question the inflexibility of language and molds. To learn more about the Latinx art community or find different ways to get involved, you can visit the US Latinx Art Forum.


The CXC-Sol-Con Interviews – Breena Nuñez on Identity, Autobiography & Crocodile Girl

This interview from Philippe LeBlanc is a little old (2017), but it’s a worthwhile read on a super talented writer/artist.


Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (or CXC) is a four day festival in Columbus, Ohio celebrating the work of cartoonists and providing chances to learn more about the medium. It’s mission is “to provide an international showcase for the best of cartoon art in all its forms, including comics, animation, editorial cartoons, newspaper strips, and beyond, in a city that is a growing center of importance to comics and cartooning. We also focus on helping the next generation of young cartooning talent develop thriving careers that invigorate the industry for years to come.” In the spirit of this mission, the Comics Beat has conducted a series of interviews with some of the phenomenal cartoonists in attendance at this year’s Cartoon Crossroads Columbus. We hope that these interviews will improve our understanding of these creators voices, techniques, interests and influences as well as provide a platform for comics enthusiasts to discover new artists and challenge their conceptions of comics.

This year, Cartoon Crossroads Columbus is collaborating with SÕL-CON, The Brown and Black Comics Expo. SÕL-CON focuses on creators with a Latino or African-American background. It’s a different entity and convention than CXC, but they are collaborating this year to make a more wholesome experience for attendees. Some creators are attending this joint collaborative event and this includes Breena Nuñez. Breena is a cartoonist and musician based in the Bay area. She’s currently working on a crowdfunded project called They call me Mix, an autobiographical comic about how the author (Lourdes) came to identify as non-binary. We’ve talked about autobiography and the recurring themes of identity in her work.

Philippe Leblanc: For those readers who may not be familiar with you and your work, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Breena Nuñez: Sure thing! I’m a cartoonist and musician from the Bay Area of California who was mostly raised in San Bruno by my migrant family from Central America. After high school I attended San Francisco State and studied graphic design while also participating in a few student organizations such as USEU, MEChA, and Clinica Martin-Baro (a student run clinic based in San Francisco). But I feel like I’m not so much of a traditional designer since I use most of my time to create zines, mini-comics while also being an after school art teacher within the San Francisco School District.

PL: You will be illustrating a comic book called They Call me Mix, an autobiographical comic about how came to identify as non-binary that was successfully crowdfunded last month. The creator of the project, Lourdes mentions on the crowdfunding page that the project came about after talking with kindergarten classes about their experience over the past few years. This comic is an attempt to widen the audience for this discussion beyond those that can be physically reached. I’m curious to know how you got involved in this project and how this project interested you?

BN: They Call Me Mix is going to be published moreso as a bilingual children’s book and I’m very honored to have been asked by Lourdes to essentially illustrate some very intimate life moments. Lourdes knew of my illustration work through my Instagram profile and we coincidentally shared the same dance floor at an Oakland dance party/fundraiser hosted by Queer Qumbia. I was approached by Lourdes to see if I was interested in collaborating with them and I immediately said yes! I think the universe just kept guiding me to wonderful folks like Lourdes who are making a difference for children and young queer folks of color here in the Bay Area. I owe a lot to our community for embracing me, talking me through my own queerness, and for constantly sharing their love for my work.

PL: When you launch a crowdfunding campaign, you put yourself at the mercy of your audience, fans and the internet. They may not have been as responsive as you hoped, but the response was overwhelmingly positive. What do you think made this project so successful?

BN: Well, I believe it is the value that people see in Lourdes and in their story. It is a beautiful time to be a child because there are even more bilingual and multicultural books that are accessible to children. But I think Lourdes is beginning to make children’s books more queer for that little brown kid who is questioning their identity, and who’d like to see someone who went through the same experience they are going through.

PL: You’ve just released a new comic at the San Francisco Zine Fest called Dear Sentida. Could you tell us a little bit more about this comic?

BN: Hehehe, so this mini-comic was actually an assignment I completed for a studio class at California College of the Arts. It was more of a test for me to see how much fun I was having creating these characters that are based off of myself, my partner, and my overall awkward interactions I have on the daily. The little crocodile character is based off of my nahual (Mayan spirit) and will most likely reflect inner monologues that I have with myself when encountering socially awkward situations or moments of deep-deep thought when dealing with unraveling my ethnic identity. Dear Sentida will most likely be a small piece a part of a larger project which will be my masters thesis for the MFA in Comics program at CCA.

PL: You’ve been working on a strip called Sentimental Sequential, can you tell us a bit more about this?

BN: Doh!… this is pretty much is Dear Sentida. I apologize for the confusion but I changed the name of this smaller project from Sentimental Sequential to Dear Sentida because I always want to make sure that I’m also speaking to other awkward latinx folks who consider themselves to be emotional, shy, and self-conscious.

PL: You made a zine called Center of my Heart, which focuses on portraits of women that inspired you. How did you decided what and who to include in this zine?

BN: This zine is a love letter dedicated to the different Central American women who I feel empower me and the work I do. Many of the illustrations are inspired by other Central Americans who I have come across in my life within community organizing, zine fests, social media, and even when I traveled back to my mother’s home country of Guatemala.

PL: Do you have any new comics or material you’re bringing to CXC? If so, can you tell us a little bit more about them/it?

BN: I will be selling a mini-comic I released earlier this year called Crocodile Girl and it talks about the relationship I have with my nahual and how I use identity to real from acts of racism.

PL: Identity is a recurring theme in your work, whether it’s your involvement on They Call me Mix, or with your short comic Colocha-Head. Why is that?

BN: Well, I think as people of color in the United States we carry multiple identities. Sometimes we are asked to embrace them and other times we are discouraged to reveal certain parts of our identity. I sometimes ask myself if I’m Central American enough or if I’m even afrolatinx enough because our younger self were not always seeing black and brown characters celebrating their roots. Comics, children’s books, and zines are already building confidence in this new generation who get excited and prideful when they see characters that reflect their culture.

You can follow Breena Nuñez’s work on her website, or follow her onFacebook. You can also buy her work on her online store.

Mural raises awareness of missing and murdered indigenous women

Check out this great article by Bethany Freudenthal from Las-Cruces Sun News


LAS CRUCES – She stands proudly, wind blowing through her hair, dressed in indigenous regalia: a maroon top with orange, yellow and white stripes, a blue, beaded necklace and a feather in her hair.

Her fist raised, she’s screaming with every strength of her being: “NO MORE STOLEN SISTERS!”

You’ve seen her

You may not have known who she is, or why she’s there, but chances are if you’ve driven Lohman Avenue recently, you’ve seen her.

Painted by artist Sebastian VELA Velazquez, she is part of the mural being painted on the Cruces Creatives building, 205 E Lohman Ave.

The mural, created in conjunction with the eighth annual “Illegal” graffiti art show, hosted each year by Las Cruces artist Saba, sends a powerful message.

She stands front and center of the mural, a reminder that indigenous women are going missing and being murdered.

“The news gets turned off and Facebook gets put down and turned off, and those issues kind of disappear, and everything that comes with it. Having that piece up there, and why we sponsored it, is because you can’t really turn off a mural. It’s there every day and every night,” Saba said.

The issue and reason for awareness

The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center reports that Native women suffer from violence at a rate two and half times greater than that of any other population in the United States.

Earlier this year, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill to develop a task force to investigate the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women in New Mexico.

New Mexico has the highest number of cases involving missing and murdered indigenous women, Rep. Andrea Romero, the bill’s sponsor, told the Farmington Daily Times.

Saba said he wants the community to remain aware of this issue.

“It does happen everywhere, and I’m speaking for Mexican people and Mexican women as well, because they’re also indigenous,” he said.

A part of a larger mural

But she’s just part of a large-scale mural wrapping around the entirety of the building.

To her right is another woman, wearing a hoku lei and holding a dove; and to the left of the indigenous woman is a vein-like creature wearing a helmet and surrounded by flowers.

Also a part of the mural: The word “CREATIVE,” which will eventually be filled in with collages.

The enclosure for the business’s dumpster is being beautified, and around the back of the building, there’s a mural of a woman surrounded by butterflies and clouds.

Hub Bike Shop is in the Cruces Creatives building. Now, you can’t miss their shop entrance, which is now adorned by a mural of bicycles.

Also in the mural: A calavera portrait and hot air balloons.

The eighth annual “Illegal” graffiti art show

This is the eighth year Saba has hosted the “Illegal” graffiti art show. Annually, about 75 to 100 artists from across the country participate.

“Art is medicine to people of color. I think aerosol art is a healing method, rather than a criminalizing method,” he said.

Miracles on the Border: Retablos of Mexican Migrants to the United States

I’m catching this late, but there’s still time to see this awesome exhibit up in New Jersey!

Saturday, March 16, 2019 – Sunday, July 7, 2019 at the Princeton Art Museum:

Retablos are thank-you notes to the heavens dedicated to Christ, the Virgin, or saints to consecrate a miraculous event. The votives on view—spanning the entirety of the twentieth century—were offered by Mexican migrants and their families to commemorate the dangers of crossing the border and living in the United States. Filled with emotive detail, they eloquently express subjects of greatest concern to the migrants, such as the difficulty of finding work or falling sick in a foreign land and the relief of returning home.

The word “retablo,” from the Latin retro tabulum (behind the altar table), originally referred to devotional paintings hung in Catholic churches in Europe. In Mexico, reflecting traditions embedded in local cultures by Spanish conquest beginning in the sixteenth century, retablo (synonymous in this usage with ex-votolámina, and milagro) came to denote a small oil painting on metal placed on the wall of a shrine or church.

Usually commissioned from local artists working anonymously, retablos feature a narrative that is both written and pictorial. First-person vignettes, dated and inscribed with the supplicants’ names, draw on a traditional vocabulary such as “doy infinitas gracias” (I give infinite thanks). In the luminous illustrations above the inscriptions, earthly figures share space with holy images and a dreamlike representation of the miracle. As they accumulate on church walls, both in Mexico and the United States, these votives become public records of private faith, fears, and familial attachments.

Download the exhibition checklist

Retablos son notas de agradecimiento a los cielos dedicadas a Cristo, a la Virgen, o a los santos para consagrar un evento maravilloso. Los exvotos expuestos aquí—que abarcan todo el siglo XX—fueron ofrecidos por migrantes mexicanos y sus familias para conmemorar los peligros de cruzar la frontera y vivir en los Estados Unidos. Llenos de detalles emotivos, expresan de manera elocuente los temas de mayor preocupación para los migrantes, tales como la dificultad de encontrar trabajo o enfermarse en tierra extranjera y el alivio de regresar a casa.

La palabra “retablo,” del latín retro tabulum (detrás de la mesa de altar), se refería originalmente a pinturas devocionales colocadas en las paredes de las iglesias católicas en Europa. En México, debido a las tradiciones incorporadas a las culturas locales con la conquista española a partir del siglo XVI, retablo (sinónimo de exvoto, lámina y milagro) vino a significar una pintura pequeña al óleo sobre metal, colocada en la pared de un santuario o de una iglesia.

Generalmente encargados a artistas locales que trabajan de forma anónima, los retablos presentan una narrativa tanto escrita como gráfica. Las viñetas en primera persona, fechadas e inscritas con los nombres de los suplicantes, recurren a un vocabulario tradicional como “doy infinitas gracias.” En las ilustraciones luminosas sobre las inscripciones, las figuras terrenales comparten el espacio con imágenes sagradas y una representación onírica del milagro. A medida que se acumulan en las paredes de las iglesias, tanto en México como en los Estados Unidos, estos exvotos se convierten en registros públicos de la fe, los miedos y los vínculos familiares privados.

Haga clic aquí para descargar la lista de obras en la exposición

Miracles on the Border: Retablos of Mexican Migrants to the United States is presented in conjunction with Princeton University’s Migration Lab. It has been made possible with support from the Frances E. and Elias Wolf, Class of 1920, Fund, and by the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, the Program in Latin American Studies, and the Office of Religious Life, Princeton University. The retablos on view, collected by Douglas S. Massey and Jorge Durand, are from the Massey-Fiske and Arias-Durand collections.

Milagros en la frontera: Retablos de migrantes mexicanos a los Estados Unidos se presenta en colaboración con el Laboratorio de Migración de la Universidad de Princeton. Se ha logrado gracias al apoyo del Fondo Frances E. and Elias Wolf, Clase de 1920, y del Instituto de Estudios Internacionales y Regionales, el Programa en Estudios Latinoamericanos y la Oficina de Vida Religiosa de la Universidad de Princeton. Los retablos expuestos al público, coleccionados por Douglas S. Massey y Jorge Durand, vienen de las colecciones Massey-Fiske y Arias-Durand.

Cheech Marin tours Houston’s Latino art scene

Article by Molly Glentzer for the Houston Chronicle.

Cheech Marin got a few laughs in Houston earlier this month, but he was in town on a serious mission.

The beloved comedian, who gained fame in the 1970s as half of the stoner team Cheech and Chong, came to view some of the exhibitions that have been part of spring’s Latino Art Now! series. He also drummed up excitement for the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture & Industry of Riverside Art Museum, which is scheduled to open in Riverside, Calif. in 2021.

Marin, 72, is now nearly as famous in a different cultural realm as a top collector of Chicano art. He made it to Houston on May 7 and 8, just in time to catch the final days of a show by Einar & Jamex de la Torre at Nicole Longnecker Gallery. A retrospective of the de la Torre brothers’ work will be the first show at the Cheech, as the new center will be called.

Einar de la Torre led a walk-through of Longnecker’s show for Marin and a few starry-eyed guests before a dinner at the home of Dakota Enterprises founder and CEO Rick Guttman. “I never thought in 1971 that I would be driving Cheech to dinner in the rain in 2019,” said gallery director Brad Barber.

The next day, Marin toured the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston exhibition “Between Play and Grief” with curator Mari Carmen Ramirez and lunched with community leaders at M.D. Anderson-Magnolia Park YWCA in the East End, where the show “Honoring the Masters: The Chicano Renaissance,” features works by Chicano artists Mario R. Gonzales, Daniel Lechón and Leo Tanguma and local artist and community advocate Jesse Rodriguez, a.k.a. Magnolia Grown.

Marin has a stealth Houston connection: Houston-based arts consultant Melissa Richardson Banks has managed his collection for about 16 years and is organizing the national exhibition tour and catalog for the de la Torre Bros. retrospective at the Cheech.

Artist Jesse Treviño’s ‘Spirit’ Evoked in New Book Examining His Work

Check out Nicholas Frank’s article on the Rivard Report


An overflow crowd of almost 200 filled the Central Library Auditorium on Tuesday evening for a celebration of Spirit: The Life and Art of Jesse Treviño, the new book about the life and work of San Antonio artist Jesse Treviño.

Spirit author Anthony Head joked that half the people in the room must be relatives of the artist, who has a large, local family. Before the proceedings began, Treviño’s younger brother Robert reminisced about doing leatherwork and ceramics with his older brother when they were children, and about later witnessing the painting of Mi Vida in 1972, Jesse’s signature outpouring of his emotional reintroduction to civilian life after service in the Vietnam War.

As has often been noted, that service rendered Treviño a wounded warrior, having lost his right forearm and hand to a grenade explosion. Mi Vida represented Treviño’s adjustment to his wounds, including learning how to paint with his intact left hand.

While injured, Treviño had a realization: “I made a promise to myself that if I lived, I would paint the things important to me: my family, my neighborhood – my world,” he said, as quoted in a documentary on the artist produced by Ellen Riojas Clark, which was screened as the audience assembled.

Treviño has since grown into a leading art figure in San Antonio and beyond, with large-scale murals at important locations around the city, including the Spirit of Healing tile mural on the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio downtown. Among other notable achievements, Treviño painted the official portrait of the legendary U.S. Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez and is currently honored with the title wall of Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, featuring Mi Vida.

Treviño received a standing ovation upon entering the library auditorium, making his way up the center aisle as Mayor Ron Nirenberg slipped inconspicuously into the back of the room.

Nirenberg took the podium to introduce Treviño, Head, and moderator Robert Rivard, editor and publisher of the Rivard Report, for what he called “an extraordinary conversation about one extraordinary American.” Nirenberg described Treviño as “an example of what we can do when we put our creativity to work for the betterment of mankind.”

Head then gave a brief reading from Spirit, focused on the era of Treviño’s post-Vietnam return to the U.S., as the civil rights movement aligned with the antiwar protest movement. At the time, Treviño was invited to join the Con Safos group of Chicano artists by Mel Casas, who taught painting at San Antonio College. Casas also taught his young student that it’s “not as important how you make your art, but why – your intentions, your meaning, your message,” Head said.

“Jesse took to heart the lessons of Mel Casas, who kept emphasizing how art can be – must be – an important part of any dialogue on social and cultural issues,” Head read.

An issue recounted in the pages of Spirit is that both men, artist and author, suffered bouts with cancer during the book’s eight-year production. As Treviño endured the effects of chemotherapy to treat stomach cancer, “talking about his past was very uplifting to him,” Head said. “And at his lowest moments … being able to give me stories for this book, I know helped his recovery because I could see it.”

Anthony Head, author of Spirit: The Life and Art of Jesse Treviño

When Head was diagnosed with leukemia soon after, he said his own treatments made him able to understand at least some part of the physical and emotional pain Treviño had endured throughout his lifetime. “After he got cancer, and after I got cancer during the research and writing of this book, I think he bonded with me in a way that he hadn’t before,” Head said during an earlier interview.

Their mutual trials made Treviño less guarded, and more willing to tell stories of his life. The result was an overweening, 240,000-word manuscript that was trimmed to a slim 80,000 words, more than enough for the eventual 256-page book.

Head said there is room for more books on Treviño, to tell the stories he by necessity had to leave out. “I think I interviewed half of the people here tonight, and I’m sorry for the other half but after seven years I just ran out of time. … There’s plenty of room for more books about Jesse to be written, I think, because Jesse is the story of San Antonio.”

At one point during the evening, Treviño proved his tirelessness by telling a lengthy story in Spanish. He used a barrio slang term – as described by an audience member – como la fregada (against all odds, roughly), to summarize the dual struggle he and Head went through to finally bring the biography Treviño had always wanted to come to fruition.

Rivard drew laughter as he summed up Treviño’s thoughts for the English speakers in the audience: “He likes the book.”

Despite his recent health struggles, Treviño clearly wants to keep going. He told of a desire to make a new mural for the redeveloped Alameda Theatre, as just one part of an ambitious plan for the near Westside Zona Cultural and the University of Texas at San Antonio’s downtown campus.

One detail rarely heard came out during the conversation. Asked by Rivard when he knew he wanted to be an artist, Treviño remembered submitting a drawing to an art competition held by the Witte Museum with the idea of wanting to win. “That’s exactly true,” he said.

His competitive spirit still lives. “The future for me [is] I want to be in the lead of the arts here in San Antonio,” he said. “It’s important that I dominate with my work.”

NALAC: Presa House Gallery on May 3rd

Friday, May 3, 2019


Presa House Gallery

May 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC), the legacy service organization dedicated to providing opportunities and empowering Latinx artists and art organizations across the United States, Puerto Rico, Central America and Mexico. In honor of this important milestone, Presa House Gallery is proud to present A Common Vision, an exhibition featuring a selection of 16 Nalaquistas who are alumni of the NALAC Leadership Program or recipients of the NALAC Fund for the Arts Award. The opening reception will be held on First Friday, May 3rd from 6:00 to 11:00 PM, and on view by appointment through May 31, 2019.

The exhibition brings together a cross-section of various media including, drawing, illustration, painting, sculpture, photography, collage, and video. Many of the works address themes of self-exploration, cultural identity, race, history, and socio-economic issues.

Exhibiting artists include: Fernando Andrade, Rolando Briseno, Jenelle Esparza, Anel Flores, Adriana M J Garcia, Raul Gonzalez, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Suzy González, Mari Hernandez, Veronica Jaeger, Michael Menchaca, Jesse Ruiz, Ray Santisteban, Luis Valderas, Debora Kuetzpal Vasquez and Guillermina Zabala

About National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures

The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) is the nation’s premier nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to the promotion, advancement, development, and cultivation of the Latino arts and culture field. Founded in 1989 on the Westside of San Antonio, NALAC was born from a common vision shared by a group of Latinx arts leaders who recognized the need for advocacy to improve conditions for an under-capitalized Latino artistic community. Since its founding NALAC has awarded 2.8 million dollars in support of over 200,000 U.S Latino artists and cultural workers and organizations and has delivered programs that stabilize and energize the U.S. Latino arts and cultural sector throughout the nation.

Exhibit on US Latina ‘cholas’ opens in Albuquerque

Check out this article on a new exhibit in Albuquerque written by Russell Contreras for the Sentinel:

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A national Hispanic center is displaying a unique art exhibit on the chola — the working class, Mexican-American urban female often associated with gangs.

The National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque opened the “Que Chola Exhibition” on Friday with pieces by artists from New Mexico, Arizona, California, Texas, and Colorado.

The displays feature the evolution of the chola from the World War II-era to the contemporary figure trying to survive in poor neighborhoods. Using paintings, photography and sculptures, the exhibit attempts to cover images of the chola as an urban warrior, a mentor, a mother and political figure.

Cholas, or homegirls, often refers to a particular Latina subculture in the U.S. characterized by a tough demeanor and distinctive style. They are identified by their clothing ranging from flannel shirts and khaki pants to their dark eye makeup and indigenous-theme tattoos.

The image of the chola gained popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s with movies like “Colors” and “Mi Vida Loca” (My Crazy Life).

In recent years, scholars have countered that the chola represents more than just gang activity. Latina scholars have argued that the chola’s image is a commentary of poverty in urban U.S. cities and symbolized a working-class Latina seeking to battle sexism.

Some Latina academics have playfully said on social media that “you can’t spell scholar without the word ‘CHOLA’.”

Curator Jadira Gurule said she agreed that the chola is more than a so-called dangerous female gang member linked to criminal activity. For many Latinas, Gurule said the chola also represents strength and perseverance.

“Many within our communities either were, or admired and wanted to emulate, the chola growing up,” Gurule said. “She also represents real people with real experiences. The chola is a persona developed in response to racism and sexism. To reduce her to a gang member is shallow.”

Pola Lopez, a Las Vegas, New Mexico, born artist who now lives in Los Angeles, said she was excited when she was asked to participate in the exhibit. “The chola…you can’t mess with her,” said Lopez. “She’s beautiful and represents us in many ways.”

Her painting, “Coatlicue and Chola,” features a homegirl leaning against a statue of an Aztec goddess.

Nanibah Chacon, a Navajo and Hispanic artist from Arizona, said she wanted to create an image of a chola if she had been represented in midcentury advertisements. Her painting, “Xicana Classic,” depicts a chola from the 1970s sitting on a red circle and smiling with confidence.

The exhibit, which runs until Aug. 4, is the latest attempt to create a new image around the chola and expand her meaning.

The Los Angeles-based gang intervention group Homeboy Industries, for example, sells clothing designed by former cholas and runs Homegirl Cafe — a restaurant with food prepared by former gang members gaining new skills. The hip cafe is an offshoot of social enterprises founded by Jesuit priest Greg Boyle.

And Art Laboe, a 93-year-old DJ based in Palm Springs, California, allows cholas every Sunday on his syndicated oldies show “The Art Laboe Connection Show” to call in and give dedications to their loved ones serving time in prison. Scholars and activists say the radio show helps humanize cholas since it allows listeners to hear cholas express emotions of love and pain.


Associated Press Writer Russell Contreras is a member of The Associated Press’ race and ethnicity team. Follow Contreras on Twitter at


This story corrects a previous version with the quote “you can’t spell scholar without the word ‘CHOLA’.”

Art & Life with Roman Martinez

Check out this interview with Roman Martinez from Voyage Houston:


Today we’d like to introduce you to Roman Martinez.

Roman, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I was born in Dallas and moved to Houston before 1st grade. I grew up in Alief in the 80’s, When we 1st moved into the area, it wasn’t as diverse as it is today, not even close. My interest in art started pretty early as kid, drawing monsters and Star Wars characters, and I took a lot of lessons early on. All throughout my years in Alief I always had super engaging art teachers that took an interest in me and challenged me with different projects and showed me new techniques. It was in Middle school that the diversity really became relevant to me and how I started to perceive the world. Holub MS and Hastings HS were so diverse and it stretched all my preconceived notions and allowed me to emerge myself in different cultures, it Also encouraged me to really explore who I was as a Chicano/Mexican-American. Those early years would later become influential as my development as an artist later in life. After a few offers to go to some larger art schools in Chicago and New York, I decide to enroll at the Art Institute of Houston and avoid the cold weather. After I graduated, I took a slight 7-year hiatus from painting to work as a youth pastor.

I began doing large-scale murals while living in El Paso and would take any job that would offer me a challenge and the opportunity to try new techniques. I began to specialize in trompe l’oeil and had a lot of early success. After a few large high-profile jobs, I got bogged down in a residential job that really drained my enjoyment of painting. I took a break from painting a second time and went back to work as a youth pastor, that ended in a 2-year stint in Chiapas, Mexico. Being there re-kindled my passion for my culture and has had a profound lasting influence on my art. When I returned to the U.S., I began painting murals again and have been painting again full time since 2010. My current iteration of style of painting has been in development for the last 6 or so years after being on a ladder 20+ feet up in the air and wondering what would happen if I took a misstep, so I decided I needed to pursue art that I was able to create with both feet on the ground.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
Living in Mexico and currently here on the border in El Paso, has really influenced my aesthetic. I’ve been a Huge Fan of David Alfarro Siquieros, Jose Clemente Orozco, and Diego Rivera, “The Big 3” and try to pull from their spirit and ideas behind their work. One of the biggest catalysts in my current style has been the street artist Banksy when asked about my style, I like to describe it as if Banksy was the Chicano Love child of Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock. I use hand-cut stencils (mostly) and aerosol with house paint. The majority of my work is a Chicano vibe/slant on an existing trope or personality. My work is bright and colorful and has a sense of humor that I hope isn’t lost on people.

What responsibility, if any, do you think artists have to use their art to help alleviate problems faced by others? Has your art been affected by issues you’ve concerned about?
A large portion of my art reflects the current political climate, I don’t think art has changed much, other than the mediums used. some artists might paint happy little trees and sunny landscapes to escape the realities of the world we live in, and others tackle the issues head-on. I prefer the later. “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”- Banksy

“Artists use lies, to tell the truth, while politicians use them to cover the truth up.” -Every Hammond (V for Vendetta)

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
They can Follow me on FB and IG. I’ve done the Downtown Bayou art festival and Dandy Warhol’s “May the 4th” art shows, as well as pop-up art, shows at local venues when I’m in town.

Contact Info:

  • Phone: 832-882-8801
  • Email:
  • Instagram: @romanmartinezartdesign
  • Facebook: @romanmartinezartdesign


Anyone near UCLA? This might be worth checking out!

Event Date:
Tuesday, February 12, 2019 –

4:00pm to 4:45pm
Event Location:
CSRC Library – 144 Haines Hall

Join Los Angeles-based Chicana artist Sandy Rodriguez for a talk about “Codex Rodriguez-Mondragón,” a series of bioregional maps and paintings she created addressing the intersection of history, color, medicine, and culture in a 16th century ethnographic research study in Mesoamerica by the Spanish Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún. Rodriguez will discuss how she arrived at this body of work, including the role of field study, research, politics, botany, chemistry, interdisciplinary collaborations, civic engagements, and art history in her practice.

A related limited-edition catalog with contributions by Charlene Villaseñor Black, Ella Diaz and Ananda Cohen-Aponte, Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, and Todd Wingate will be available for purchase.

This event is organized by the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center.

This event is free and open to the public.