More recently, the administration announced plans to send a large number of asylum seekers from Honduras and El Salvador to Guatemala, instead of processing their claims in overwhelmed U.S. immigration courts. The publication focuses on the art of those nations that have some of the highest rates of citizens traveling north to seek asylum — and to show their experiences south of the border aren’t the same.
St. Sucia is not your typical saint. From immigration and work-life balance to dating and sex, nothing is too taboo for this rebel to tackle.
But St. Sucia doesn’t live in a chapel or a cathedral. She is the creation of San Antonio-based Latinx artist and illustrator Isabel Ann Castro.
“I told them that they can’t be asking the Virgin or Jesus Christ to help them out with their cochina problems. They needed a saint to understand. A saint that was a ‘dirty girl’ too.”
“I created St. Sucia in college as a joke amongst my friends [who] would clutch the saints on their necklaces hoping their date would go well, they’d pass a test they didn’t feel ready for, their period would come,” Castro explains via email. “I told them that they can’t be asking the Virgin or Jesus Christ to help them out with their cochina problems. They needed a saint to understand. A saint that was a ‘dirty girl’ too.”
Castro set out to fill a void she felt when it comes to navigating life as a young Latinx woman, along with writer Natasha I. Hernandez.
And so, St. Sucia, patron of the unapologetic modern Latina, was born, taking shape in 2014 as a zine in which voices and stories that are often lost in mainstream media — Afro-Latinas, Central Americans, LGBTQ and feminists — are featured.
Zines have maintained popularity, particularly among Latinx communities in the US. Because zines most often have circulations of not more than a couple hundred or thousand copies, their collectability and overall lore can become huge. Zines have also been a hallmark of many modern movements relating to resistance such as Black Lives Matter, Me Too and Undocumented and Unafraid.
Despite her name, St. Sucia goes rouge from the Catholic religious tradition of turning to a particular saint for comfort in times of need. From a cheeky quiz asking “What Lotería Lady Are You?” to the countdown list “10 Things I Learned About Relationships Via Selena Lyrics” (both found in Issue I: La Primera), the zine strikes a balance between humor, outreach and camaraderie and is infused with Latinx culture.
St. Sucia is a figure who “loves you without judgment for who you are,” say Castro and Hernandez via email. “She won’t sweep anything under the rug. She doesn’t care what people will say.”
Around 30 submissions, mostly solicited from friends around San Antonio, were considered for the first issue in 2014. But by the second, published in the spring of 2015, Castro and Hernandez were sifting through three times as many. Soon, fans from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Chicago to Boston were taking note of St. Sucia. Online orders increased and so did issue requests from independent bookstores.
Castro and Hernandez decided that sex positivity would be the focus of the first issue, while many dozens of submissions focused on difficult and intimate topics — including reproductive rights,immigration, and family stories — set the tone for each of the 13 subsequent volumes.
The decision about what to include in each issue has been driven by their audience. Castro and Hernadez looked to recurring themes among submissions and the reader feedback via letters and social media to guide them.
“Everything that our zine became is because we listened to what is important to our community,” Hernandez says.
Castro continues, “We’d read their work, love it, and get to write back that they were going to be published. It was a rad feeling to help change someone[s] narrative and say ‘your voice matters.’”
In June 2019, St. Sucia won a San Antonio Public Library ELLA Award for the work that they’ve done to promote San Antonio’s Latinx community and education initiatives they’ve run in conjunction with San Antonio library resources.
“We are very proud to be in libraries and archives to add a little more to the very short list of Latinas in those institutional places,” says Hernandez.
Barbie Hurtado is a reader turned contributor. She says St. Sucia has been a game-changer in fostering her own sense of Latinx pride.
“St. Sucia was meaningful because it gave us a platform to talk about all the things that go unsaid, that Latinx families don’t talk about that are taboo like sexuality, menstruation, body love, enjoying and having sex, etc.,” Hurtado explains. “St. Sucia was unique because it was unapologetically visible.”
St. Sucia herself takes no physical form, a creative decision that Castro and Hernandez stand by.
“There is no specific way to be Latina/x,” Castro says. “She shifts in the minds of readers to what they want and need from a saint.”
The zine ended publication in early 2019, but Castro and Hernandez are still hard at work. They are organizers of the San Antonio Zine Fest and participated in the Texas Latino Comic Con this July. Next, they have plans to begin writing for a new web series that is “sex positive and just as honest in the same ways that the [St. Sucia] zine was,” Castro says.
“Our city is facing sweeping, violent gentrification,” Castro says. “In my fear of my life being whitewashed and sold off, I’ve been trying to document as much as possible.”
St. Sucia and her legacy has evolved to more than just a zine. Over the 14 issues and nearly five years Castro and Hernandez say they have been able to “elevate voices of Latinas.”
“I would like for her [Saint Sucia] to live on as the idea of a moment when Latinas saw themselves as radical, as powerful, as seen in our pages,” Hernandez says.
This interview from Philippe LeBlanc is a little old (2017), but it’s a worthwhile read on a super talented writer/artist. https://www.comicsbeat.com/the-cxc-sol-con-interviews-breena-nunez-on-identity-autobiography-crocodile-girl/
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.
Check out the original article by Sam Sanchez here…
St. Sucia, the international Latina feminist zine that originated in San Antonio in 2014, will be celebrating the publication of its 14th and final issue on January 5 at Hitones.
During the last four years, St. Sucia’s art director Isabel Ann Castro and editor Natasha Hernandez have distinguished themselves by creating a widely-praised publication with submissions from around the globe.
On the magazine’s website, its creators explain to potential contributors: “Our goal is to share our stories, including the ones from mujeres who don’t consider themselves writers, artists, or poets. We want to share the stories we don’t tell, but other mujeres need to hear. We want to encourage other mujeres to express themselves. We are a space for gente who identify as mujer, in any way they choose to. Mujer is queer, mujer is straight, it’s political, it’s flaca, it’s gordita, it’s a grito, it’s a mouthed curse, it’s a walk alone at night. Mujer is a million things and so are you. Tell us about it.”
Castro and Hernandez told the San Antonio Current that ending the zine’s run was “a decision they reached after long consideration to pursue other creative projects, such as independent zines, comics and a web series they plan to launch with the help of other San Antonio artists, including musician Alyson Alonzo.”
The work has paid off. St. Sucia is available in university libraries around the country and is on syllabi for courses on Chicano/a Studies, Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, Latino Contemporary Literature and has been the subject of academic study and theses. It can also be found in university archives including the international Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection.
Looking toward the future, Castro and Hernandez are planning workshops, organizing events like the San Anto Zine Fest and guest lecturing at universities across the U.S.
Still, parting is sweet sorrow. “I’m really sad,” Hernandez told the Current. “It’s been a part of my identity for a while.”
If interested, you can purchase here: https://interstellarbruja.bigcartel.com/product/interstellar-bruja-vol-1-2?fbclid=IwAR1kFZdN1wqOLtflqEcAR5-KpYaWRFpncUlf0BxfdYe7YoYf2XGu6OmVDeY
Holiday special: 2 for $12 plus shipping 💋
♥️✨👽🔮 Interstellar Bruja Vol 1: Stories and words by Rios de la Luz. Sci-fi. Magic. Galactic hearts. The enchantment of being a child and believing so hard in Mister Spock. This chapbook is dedicated to the weird brown girls of the planet.
Cover art by Jessie Rocha.
Interstellar Bruja was originally part of the Ladybox Books limited edition Ladybox Vol 2. Parts of Interstellar Bruja have appeared on AJ+, Fem Lit Magazine and Corporeal Clamor.
💙Interstellar Bruja Vol.2💙
Stories and Essays by Rios de la Luz
Interstellar Bruja Vol. 2 contains stories and essays on heartbreak, reinvention, trauma, queerness, and connecting with nature. Interstellar Bruja Vol 2 is dedicated to all the magical brown femmes on the planet.
Cover art by Cynthia Treviño.
Submit to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Last Call! We are opening submissions for our LAST ISSUE EVER! If you have always wanted to submit, but never knew what to send, this is an open call for everything! We have previously published all kinds of writing, visual art, and photos of media like film stills, textile work and sculptures. In the last 4 years we have achieved our initial goal of making space for Mujeres. We decided that instead of waiting to be invited into art galleries and book stores, we were gonna publish our own work. I’m that time we have published mujeres, gender non-conforming, two-spirit and non binary creators. We have published from as far North as Canada and as far south as Venezuela. Our community is so diverse with so many intersections and we tried to make space for voices of all Latinas: indigenous Latinas, Afro Latinas, boricuas, Dominicanas, xicanas, Centroamericanas, Mexicanas, Mexican-Americans, and Sudamericanas. Immigrants to the US and We-been-here-before-Columbus-came-to-the-US voices. Lesbian, Bi, Queer, Trans voices. Stories of factory workers and Latina PhDs. Stories generations old, and stories we never told anyone. Stories of pride. Stories of struggle. Stories of survival. All in our own words. By us, for us. We started out trying to get our work seen by more people. To show that we as, Latinas, as Latinx, have so much talent in our community of creators. We are so much more than stereotypes. We are writers, artists, photographers, film makers, publishers, everything. Just because no one is putting a spotlight on us, it doesn’t mean we aren’t here. Thank you to everyone who has ever submitted, been published, or bought one of our zines. Thank you to the students who wrote about us, librarians and professors who included us in academia. Because of y’all, these voices will live forever in libraries around the country and reach into spaces we never dreamed possible
Austin’s first Latino comics and culture convention is here! This convention features up-and-coming Mexican American and Latino comic book artists and creators showcasing their work, as well as Latino ‘zine artists, filmmakers and cosplay enthusiasts.
There will be workshops, guest speakers and panel discussions, as well as Latino-themed superhero movie screenings all day. There will be culturally-relevant nerd music on hand as well as raspas and other great food. We welcome everyone to dress up in their favorite cosplay and join in the fun!
MexAmeriCon 2018 is organized by a group of dedicated volunteers who grew up reading comics books and believe in the value Latinos add to the United States with their beautiful art and culture. Our focus at MexAmeriCon 2018 is to create a positive and inclusive environment for both artists and attendees to unite and share.
This event will be held in collaboration with the City of Austin at the wonderful Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (esbmacc.org) located on Town Lake near Rainey street. The event will be held on Saturday September 1, 2018 from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM. All are welcome at this free event which is open to the public and appropriate for all ages.
Connect with @MexAmeriCon on Facebook and Instagram for updates and more content!
Some good Latinx zines to be had at this event…
Lone Star Zine Fest is back!
We invite you to join us on Sunday, September 2nd, 2018 when we’ll be zineing it up in air-conditioned comfort at the North Door! This year’s exhibition runs from 1pm-6pm, and we invite you to come buy zines directly from the creators, learn about zine libraries and places you can buy zines both locally and online, and even learn to make a mini-zine of your own at our kid-friendly zine making area. Grab a bite and a drink and stick around after we fold up the tables to mix and mingle with zine makers and zine fans at our afterparty (6:30-8:30pm) and zine reading.
Lone Star Zine Fest is a FREE, fun, and engaging event open to the general public and appropriate for all ages. At the heart of the event is an exhibition featuring over three dozen tables featuring Central Texas zine creators, collectives, distributors, retailers, libraries, and small presses sharing their amazing work in one big room and showcasing the diversity of expression made possible by independent- and self-publishing.
The Fest is organized by a local group of zine-loving volunteers who are passionate about creating space for zine creators and zine fans to come together, and is sponsored by the University of Texas Libraries, Town Talk Library, and many fine members of our community who donated to our Indiegogo campaign.
The first Lone Star Zine fest was held in June 2017, and was a huge success with over 400 attendees, more than 30 exhibitors (including 3 zine libraries), 8 volunteers, 2 fabulous door prizes, 8 zine reading performers, and 2 generous sponsors!
Here are some of the things attendees had to say after the event:
“I loved the diversity of the zine artists represented and the general vibe of the event. I walked away with amazing art and a warm, fuzzy feeling in my belly. ❤ ”
“The energy!! Everyone seemed genuinely happy to be there and open to chatting about their work.”
“Great selection/curation of artists, themes, and subject matter.”
“As a zinester, I loved how open all of the vendors were to trading/looking at my zine! It was awesome to have librarians there as well.”
Original article with photos by Samantha Helou for Remezcla found here: http://remezcla.com/features/culture/latinx-empowering-spaces-through-zines/
Self-publishing is alive and well. This past weekend, Los Angeles held its sixth annual zine fest, where 200 creators sold and traded their handmade booklets. Independent publishing as a way to spread information can be traced as far back as printing technology, and modern zine makers are continuing the tradition. The Latinx zinesters present at the fest — who often cited their involvement with punk scenes as their introduction into the zine-making practice — are using the medium as a form of self-empowerment, identity formation and exploration, and advocacy around issues, such as Central American representation, sex workers’ rights, and veganism among many, many other things.
Because zines can focus on literally anything, they’re a tangible and accessible way to flip narratives presented by mainstream media and build community around issues and cultures that are often misrepresented, if represented at all. At this year’s LA Zine Fest, we talked to Latinx creators about what zines mean to them and why they find the medium important for their communities.
Editor’s Note: The interviews below have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Alma Rosa, Frijolera Press
“I like the fact that you can publish things without waiting for anyone, and it’s a good way to take up space. Zines spread knowledge, it can be political things, topics about mental health, it can be poetry, or your art. It’s spreading things without having a filter or having to wait for someone to let you release the information.
“A lot of times we are silenced by society, our parents, or our work. A lot of times we can’t be who we want to be all the time, and zines are a really healthy way to express ourselves.”
Richard Castor, 35, Originals Por Vida
“The zine is a collaboration with a bunch of artists who send art. It’s based on barrio arte. It’s not just Chicano, but obviously Chicanos are the ones that started this style of art. It’s inspired by Teen Angels magazine, because they’re not doing it anymore so it’s a continuation of it.
We are not represented well so this is one way to get our word out there. We need to show who we are and where this stuff comes from, because you see it on TV but it’s sometimes not by Chicanos and the same people who really make it.”
Daisy Zamora, 33, Brown and Proud Press
“[Brown and Proud Press is] a collective of artists, writers, and illustrators. we come together to write zines. We select a theme, and we send it out to the community. Folks write back and we put it together.
“I see zines as truth-telling pieces, where folks can tell their stories. It’s like your own personal project that you can then release to the community and folks can take them. Some tell stories and some have instructions. Some of them will tell you news, they’ll talk about history, identity, and some of them have maps. It’s whatever you want it to be. You’re making your dream come true in this way.
“It’s really hard to publish a book, so I think zines offer this other space where you can tell your story. No one can police you on your grammar. You can purposefully spell things however you want. It’s unique and authentic to yourself.”
“I started the zine library at the Baldwin Hills branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. Now seven out of 73 branches in LA have zine libraries. I came from the Long Beach Public Library, and I started it there. It was the first zine library in Southern California, and we got up to 1,000 zines. Then, I switched jobs and I started it in LA. And we are the first branch of the LA Public Library to have a zine library.
Zines are a part of DIY culture. It’s not about being a commercially published author or mainstream press, it’s about publishing whatever you’re passionate about.”
Natasha Hernandez, 31, Isabel Ann Castro, 28, St. Sucia Zine
“The zine started 4 years ago. Isa had the idea to start an-all Latina zine. We’ve had 11 issues; we’ve gone international; we’ve been added to university libraries; we’ve been archived by university collections; we’re on the syllabus at different universities around the country. Our goal has been the same this whole time – to elevate Latina voices in art and in literature and to smash stereotypes of Latinas. We are opening up a platform to elevate voices of all different types of Latinas and to tell their truths and stories. We recognize that Latinas are a diverse population and we need to recognize that and respect that. We are in solidarity together. I identify as Chicana and Isa identifies as Mexican-American but we publish everybody: queer Latinas, trans Latinas, Afro-Latinas, Boricuas, Dominicanas, everybody. It’s not just Chicanas.” -Nastasha
“Historically, no one is publishing us or asking us to be in their gallery shows. We have to do it for ourselves. With our zine, me and Isa are not waiting for someone else to give us these opportunities. It’s an amazing access point and no one is telling us what to publish. We are not worried about sponsors. We are not worried about marketing. Nobody tells us what to do. We get to tell the stories we want to tell. All of it is self-sustaining; all the money we get from publishing the zine, goes right back to it. We make zero money off of the zine.” -Isabel
Jocelyn Moguel, 22, Xicanx Cry Baby zine
“We do a zine about the LA music scene like punk, ska, and hardcore. We also talk about our feelings; we are trying to centralize the notion that you can absolutely cry, you can absolutely feel anger and sadness and write it down. We are trying to destigmatize the whole crying thing because in Latinx cultures, you’re taught not to cry or show weakness, especially amongst men.
“I got introduced to zines at a particularly tough part in my life and making zines has a been a really cool part of my healing, and I was able to get out more and meet people. The zine family that I have right now especially in LA, they’re like family to me.”
Daisy, 24, and Caroh, 22, All Sex Workers Go to Heaven collective
“We run a collective called All Sex Workers Go to Heaven. It was created because I was tired of being the token friend for my sex worker friend’s art projects. I was tired of not speaking for myself and not showing my own narrative. So I thought it was about time to start a zine speaking for our own. The zine is made out of submissions that other sex workers send in. I prioritize sex workers of color and trans sex workers of color, because I think that’s most important. It’s important to speak for ourselves for once.
“I think we forget that sex workers are people; sex work is work; and a lot of us are artists; a lot of us do really cool things and a lot of people forget about that. When I call for submissions they don’t have to be related to sex work. If you’re an awesome artist and you’re a sex worker, send your work in.” -Daisy
“In these zines I constantly see myself. I see my friends. I see my family. Sex workers are not humanized in the same way. We are not seen as everyday people. We are only seen for our profession. Zines are an amazing way to not just humanize us but really grab the person and show them that we go beyond this. We are artists, we are parents, we are real ass hustlers outside of this. Having that on a zine, people can hear us. I feel like that’s one of the few ways people will listen.” -Caroh
Oombi, 29, Jotita de Amor zine
“I write queer poetry from a migrant lens. I have two zines out, and they’re either about breakups and about LA and what it looks like now compared to when I first came here as a kid and the whiteness of it and the lack of resources for other Chicano or Latino people.
Zines are important because it gives a chance for our community to be represented without having to conform to or do things through a middle person who’s usually male or white. It gives specifically queer and other people of color the chance to get stuff out.”
Original post by Raquel Reichard found here: http://remezcla.com/features/culture/central-american-zine/
Latin American art history often forgets the contributions of painters, poets, sculptors, photographers, and ceramicists from Central America. Rarely mentioned is June Beer, an Afro-Nicaraguan painter from the Bluefields, whose African, feminist and pro-rebel work during the Sandinista revolutionary movement landed her in jail twice. Neither do we hear about El Salvador’s Noe Canjura, a peasant-turned-famed painter whose landscapes are considered among the greatest in France, or Panamanian poet Amelia Denis de Icaza, whose sorrowing patriotic writing during the construction of the Panama Canal came to represent the mood of her people at the time. To ensure their place in art doesn’t go unacknowledged any longer, a new magazine has cropped up to highlight the works of current artists of Central American descent.
La Horchata Zine is a seasonal publication creating space for people of Nicaraguan, Honduran, Guatemalan, Panamanian, Costa Rican, Belizean, and Salvadoran ancestry to display their work. But with Central Americans being the fastest-growing population of Latinos migrating to the United States, it’s also a site for a swelling, diverse community hungry for representation to see themselves, their culture, and their history reflected in print.
“There are different art magazines online right now that are focused on Latinos, but a lot of times it’s Chicano or South American artists. Central America is forgotten about a lot, but there are so many Central Americans in the country right now, and a lot of us are artists. It’s nice to have a place as a Central American where you can relate to the work or see our voices,” co-founder Veronica Melendez tells me.
“Central America is forgotten about a lot, but there are so many Central Americans in the country right now.”
For two years, the photographer-illustrator talked about the need for this art book with her friend, Kimberly Benavides. On a whim, the the two launched La Horchata Zine in November. The Washington, DC-based Salvadoran-Guatemalan Melendez saw a call for submissions for the DC Art Book Fair and signed up without a publication in development. To her surprise, they landed a table at the event, leaving them with just two weeks to materialize the publication they had daydreamed about for so long.
The first issue, Otoño, is a beautiful 44-page paperback zine featuring the works of six artists, including both founders. The publication is comprised of photography, graphic design, embroidery and poetry, with each artist drawing inspiration from their Central American heritage, either through aesthetic or theme. Melendez’s vibrant illustrations, for instance, depict items and foods found in her household, from La Morena canned peppers, to Maseca corn flour, to margarita cookies. Meanwhile, Benavides’ collection of old family photos examines loving across socially constructed borders.
“People think that there are no Central American artists, but it’s really that they’re not being highlighted. It’s there. We found it. It exists. There’s just not a lot of connections for them to have that platform, but we made that platform because we know we have to show this work,” says the part-Salvadoran, part-Argentine Benavides.
“It was hard to learn to love my roots in an environment like that, where different cultures weren’t celebrated often.”
But the zine, like art more broadly, offers much more than a reflection of self. It’s also a way for artist and spectator to feel affirmed in their experiences and navigate their lives as Central Americans in the US, or other diasporic communities. In Elizabeth Fernanda Rodriguez’s pieces for the publication, the artist tackles issues like microaggressions, tokenization and assimilation. The Salvadoran DC native transfers old photos and objects found in her home to fabric, embroidering quotes, thoughts and reflections to create a powerful, and very personal, body of work. In one piece, the 23-year-old embroiders “It was hard to learn to love your brownness in North Arlington” over a childhood photo of her alongside other children. In another, she writes, “I sometimes wonder if I was just the token brown friend …. probably” over three youth group photos. In each, her face is covered with brown needlework, emphasizing the dissonance between her and her white friends.
“It was hard to learn to love my roots in an environment like that, where different cultures weren’t celebrated often and, when they were, it being turned into a costume,” says Rodriguez, who was raised in Arlington, Virginia. “I hope my work and the zine touches other people like me, with parents from El Salvador and Central America, who may have felt a little self-hate, displacement or need to assimilate despite being born or growing up here and who are learning to love their roots.”
While instructors have encouraged both Melendez and Benavides to avoid focusing too much on identity art and to not include aspects of their Central American backgrounds, they say, it would be unnatural to them, as well as a disservice to their community. Just as there are several variations of horchata, the popular Latin American beverage the publication is named after, the duo believe Central American artists bring different experiences, histories, cultures, identities, and talents that deserve to live and be seen in art spaces.
“If there was ever a doubt that we are here, I want La Horchata Zine to show that we exist, we make art, and it’s great, beautiful and important,” Melendez says.