Latino Spotlight: Lalo Alcaraz

Art, satire, politics. Lalo Alcaraz, Chicano cartoonist and political satirist, discusses these issues via his popular political comic strip. Earlier this year, Latinitas was able to attend one of his talks at the University of Texas at Austin.

To his online readers and motivating conferences, he always delivers clever jokes and often describes the importance of his political cartoons. Alcaraz’s “La Cucaracha” is the first political Latino daily comic strip published nationally. The comic provides a necessary Latino voice in publications nationwide.

“You can use satire to teach critical thinking,” Alcaraz said. He uses humor as a weapon against social injustices aimed at Latinos. Many of his cartoons focus on Latino-centered issues, such as immigration, education, politics and racism.

Alcaraz is a supporter of the DREAM Act. “I love the dreamers and the civics lesson they are teaching everyone,” Alcaraz said. He has drawn cartoons depicting DREAMers in graduation caps and gowns. Alcaraz also supports Latina Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. In honor of Sotomayor’s appointment to the Supreme Court, Alcaraz drew a cartoon of a young Latina aspiring to be her when she grows up. Sotomayor has a copy of the cartoon in her office.

Having two children, a son and a daughter, has inspired Alcaraz to write a children’s book based on them. He is thinking of titling it “Little Moco.”

“It’s a nickname my daughter gave my son. It’s like a reverse ‘Dora the Explorer,’” Alcaraz said.

Alcaraz, the son of immigrant parents from Sinaloa and Zacatecas, claims he grew up experiencing racial inequality and wanted to do something about it. According to Alcaraz, his great cultural epiphany came when he was 13 years old, as he stood in front of the Aztec calendar.

“That’s where I became Chicano, in Mexico City,” Alcaraz said.

Recently, Alcaraz has been most well known for his creation of Mexican Mitt Romney, a satirical Twitter account created in response to Romney’s anti-immigrant stance during his run for President in 2012. His other satirical characters include “anchor baby news” and “Beandocks.” Alcaraz also has a radio show based in Los Angeles, Calif. called Pocho Hour of Power.

Artsy Latinas Doing It Big

When your role model tells you that anything can happen, follow your dreams, work hard and they will come true, you begin to get the motivation to actually do something about your life. These women have found ways to follow their passions and make a business, living, and doing what they love. Three women, Dina Eden, Nancy Contreras, and Sandra Arlette, have made a business out of their craft, art and hard work. They are combining their abilities to create an awesome fashion trifecta. I had the pleasure of interviewing these ladies to find out who they are, what they do, and how they achieved it.

Dina Eden is the owner/ designer of Tree of Eden, an accessory boutique online and in Arlette, which is located in downtown El Paso. Dina has always had a thing for art and dabbled in a couple classes, but when she took ceramics, she knew it was a perfect fit. Dina states, “ I always wanted to do something with art, jewelry is a really good medium.” Dina was a supervisor for an accounting company but then had a car accident that caused her to have total amnesia.  She went back to basics and started using art, ceramic sculpture and jewelry making as therapy. Dina decided to sell some of her creations on ETSY this past November and was asked to sell some articles in the downtown boutique, Arlette. She began to show her jewelry at many private events around El Paso. She is currently in Hidalgo Mexico to expand her creative abilities. For example, pottery Dina States, “There are a bunch of clay deposits on the Ranch (in Mexico) to work on pottery.” Her greatest success is doing what she really loves with her small business. Dina states, “I would rather struggle with a small business then with something I don’t like.”  Her success ties into her struggle, while growing up in Juarez entrepreneurship wasn’t’ really advised. Dina’s advice was to try and self teach, “start early to get a feel for it; it’s all about confidence. There’s nothing to be scared of. It could turn into a really good business.” Dina also suggests to research small businesses and learn bookkeeping, or how to finance. There are many outlets to learn how to manage money, and it’s a very important part of the process.

Another contributor to Arlette boutique is Nancy’s online store, Ragazza Bazaar. Nancy grew up watching hermother make quinceañera dresses, homecoming mums and other formal attire, and later immersed herself in the fashion industry by becoming retail managers at various stores. She started surfing the web and realized she could gain endless possibilities by owning her own online store inspired by celebrity style. Her first business was started sola, then got some help from her sister who lives in San Diego. Nancy explained how she gained hands on experience in the fashion world by going to events and showing her work in fashion shows. Some obstacles Nancy overcame was through marketing, getting the word out, but networking worked for her. Nancy is very big on supporting her local community and wants to extend more opportunities for girls in El Paso. She is currently undergoing a social media promotion website that deals with supporting local businesses online, El Paso Style. Nancy advises, “continue to work hard to promote your talent and skill and create a portfolio. Never give up, even if you think you’re failing. It takes time, work and a lot of commitment.” She also advises to research resources of the craft, your audience and learn from other who are also successful.

Sandra Arlette is the owner of Arlette, a local boutique mainly housing jewelry, but also sells many other things by herself and other artists. A craftswoman from a very young age, Sandra had always wanted to delve into fashion design, but because her educational art options were somewhat slim she studied International business. Starting in 2005, Sandra kept her creativity on the side, she had an epiphany one afternoon when her accessory choices were not very promising. She began creating articles for herself and then began crafting more for others. Arlette’s businessbegan to pick up in 2009, she states, “It really was my passion, I could stay home for days doing nothing but designing!!” Finally, Sandra opened her own shop in 2012 with the help of her family and supporting boyfriend, after dedicating her post graduation to her home accessory business. Sandra hopes to keep doing what she loves forever and helping local artists, designers around El Paso be heard. Sandra’s advice to young Latinitasis to keep your head up, do your research, and don’t be discouraged by negative people. She says, “Keep doing what you love, do it right and better yourself, always share your talent and appreciate other’s too.” Sandra also advises to surround yourself with supportive and passionate companions, get an education, and if you’re set on your artistic career, start your investigation and research now!  Sandra has made a living out of her passion through heart and hard work, young girls/Latinas can also do the same with any talent.

All three women have recently begun their business journeys, and they’re going strong. These women have accomplished and learned so many things, and a common obstacle standing in their way is the overwhelming skepticism towards going local. Sandra Arlette says, “I think the greatest obstacle has been the lack of interest of the society in “handmade” products. I think we don’t appreciate it enough and we still think that handmade is cheap or has poor quality.” Arlette’s boutique has been going strong for a year now and hopefully El Paso can support their crafts and keep their dream alive.

Beyond the Canvas: Latino Museums

Museums are keys to analyzing our past and understanding our present. Museums document and provide an enriching and educational look into culture. Few museums in the United States are dedicated to Latino culture and studies, yet those that do exist are rich with Latino cultural artifacts, art and are dedicated to educating their communities about their raízes. Gather your friends and family for Latinitas’ own museum walk.

Courtesy from Mexic-art.org

Mexic-Arte — Austin, Texas
Mexic-Arte
is Texas’ official Mexican and Mexican-American art museum, located on Congress Avenue in the heart of downtown Austin. Founded in 1983 by artists Sylvia Orozco, Pio Pulido and Sam Coronado, it gained non-profit status in 1984 and has been featuring exhibitions ever since. Mexic-Arte holds annual summer and fall exhibitions. Summer exhibitions feature a Latino artist under 35, and the Fall exhibition is
Día de los Muertos-themed. Mexic-Arte is pan-Latino, meaning they feature artists from all Latino identities. They recently held an exhibit called “Masked: Changing Identities”.

“Mexic-Arte caters to a community that is underserved,” said Claudia Zapata, curator of exhibitions and programs. Education programming is a large part of the Mexic-Arte mission. Students learn how to screenprint and use other computer software. Mexic-Arte has helped foster other non-profit projects, such as The Serie Project. Mexic-Arte is an important asset to the Texas Latino population.

Courtesy from Brownpride.com

El Museo del Barrio — New York, New York
Located in New York’s Museum Mile, El Museo del Barrio has a history originating in the Civil Rights Movement of 1969. Founder Raphael Montañez Ortiz, an educator and activist, opened El Museo in response to African-American and Puerto Rican parents and activists concerned that their children weren’t receiving an education that acknowledged their heritage. Originally a museum primarily for Puerto Rican art, it is now open to showcasing and preserving all Latin American and Caribbean cultures. The museum recently exhibited the “Superreal: alternative realities in photography and video.”

El Museo prides itself on its community outreach, educating the community through bilingual programs, festivals, and its vast art collection. According to their website, part of their mission is to “enhance the sense of identity, self-esteem and self-knowledge of the Caribbean and Latin American peoples.

National Museum of Mexican Art — Chicago, Illinois

Courtesy from rediscoverthewindycity.com

Chicago’s largely Mexican-American Pilsen neighborhood is home to the National Museum of Mexican Art. The NMMA was founded in 1987 after Carlos Tortolero organized a group of educators who shared his vision of art, education and social justice. The NMMA boasts a large collection of works by Mexican artists from both sides of the U.S. and Mexico border. The NMMA has traveling exhibitions across the U.S. and Mexico, adhering to their philosophy of Mexican culture being sin fronteras. 

With one of the largest art collections in the country, the museum’s education programs reach more than 60,000 K-12 students each year, according to their website. The NMMA also has acclaimed performing arts programs that highlight rich Mexican music, dance and theater. Admission to the museum is always free. They have hosted exhibits like artist Sergio Gomez’s collection “Puertas Abiertas/Open Doors.”

Museum of Latin American Art — Long Beach, California

Courtesy from Molaa.com

Serving the Los Angeles area and located in the East Village Arts District of Long Beach, the Museum of Latin American Art was founded in 1996 by Robert Gumbiner. “Our exhibitions focus on the diversity of modern (early 1900s) and contemporary art (present) in Latin America,” said Rebecca Horta, Associate Curator of Education. MOLAA features only Latin American art by artists with ties to a Latin American country.

MOLAA features a wide array of programs dealing with education, art, cooking, dance and a bilingual summer art camp. The museum hosts a free Annual Women’s Day Festival in March. This year’s festival happened March 10 and featured women artists, dancers and musicians. MOLAA features multiple exhibitions at a time and has its own magazine called the MOLAA Museum Magazine. They recently launched an exhibition entitled Loteria: An Interpretation of MOLAA’s Permanent Collection.

Currently, an effort by the Smithsonian is being made to open a national Latino museum on the National Mall in Washington D.C. Opening the museum is an uphill battle, but the Smithsonian has begun the Smithsonian Latino Center in an effort to develop a plan of action and to help with funding the project.

Passion for Art

When looking around, people may not notice the wonderful talents and histories of other Latinitas with a simple glance. People may only notice the outside appearance of these girls, but not know their true talents. Latinitas sat down with talented Latinas to share their story with our readers. These talented Latinas represent some of the different passions and diverse creative skills. A passion to dance, a yearning to sing, a want to draw, a mission to explore, a talent with words, and a drive to design will be explored as these girls speak of their passions.

The Dancer

Hannah Velasco has been a ballet dancer since the mere age of six years old. Now seventeen, Hannah continues to dance and is aspiring to become a physical therapist for other ballet dancers whilst continuing her dancing career. Hannah speaks of dancing as a way to escape from the outside world full of worries and stress. She says, “I started to dance to find my place in the world. My dad had just left the family and dancing fulfilled this void in the best way possible.”  More than the absence of her father, Hannah’s whole family supported her in her dancing career as there were other dancers in the family. “My family encouraged me since I turned five, but I wouldn’t let them since I just wanted to have fun. Then, when I was six I went to watch my cousin dance and I immediately knew that I needed to be up onstage.”  Hannah’s passion continued to grow as she grew in age. Her favorite part of this creative process is the detachment she feels from any worries she may have as she begins dancing. “I basically become another person, “she states, “I become the character that I’m meant to be in the ballet.”  Outside of dancing, she has the work load of a high school senior to worry about as well. Her ballet practices sometimes last until late hours like 10 or 11 p.m. The next day, Hannah is up at 6 a.m. to continue her routine even after finishing her homework the night before at 1 a.m. When asked what makes dancing worth this struggle, she always smiles and says, “All the years of preparation I have dedicated to dancing sum up in those 30 seconds of thrill on stage. This feeling is almost addictive.”

The Writer

Tatiana White was never the typical student. She always had a way with words that made her teachers marvel at her incredible writing. Tatiana was first introduced to writing in the 5th grade, when her teacher assigned a fictional story assignment. This Latinita felt encouraged to widen her creativity and to tell a story with her own words.  From that point on, Tatiana continued to tell stories through pen and paper, eventually via her laptop. These tools turned into her best friends. As Tatiana says, “These stories helped me express myself in a way that is sort of hidden.” By hidden, Tatiana means that she does not write simply for her teachers to see, she writes for herself. Writing is such a great life of Tatiana’s life that she feels prepared to take the next step and make it part of her future.This Latinita’s future career plans center around using her skills with words to help the human mind; her books will be about psychology. “Writing has helped me to a great extent whenever I feel stressed or I need a little relief from the world. I want writing to do the same for other people.” Tatiana’s gift of writing has flourished from writing 5th grade fiction to the writing of a talented 18 year old with a dream to help the world.

The Architect

During her first year of high school, Valeria Duron was asked to make a permanent decision: what do you want to do for the rest of your life? Some of her classmates hesitated to choose, but Valeria knew right away: she wanted to be a architect. Some people were flustered by the fact that she could choose so quickly, but Valeria is determined to achieve her dream. “It’s the only thing I can picture myself doing,” she shared. After this decision was made, Valeria began integrating herself into architecture classes. The more she listened and paid attention to the subject, her interest grew and she yearned to learn more. She compares her yearning to be an architect to that of historical figures, “The Egyptians would devote their whole lives to build a mark on the world. I want to do the same thing.” Besides this ambition, Valeria loves a very important aspect of architecture: mathematics. She says, “[Math is] easy and everything always fits in perfectly. Even if I don’t know how it works, I know that it’s important and incorporates with every aspect of my life.” Even though Valeria is only 17, she has dreams as big as an Egyptian pyramid.

 The Designer

When people see Daniela walking around, they may not think anything other than, “That girl is dressed very nicely,” or “Wow, I wonder where got those clothes.” What these people don’t know is that every aspect of Daniela’s clothing was designed by her and made with her own two hands. Daniela Ruan’s interest in fashion sparked when she was a small girl. “My dad bought my sisters and I a white board because he wanted us out of his hair. However, it turned into something else for me.” After this purchase was made, she began to draw and sketch on a daily basis, it soon became her favorite hobby. As she grew, Daniela’s interest blossomed even further. She noticed that her sketches were mainly comprised of purses like none other, innovative shoes, and creative blouses. At that moment, Daniela decided that fashion design was the career that was meant for her. With this decision came about the creation of her own clothes, which she wears on a daily basis. Now at age 18, Daniela has big hopes for her future, “I want to hear people say ‘I’m wearing Daniela Ruan’. My creations will give me a sense of accomplishment like no other.”

The Outdoor Photographer

Courtney Francisco dwells out in nature through hiking. She started through the influence of her step dad and through the presence of the hiking culture in her Virginia hometown. Courtney says, “I lived in the Valley and there’s a lot of hiking there. It’s really green, almost out of this world.” Courtney enjoys this activity so much because it’s a chance to spend time with her family and meet new people. Since hiking is such a common activity there, it’s very common amongst the people within the area. “Everybody on the trails has something in common, so it’s a great conversation starter.”  The best part for Courtney is the reward of reaching the top. After feeling so tired during the climb, nothing feels better for her than seeing the whole of her hometown.  Another part that is especially enjoyable for her is the photography opportunities that there are on the trail. Through this photography, she has learned about the nature out there, recognizing plants and memorizing most of the trails she has traveled through. Courtney’s hiking is something she takes with her everywhere. Where there’s a trail, there’s a way for Courtney.

The Singer

Unlike other girls, Annette’s true passion did not come to her willingly.  When she was a young girl, Annette Watts did not find joy in “The Sound of Music”,  as her school had forced her into choir as an elective. However, for one of the choir’s performances, Annette’s choir did a Disney Extravaganza and things changed for Annette. “Now that was something I loved, Disney movies! So I gave choir a chance.” From that point on, music became one of the most important aspects of this Latinita’s life.  Annette’s dedication to her music career soon became evident as she begged for her parents to give her a higher musical education than what she could have at school. She has joined a private voice studio and the Youth Opera of El Paso. Through all this Annette juggles tough dual credit classes at her high school, while undertaking solos in the high school choir. Even though these may seem like a rigorous schedule to handle, Annette still finds time to perform at local shows with her friends, investigating more contemporary genres. Annette’s motto is, “If you take it a day at a time it gets a little easier.” Annette’s success is evident as she has advanced to state UIL Solo and Ensemble three times in voice and one time in piano. She has also been chosen for her local All-Region Choir during the 2012-2013 period. Lastly, she gained a major role, Madame Thenardier, in a reproduction of “Les Miserables”. Annette Watts wishes to continue her career in music by majoring in music while in college. After college, she will pursue a career in directing, “My heart is in directing. My ultimate goal is to run my own theater company one day and  stand on the stage of the tony awards giving an acceptance speech.” Surely, Annette’s hard work and dedication will pay off as her future dreams come true.

 

Trenzas Chicanas Art Collective

Vea este artículo en español aquí

All the young Latinas in the room were mesmerized by the message these women represented. “Good Mexican daughters don’t ignite revolutions…This princess Chicana can scale walls with ease…I am a woman with no apologies,” were part of the spoken word performance presented by Griselda Munoz at the Latinitas Teen Media Academy. The poem was full of emotion and determination It was a poem all of the Latinas in the room could relate to and could remember the foretold stories of their ancestors.

Griselda is a member of the Trenzas Chicana Arts Collective, a group of female artists who come together to do collaborative art in the community. Four artistic women joined forces to form this group: Erica Marin, Rebecca Munoz, Griselda Munoz and Maria Lopez. Their work and presence holds power – Chicana power to be exact. It is the type of power that motivates and moves every individual in the room.

“We are called Trenzas because we’re connected like that, braided together,” said Griselda. The Trenzas logo features four women joined by braids to represent the founders. Before the collective began they were a group of friends who would hang out a lot. Their motivation came in response to the barriers they experienced in other artistic environments because they were women and Hispanic. They founded the collective to create a more open environment for Chicana women. “We want to run with the big boys too,” added Griselda.

These women do all types of art such as poetry, theater, painting, political puppets (out of paper mache), murals, and they are up to anything new. The group fundraise to promote their artistic events and encourage community input. One example of their collaborative artwork is a play that they performed called, the Monos de Batalla, a revolutionary fairytale based on Mexico’s revolution about a girl who wants to fight, but her parents won’t allow her. They hold musical events, like the Cafe Con Pan.

“As women we have an insane capacity to organize. It’s just a matter of a couple of emails, posters, location, sometimes to create these events no money is needed,” said Erica.

Griselda Munoz
Griselda remembers some of her early struggles in taking steps to where she is today. “When I first started no one wanted to read my poetry.”

“I showed my poems to my professor. He told me I should perform them. I didn’t know I could perform. Imagine, it would have stayed inside of me; I let that flower inside of me open up.”

“My inspiration with the poems came from the way I was raised and saw women in the community minimized. I saw women in charge of taking care of their family, cooking… I really wanted to inspire something past that in a lot of ways to inspire myself.”

She has a book in the works coming out middle of next year: My Life as a Frog, the Prince Kissed Me. The book holds Chicana poetry and some in Spanish. “It’s taken some years, more than anything waiting to build confidence inside of me. I don’t now how many writers have books in their computers. It’s another trip navigating the business. I have publishers build up. It starts off with the one word.”

Erica Marin
“Working at El Paso has been really hard because it is male dominated. The boys rule. As women painters you work in isolation. We decided as a group a year ago to create a group where women can grow, a place of mutual respect.”

“I’ve always liked to work with my hands, always done something like cooking, building, sowing, drawing.” She began painting after her uncle died. Her Uncle would paint billboards and would take Erica with him. “After he died, I felt it a responsibility to continue the art….He taught me this…I am a firm believer that if you’re in it for the fame and money you’re in it for the wrong reasons. You have to do it for love.”

Rebecca Munoz
Rebecca began painting after her grandpa died. He did ‘weird art’ and she grew up around that. “When he died, I realized I wanted to do that too. I have the opportunity. It has been 10 years since I started painting, now I am in the masters program,” she recollected. She distinguishes art as part of her life not just a hobby.

Teamwork
Rebecca Munoz stated the importance of teamwork: “the point of the collective is that we are now accountable of each other. Not just one person is leading the organization. We all have freedom to do our own thing, we are not bureaucratic.”

Some of their future projects include the summer mural project. “I’ve had the idea for a while, but now its concrete. Theater could be done with little money. Murals cost a lot of money, whereas paint is really expensive. The cultural events we hold are to raise money for these projects,” explained Rebecca Munoz.

They are planning a new theater production and a trip to the Chicana Moratorium in Los Angles, a memorial of a journalist in L.A that was killed in 1969. They have traveled across the country to exhibit their work, host performances and make presentations.

The women shared their experience of working in a group. “It is an environment of creating art outside of school with people with the same political views. I’ve been in critiques where it is more of mainstream institutional art work, the environment here is different because it is nurtured. In the academic setting, I’ve struggled to find a common group with people, but we still criticize ourselves honestly,” said Rebecca Munoz.

“Doing it individually and then with a group, I feel capable of pulling things together as a team,” expressed Griselda Munoz. “Working together has taught me about community, teamwork and sisterhood…Our work comes together as a cohesive piece. There are common politics, goals and a cultural understanding. There is sisterhood and love.”

August 2010

New Art in Austin: 22 to Watch

New Art in Austin: 22 to Watch is an exhibition presented by the Austin Museum of Art, that introduces 22 rising local artists and their artwork, made from an array of media, including sculpture, photography, video, painting, drawing, full installation pieces and yes….Post-Its!!!

This exhibition was an adventure in sight, not only because it gave me a look at good ol’ Texas artwork, but because the media and techniques used in the artwork, are so different and wild! Everything in this exhibit either made me want to touch it (in some cases I could), or left me wondering, “How did they do that?”

The first piece that caught my eye was a huge black screen-like wall made of three panels suspended from hooks on the ceiling. When I moved around and looked at it, it seemed to distort and move (very wild to look at). This piece, called Retinal Message 3, 2005 by Barna Kantor, is made up of six perforated metal panels. Zack Booth Simpson’s unique artwork called Moderation, is an interactive projection of a pond (complete with lily pads and dragon flies) that allows viewers to step into his artwork and make ripples on the pond (mucho fun for people of all ages and sizes). Other works would pop right out at me like Young-Min Kang’s Negative Exposure, a piece of art that was made out of deconstructed comic books. Suspended from a corner of the ceiling (like a web), this piece made the comic book characters look as if they were falling or jumping right out of their pages. Candace Briceno’s Grass Islands, is another piece with an exploding, cartoonish look. Her 14 flowers made of wool and felt and her plant sculptures looked like something right out of a storybook, with a very whimsical look. They sort of floated on the exhibit walls.

Other works with more classic and laid back media and techniques also had as much pizzazz as the other installation pieces. For instance, Trent Tate’s beautiful egg tempera paintings were simple, yet eye catching. I wanted to touch these eye-popping paintings as well. Another one of my favorites was Michael Osborne’s eerie, nighttime color photography of contemporary highways in Texas, the colors and scenes that he shot were gorgeous and mysterious. Sodalitas is an amazing collage of eighteen acrylic paintings, each of the eighteen panels are painted with an array of beautiful, bright colors and patterns; but the unique thing about this piece is that it was done by a three-person collaborative team.

Over all, this exhibit was a very different experience, with a great variety of new and unique artwork and techniques. I personally liked it a lot, plus it was also a perfect trip for the family thanks to the family room where you could either decorate your own eye or use a tennis ball to create a little person or enhance to your own liking. Trust me when I say, this is not your ordinary gallery visit!

By Michelle Ortiz

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