Trenzas Chicana Arts Collective

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.”

By Elizabeth Gonzalez

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