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Monday, 30 Mar 2020

CHICANO ART: The creation of two nationalities

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110rf1Chicano art represents the artistic expression of Latinos in the United States, who confront an extreme racial, social, and political oppression in what is their own country. However, Chicano art is not only motivated politically, but it explores identity, humor, religion, and individual expression.

The term Chicano is used in reference to the descendants of the Mexicans who chose to settle at the north of the border between the United States and Mexico, which was demarcated by the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty in 1848. According to this Treaty, Mexico gave up more than one half of its territory to its neighbor country.110rf2

This is how those who chose to stay became some kind of Mexican/Americans who feel like second-class citizens on territories their ancestors populated during over two hundred and fifty years. These Chicanos jointly with migrants from Mexico, who year after year arrive in search of better opportunities, enliven the largest Latin community of the United States.

The Chicanos construct their own culture that fosters such elements as the very annexation of territories by the other country, the internal neocolonialism, migration and other aspects. Chicano Art evolved in the 60’s in the course of the explosion of the civil rights movement in the United States. It represents the artistic expression of the Latinos in the United States, who challenge the extreme racial, social, and political oppression in their own country. However, Chicano Art is not only prompted by political arguments: It also explores identity, humor, religion, and individual expression.

110rf3A series of historians affirm that the first Chicano plastic works were created in the course of the sixties by the rural communities of the Central California Valley. These works frequently were inspired in the course of the political and cultural development of humble working class Californian Mexicans.

110rf5According to the theoretician Víctor Zamudio Taylor, the ideology of the Chicano artistic movement mostly materialized in muralism. These artists inspired themselves in the Mexican muralism, but they differentiate themselves from the traditional muralists because they appropriate public spaces without previous authorization and instead of being sponsored or supported by the government, they were supported by local businesses and residents. Graphic arts also are an important manifestation of Chicano expression. One of the best-known Chicano graphic artists is Rupert García, born in northern California. He combines diverse aspects of the Mexican School with pop art. His graphic production depicts civil rights and conflicts as well as important figures of history.


Carlos Almaraz, artist who died in 1989, is another important name of Chicano art. He was born in Mexico City but was brought up between Chicago and Los Angeles and his works, in general, cover two motifs: automobile accidents and urban scenes. On the other hand, the painter Carmen Lomas Garza, born in Texas, utilizes memory for her plastic creation that describes the rural life of Chicanos: myth, healing rites, family histories, and every day events.



Two of the best-known creators of Chicano art are Amalia Mesa Bains and Yolanda López: the first one sets up a sort of altars with dead Mexican figures like Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Frida Kahlo, or Dolores del Río, while the second one in most of her works utilizes the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.



In fact, there are many and a great variety of artists of Mexican origin. While some work with such contemporary techniques as installation art, others venture into muralism. Such is the case of Judith F. Baca, who turns to the territory of her ancestors to study with David Alfaro Siqueiros. Her first projects intended to win the young people of the local neighborhood to take up painting in public spaces not only with the purpose of representing themselves and their situation but also as a way to bolster their self-esteem.


The list of these artists is very long; it grows continuously with young and new artists who embrace this art trend. The names of David Avalos, Celia Alvarez, Armando Rascon, Jesse Amado, Patsi Valdez or the Collective Asco have been arranged into one and the same group by the critic Víctor Zamudio Taylor because of their discourses and their representations of national allegories. “In fact, what determines and characterizes Chicano history and Chicano art is the flux, the negotiation and transformation of two cultures and two languages; it belongs to more than one place and crosses more than one border: that of Latin American art and that of the art of the United States.”

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