Queer DREAMer Cartoonist responds to American Apparel AD

Queer Latino Media Artist Julio Salgado releases a series  called “Undocumented Apparel” aimed at American Apparel’s Summer 2011  “California Apparel” ad.

Image via Colorlines

The ad (shown above) portrays a California farmer posing next to a USC public relations student.

American Apparel has been a strong supporter of the legalization of immigrants. They sell “Legalize LA” shirts, pay their workers a “living wage” and have participated in May 1st rallies. So what is all the fuss about? What people fail to see is the racist undertone of the ad as well as the objectification and commodification of the “farm worker”. The identity of the “farm-worker” is closely tied to immigration, as many field workers are undocumented immigrants of Latin@ descent and thus the meaning of this ad can become quite questionable.

Commodification and appropriation of culture is not new in the fashion world. This is very common with Native American ware as many clothing companies like Urban Outfitters sell clothing with Native American prints. Companies like Roxi sell ponchos and other Mexican inspired clothing. Culture, however, is not a fashion statement or a fad.

Ads like this bring up a greater question, when is it acceptable to have a
“culture” that is not deemed American? When many times cultures like the Native American and Mexican culture are scrutinized for being, “foreign”, “different” or made invisible, it seems acceptable to wear these cultures once fashionistas say it is.

Some artists, however, are not staying quiet. Julio Salgado, a queer Latino from Long Beach, Ca. has created a few pieces that also have a lot to say. Below are a couple of Salgado’s pieces who portray real people and their experiences as undocumented peoples. Salgado is undocumented himself and contributed many cartoons for a paper during his undergraduate time at California State University, Long Beach. Salgado is very active in the DREAMer movement in which he and many other undocumented students fight for their rights, education and visibility.

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Dulce Pinzon immortalizes everyday laborers

In 20 images, Mexican  photographer Dulce Pinzon  captures the courage and strength of Mexican immigrant laborers in New York. Pinzon wanted to honor to the hard working laborers who work in order to economically maintain their families whom still live in Mexico.

The idea for this project came after the attacks of 9/11 when “hero” became a widely used term. She felt that everyday laborers who sacrifice their lives for the needs of others are heroes in their own way, but because their jobs are not as highly regarded their work is devalued. “It is easy to take for granted the heroes who sacrifice immeasurable life and labor in their daily lives for the good of others but [who] do so in a somewhat less spectacular setting”, she says on her website.

With each image she provides a short description of the trabajador or trabajadora and some background information of their lives. Pinzon documents a variety of workers who take on roles in everything from window cleaning to fish markets. She also includes the amount of money they send home.

This project defies their socially regarded roles and creates a sense of empowerment for laborers across the country. Pinzon’s take on what a hero is, not only creates a social consciousness of those who are seen as invisible, but sheds light on a greater context regarding who is at the foundation of our economy.

Pinzon’s images are captivating and convey a humble reality. Thousands of immigrant workers are depended on for various physical tasks and are often unappreciated. There a negative connotation that comes with most of their jobs as construction workers or housekeepers because they do not require much education. These stereotypes are deconstructed in the images. In this project they are not just bodies, they are dignified people making their contributions to society.

Pinzon was born in Mexico City and studied Mass Media Communications in Puebla, Mexico.

All images above can be found on Dulce Pinzon’s website at: http://www.dulcepinzon.com/en_projects_superhero.htm

Check out: Media Workers for Social Change

image via indybay

Book author Peter Maiden writes and photographs various artists from the Bay area as he makes visible the conscious struggle of media artists towards social justice. In his book he captures various Latino/a artists such as Favianna Rodriguez (pictured), Elizabeth Gonzalez and Jose Manuel Martinez.

You can check out the kindle version here:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0082Z4RY0/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_JAjSpb0CWB0AX

Latin@ New Media on the Rise

“Founded by some of the top Latino social media influencers in the US, Latino Rebels will use comedy, commentary, analysis, satire to explore the world of US Latino issues.”

-Latino Rebels facebook

In recent years New Media has been growing and with it has risen the visibility of Latino/a media.  One of the rising groups establishing its social media presence online is Latino Rebels. Self-identified “traviesos” Latino rebels are 20 media writers who have established a space for themselves on twitter, youtube, facebook and other media sites. With comedy and satire they publish news stories about anything from music to sports to politics. With Spanglish as their language of communication, Latino Rebels transmit news and also take its followers to their childhood and traditions with their “throw back” music posts and images.

News media like this is targeted towards the Latino/a audience in the US. Although there is existing media coverage in English or Spanish, groups like Latino Rebels are unique as they combine both cultures and produce less of a binary. It is” mixed” media that may be more attractive to those of us who grew up speaking Spanglish and listening to The Smiths while watching novelas.

Creating these kind of media is validating of a bi-cultural experience and a crucial statement as the second generation of Latin@ populations continue to grow. Many of the audience that falls under this category are high school and college age students. This age range is traditionally seen as having strong political power as they are the future of the economy and most are able to vote. Sharing important news stories to these groups becomes a vital source to create social consciousness.

Mosquita Y Mari: Abriendo Puertas

Mosquita y Mari is a feature length film by Queer Chicana filmmaker Aurora Guerrero. The film tells the story of two middle school aged Chicanas from Huntington Park, CA who grow feelings for each other as they endure difficult times at school and at home. The coming of age story is based on Guerrero’s experience with a friend when she was thirteen-years-old. The film is set in the Southeast LA neighborhood of Huntington Park and encompasses many bicultural components such as a bilingual soundtrack and narrative.

The plot breaks boundaries as it contains issues of gender and sexuality which are issues that are often taboo for many Latina/o families. This is the first motion picture to represent an intimate emotional and sexual experience between two Latina teens. Guerrero’s location of choice, Huntington Park, makes a refreshing appearance as neighborhoods in Southeast LA are rarely seen on camera and are often over shadowed by ethnic neighborhoods like Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles. One of Guerrero’s goals was to make her project as community oriented as possible, this included casting actors of the area. Her choice of music: ska, Latino pop, and rock en español, gives the story the unique feel of what it is to grow up in a Latino/a community within Los Angeles.

In mid 2011 prior to the release of the film, Guerrero spoke at a Chicana/Latina feminist conference in Cal State Long Beach organized by Concienca Femenil, a chicana/latina identified organization on campus. As a panelist for the conference, she spoke of her film’s storyline and characters. She talked about the financial difficulties faced by independent filmmakers like herself and shared that she had to make many difficult budgeting decisions like using Los Angeles as an alternate setting to her original vision of using her hometown,  San Francisco, as it was a less expensive setting. Her main economic support for the film was kickstarter, an online fund raising tool in which people can help fund different independent  projects . Her audience was a group of perdominantly Chicana/Latina college students who were eager to help out and spread the word about the project. In an interview with NPR Guerrero speaks of the support she had received during the fundraiser, “I mean it was just … wild,” Guerrero says. “People were Facebooking, tweeting … everyone was rooting for Mosquita y Mari to make it.”

Since then the film has appeared at the San Diego Latino Film Festival and most notably at the Sundance Film Festival. Guerrero has shown her gratitude for the city of Huntington Park, California by holding an exclusive film screening at the Edward’s theatre in South Gate, a neighboring community.

Film’s like Mosquita y Mari are opening the doors for more representative subjects in the Latina/Chicana community. Despite financial issues, Guerrero proves that it can be done with the help of a community that seeks to see stories and experiences like theirs on screen

Mosquita y Mari is the first Chicana film to go to Sundance.

Alma Lopez y su Virgen

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Born in Mexico and raised in East Los Angeles, Alma Lopez had the Latina/o community in controversy with her photo based collage named “Our Lady”. There has been so much dispute about the meaning of the piece that the Catholic Church even attempted censoring it.

Lopez, the central figure, stands proudly, showing various parts of her body, only her chest and crotch are covered by flowers. Her veil resembles that of La Virgen de Guadalupe’s but instead is decorated with the image of Coyolxauhqui, an Aztec goddess often associated with the Chicana movement. The angel at the bottom is another woman depicted with her bare chest.

The controversy is no surprise. Often seeing women as submissive and as people without sexualities, this piece defies the traditional Latino/a image because it depicts a female as confident and unashamed.  She stands half naked and is proud of her body. It is almost a sense of liberation, a statement of identity where this female is no longer conforming to the traditional roles she has been taught, but challenging them.

Coming from a Mexican background and being culturally Catholic, I must admit that parts of this piece make me uncomfortable. The image projects La Virgen in a sexually empowered manner in which I would never have imagined her before. Lopez, as stated before, stands as a confident woman unashamed of her body which brings up many questions regarding my personal relationship with body image and its meaning  in a euro-centric society.  However, the feeling of uncomfort can be a good thing, a sign of socially constructed images and meanings being deconstructed.

Lopez powerfully comments on culture, while bringing into center stage identities, such as gender and sexuality, that are usually sub-narratives.