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