Words by Josue Ramirez
Edited by Abigail Vela
Art and cultural productions have been integral for the City of Brownsville officials to introduce and normalize astro-capitalist values in the municipality. Art celebrating the idea of New Space City Brownsville is applauded, while anything critical of Musk, his foundation, and his company is cast aside or not given the same platform. Despite this, many artists have voiced their concerns and thoughts through their work and creative productions since Brownsville rolled the red carpet for SpaceX. Until recently, however, the many dissident artistic voices have not had a space to be viewed collectively.
Nuestra Delta Magica: Settler Imaginaries & Community Resistance is a two-month-long exhibition curated by Monica Sosa and Nansi Guevara that will “investigate untold South Texas history of land settlement, addressing racial and environmental injustices happening in the Rio Grande Valley.”
Sosa says it is an example of the narratives that local artists can create and put together, given the resources. In addition, the exhibition is one of the first to directly counter and speak against the encroachment of the astro giant. In comparison, exhibitions that support and carry a pro-SpaceX message have had multiple viewings in the city and have even been featured at the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art.
Contra Corrientes y Narrativas
Opening in the heart of downtown, the exhibition is in the shadow of the BTX Mural, which can be seen from the door of the come dream. come build.’s office space.
This exhibition is bilingual with English and Spanish labels and organized into three sections: “Settler Imaginaries,” “Community Resistance’ and “La Delta Mágica.” These overarching themes examine the historical and modern impact of land exploitation and environmental challenges in South Texas.
Sosa, the co-curator, sees the exhibition as “an action and an opportunity to open up discussion with locals, with people who may be interested in coming into this space and aren’t fully aware this is an opportunity to learn together and share truth.” Archival images, articles, and academic writings will be on display to demonstrate the history of the region and the early 20th-century “colonizer gaze of the borderlands.”
As a counter, the section Community Resistance highlights the work of six border artists creating work in response to environmental colonization. Featured artists include myself (Josue Ramirez), Anel Flores, Futuro Conjunto, ENTRE, Tony Briones, and Xandra Treviño.
ENTRE, a community archive and film center, will contribute a self-service oral history recording station for visitors to record their Boca Chica Beach stories and memories. In addition, they will exhibit a short experimental film of Boca Chica. The film includes “field recordings and film eco-processed using water from the area where the mouth of the Rio Grande empties into the Gulf of Mexico, native plants, sand, and seashells.”
Futuro Conjunto, a multimedia collaboration between Jonathan Leal and Charlie Vela, imagines what is now the Rio Grande Valley in the distant future. The project is a collaboration between the creators and over 30 local creatives who provided artistic and voice talent. A full-length album is part of the offering, but the project is vast and a world unto itself— A not-so-far flung take on the Rio Grande Valley and an extension of Chicanx futurism.
For Guevara, many of the works in the exhibition are futurist. However, compared to the Aztec-centered iconography and utopian visions of what some think of when the term Chicanx futurist is mentioned, these pieces do not idealize space or technology but react to their imposition.
At the heart of the exhibition is to affirm the beauty, abundance, intergenerational history, and what Guevara calls “hard history.” The last section, La Delta Mágica, is a collective response to the exhibit and the emotions and memories it evokes.
Nuestra Delta Magica: Settler Imaginaries & Community Resistance is an opportunity to examine previous misconceptions, question harmful border narratives, and activate a space for community members to collectively craft, define, and redefine our own identities as fronteriza/o/xs.
The exhibit will be on view from April 1 to June 1, 2023, and is free and open to the public.