Desde la Frontera: Border Representation in Soy de Tejas

Words by Josue Ramirez

In September 2022, Hispanic Texans were projected to have passed the threshold to be the state’s largest demographic group. The transition not only points to a change in the population but to future shifts in the state’s culture, as the majority of the demographic increase comes from Hispanic children under 18. 

 

Identity, as a construct, is developed, understood, accepted/countered at different paces. Perhaps this is the reason the term Latinx (or anything X related for that matter) is still triggering for many Chicanos and self-ascribed Hispanics. However, that is not necessarily the case for the younger wave of Texans.

 

It seems fitting that at this key point in the state’s history, there is a re-examination of what the contemporary lives of Texans of Latin American descent look like and encompass. Curator Rigoberto Luna takes on that tremendous task in the exhibition Soy de Tejas: A Statewide Survey of Latinx Art, opening on February 9th at the Centro de Artes in San Antonio.
 

Soy de Tejas showcases over 100 works of art by forty native Texan and Texas-based contemporary artists. Each reflects “the diverse and beautiful complexity of Latinx identities.” According to Luna, the exhibition explores themes ranging from race, class, and gender to migration, mythmaking, displacement, and indigeneity. “Many works center on celebrating joyful customs, culture, and traditions that unite and sustain our communities in the face of a multitude of challenges.”

 

Desde la Frontera

A statewide Latinx exhibition would not be complete without representation from the frontera and its unique set of issues. Fourteen of the selected artists come from the US Texas border cities like El Paso, Laredo, McAllen, and Brownsville (Puro 956 Cuh!). The Frontera artists included are Cande Aguilar, Angel Cabrales, Karla Garcia, Ingrid Levya, Alejandro Macias, Juan de Dios Mora,  Marianna T. Olague, Joe Peña, Vick Quesada, Josue Ramirez, Natalia Rocafuerte, Gil Rocha, Marco Sanchez, and Jose Villalobos. Let’s learn more about some of these border artists:

Multimedia installation by Natalia Rocafuerte

Natalia Rocafuerte (Brownsville, Texas) is a video artist exploring her dreams through installations, films, and print. Rocafuerte’s studio practice explores using technology as mediums of psychological reflections, immigration, duality, and borders. She grew up on both sides of the Rio Grande Border in Tamaulipas and Texas and became a naturalized US citizen in 2019. Her latest installation Dream Hotline exhibited at the Ivester Contemporary. Rocafuerte is a Master of Fine Arts graduate from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor & Rackham Fellow. She is a founding member of the RGV’s Miraaa Media Fest.

Artist Natalia Rocafuerte in her studio.

Gil Rocha (Laredo, Texas) was born and raised in Laredo, Texas. His multimedia work is cheeky, rasquache and uplifts working-class ideas into the contemporary art world. Some of the topics covered in his work include the transnational experience and commercial culture. Rocha is also a curator, his latest project “The Other Border Wall Project” was exhibited at 937 Gallery in Pittsburgh and the Laredo Center for the Arts. He is an art instructor at The Vidal M. Treviño School of Communication and Fine Arts and an active member of the Laredo arts community.

The Silence of Border, Mint Found Objects 1.5 X 1.5 X 3 by Gil Rocha
Artist Gil Rocha in his studio. Image from Gil Rocha.

 Picture from the Mexican Shoppers series by Ingrid Levya

Ingrid Leyva (El Paso, Texas) grew up between Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua and El Paso, Texas. As a transborder artist, she developed her portraiture “to explore her own identity and the one of the world around her.” She is a photographer through family tradition, having been introduced to the art form by her grandfather. Levya studied at the Escuela Activa de Fotografia in Mexico City and has an associate in arts from El Paso Community College. Her work was part of the 5th Transborder Biennial and is part of the permanent collection at El Paso Museum of Art.

Artist Ingrid Levya in her series “Levya Sister” image by Ingrid Levya

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