A street any of Los Angeles in 2010: people leaving the stores, cars stopped at the red light. And suddenly, a group of tanned leather mustaches, rifles on their shoulders and belts of bullets cross the street mounted on horseback as the army of Pancho Villa.
The effect of estrangement that the video installation of a museum in the Mexican capital seeks is similar to the one that Tania Román noticed, 32 years old, in the eyes of her American friends when she lived in a Californian suburb with her family. "The Chicanos were seen as people who worked in the fields, who were there just for that. I do not know if they looked at them as less, but as different. Even for me, who am Mexican, they were different, "she recalled this Tuesday sitting in a class at a Chicano literature workshop.
On the blackboard there is a fragment of the book they are studying: "We are invisible in a city guided by glitter, big screens and big names. In all this glamor do not fit our names, our faces. The motto "this is not your country" resonates throughout our lives. "
An exhibition and a workshop. Building bridges Chicano art from Los Angeles to Mexico City; Y Chicano and border literature from here or there? housed in two prestigious private and public institutions, have coincided without premeditation this autumn among the wide cultural offer of the Mexican capital, pointing to an anguish and a desire on both sides of the border.
"Since the arrival of Trump, the Mexican government seems to be paying more attention to the problems of our community in the US, but we have been dealing with this for decades. You have to find a way to establish links between Mexico and us, create a long-term structure, "defends by phone Cástulo de la Rocha, lawyer, businessman and collector of art in the United States, son of braceros chihuahuenses – the massive wave of Mexican farmers in the 40's – who has yielded most of the 70 pieces of the sample of the Carrillo Gil Art Museum, organized with the support of the Ministry of Culture and the University of California.
Trump's xenophobic aggressiveness has transcended verbal attacks. During the first semester of the year, the Republican administration deported 109,296 Mexican citizens, 42% more than the same period of the previous year. The sample of Carrillo Gil is the first exhibition on Chicano art that houses the Mexican capital in 14 years.
For the public center that gives the workshop, it is also his first time with Chicano literature. "Apart from the strictly academic field, there is not much space for these disciplines. We are making an effort to attend expressions that are not within the canon, "explains Alberto Rodríguez, director of the Xavier Villaurrutia Literary Creation Center.
Out of the canon. Physically outside of Mexico and symbolically also outside the United States. In the margin, stuck in a border identity. "Through generations and generations, the Chicano refers more to a sum of identities. They are not Mexican but in the US they do not feel American either, "explains Paula Duarte, director of Carrillo Gil.
The tension inside-out appears in the repetition of the motive of the house during the sample. The rigid and symmetrical oil prints of Salomón Huerta, or the rear gardens retailers with cactus and agaves to Ana Serrano's pastel. "Inside," adds the museum director– It is the Mexican trail, the family, the food, the traditional festivities. Outside, the diaspora, the alienation, the loss, the violence, the idioms ".
Conflict on both sides. Already from the pachuchos, the first subculture of Mexican migrants in the 40s, frictions began. "They rebelled against the puritanical morality of their families. And at the same time they clashed against the American military enlistment during the Second World War ", explains the political scientist and translator María Cristina Hall, professor of the literary workshop. The oil of Frank Romero The closing of Whittier Boulevard, bright colors, expressionist stroke, is a testimony of one of these legendary clashes: in 1979 the police Angelina came to cut entire streets to avoid the races of Low riders, old cars retouched to stylize them to the fullest.
The emergence of Chicano art caught on in the 1960s, in the heat of the civil rights movements of the black community and the protests over the Vietnam War. The mural of eight by three meters that opens one of the rooms of the exhibition gives an account of the origins. Billed in 1994 by Los Four, one of the seminal collectives, it is a tribute to graffiti, but also to the tradition of Mexican muralism. "They start from there – adds the director of the museum– but there is also a strong desire to overcome the cliché of popular or underground art and advance in all the languages of contemporary art: installation, performance, video art, etc. " The market price of the works of the most consolidated authors exceeds 70,000 dollars.
The longing for roots, the connection with the past, even pre-Hispanic, is another of the Chicano cultural constants. In the book they study in the workshop, Always running The crazy life: gang in L.A. (1993) by Luis J. Rodriguez, an initiation novel about a cholo making his way through the jungle of bands with a heart beat and Spanglish –in the neighborhood, the chavas, with sangra, some gloves, don't go prieto– There is a passage where the protagonist is infected with fungi on his feet for his work as a car cleaner. The doctors are not able to cure him and go to his uncle Kiko, who treats him with ritual ointments and songs.
"There is a kind of magic that makes me feel special, that makes me look at my mother and my uncle of Indian descent and believe in power a civilization long despised, trampled and humiliated. Jesus Christ was a dark man. A Mexican Indian. A healer. "