When I wake up in the morning, I always reach for my phone. The best mornings start with cumbias in the background. I put on my favorite mix, and throw on a shirt, made by the homies from the IYC. I text my friend Paula, and we chat about upcoming shows and concerts, we talk about ideas for our community, and as my eyes travel across the art on my walls, I sigh. My mornings and days are shaped by the labor and creativity of undocumented people.
I recently had the amazing opportunity to chat with some of the undocumented artists that create the pieces that influence my daily life, as well as the lives of many. These artists create pieces that move you and make you uncomfortable, that make you smile, and make you question the state of impermanence placed on our bodies. Their stories are of resilience, and of the unstoppable force that is nuestra comunidad, our community.
“I use painting to communicate what I feel strongly about, most organizing is enacted through words but images come to me more naturally than sentences, so I create visually.
English as a second language has helped influenced that, I’ve used art since middle school to flush out the things that poison my body and mind.”
Myisha’s art is deeply personal, but at the same time challenges us to connect a part of ourselves to her art, through her pain and her explicit critiques of the border imperialistic system of the United States of America, and all borders, period. Her painting “Frontera Turbia (FTP)”, influenced by a Guatemalan family, whom she met while fighting their deportation in the San Fernando Valley, portrays “the irony of being attacked by the same agencies that governments claim to have put in place to protect us”. This family had looked for asylum as a result of being violently targeted by organized crime, all which resonated with Myisha’s own personal story (Myisha’s family left Mexico City, because of the lack of protection that the Mexican government provided for them).
“Countering this violence fuels the work of the IYC (Immigrant Youth Coalition) and my paintings are as inspired by my personal struggles as it is by the resistance from the IYC.
To support Myisha’s work, you can look her up at myishaarellanus.com
To support the Immigrant Youth Coalition, you can reach them at theiyc.org
Zacil Pech (DJ Sizzle)
“I am a Dj by craft. Music is my passion, my escape, my release, my first love. I create mixes infused with the cultura I was lucky enough to inherit to make people dance, cry, sing, or if for a few minutes escape into nostalgic bliss. I create because it makes me happy. I create because it make others happy. In this fucked up society, sometimes that is all we need.”
Zacil’s mixes are fire, because of the different ways that she bridges many cultures and sounds and moods into the room, she attributes this to her family’s own diverse tastes: “My mom would play all of her Spanish records full blast ranging from Selena, La Sonora Dinamita, Aniceto Molina, Celso Pina, Paquita, Los Panchos, Emanuel, Amanda Miguel, Marisela, you name it, she had it. My dad on the other hand had his choice of music as well, which included a lot of classical music to corridos to english and spanish rock. My music selection carries the best of both worlds. Being raised in Boyle Heights, CA, with deep Mexican roots, I can drop any track ranging from old school Hip-Hop and R&B to another track ranging to Cumbia or Salsa. This way, I pay homage to my dual cultural upbringing. I pay my parents, my brother, my tias, my friends and neighbors who introduced me to the music they listened to. “
You can check out Dj Sizzle’s mixes on Soundcloud.
“Music doesn’t criticize me or make me feel ashamed for being undocumented. It’s something I can feel proud of in achieving when I don’t have many privileges in advancing elsewhere, it gives me a platform where I can speak up about things that are important to me. If I see myself being represented, I’m more likely to feel like I belong there. So I put myself out there and hope to encourage others to do the same in all that they create.”
Paula is well known in the Salt Lake City and Provo scene, not just as a musician, but as a visual artist whose paintings express a linear perspective to a chaotic arrangement of themes ranging from heartbreak, panic, and the diaspora of being an undocumented immigrant. Her favorite medium, however, continues to be music. “I’m currently in two bands – Peach Dream and Batty Blue – where I can express myself with confidence. Another important reason I create music is to show the crowds that punk music (or any genre) doesn’t only come from all-male bands. I don’t see many punk bands around Utah fronted by non-dudes so it’s exciting to know that I am part of a change.” When confronted by listeners trying to label her bands as “all female”, Paula is quick to correct people with the statement: My gender is punk, therefore we are a PUNK band!!
Guadalupe Yolteotl Valtierra-Prieto
“I create art to help me connect with my spirituality, I use it as a bridge to indigenous wisdom.
After the conquista of Mexico our magic had to be hidden and encoded (in order) for us to remain safe; our native language, sacred text, and potent rituals were taken from us, but our spirit retained our wisdom, and they took nothing from us. It was like cutting a tree but not the roots.”
Guadalupe’s art is all about the resilience of our ancestors through our blood, our bones, our flesh, and the fact that we have survived through it all in ritual. “I use my menstrual blood to create to make a potent statement. I exist even though you have torn my people apart. I have access to that which you think you destroyed. Creating with my blood transports me into ritual space with my ancestors. It is not about the actual images; instead it is the act of creating itself. Surrendering to the creative process. I leave room for magic and symbols and lines to appear that my mind might not be able to grasp; but my soul will instantly resonate with.”
You can find her art on Facebook .
“I see myself as a creator, I had no other choice but to write, produce, direct, and act. I wanted to create something different, something that showed what our people represented. My main goal when I first started writing these episodes, is for people to feel reflected. Our actors are undocumented, they’re people of color, they’re Queer, they’re Trans. I wanna bring all of our people together, I want to show what the mainstream media isn’t showing, which is our real stories”
Armando’s art is in storytelling, in capturing the stories of our communities with both candor and relief. “The entertainment industry has never shown people like me, like us, when are you going to see a series in which the lead actor is queer undocumented and Latinx? It’s important for us to show people that this is for them, I want people to feel that this is for them. The entertainment industry is so structured and so white, they don’t want to produce projects like these. I grew up watching “Friends”, and I loved that show, but I’m never going to be like them, that’s never going to be my life. I need, we need, shows that represent us.”
Adriana E. Ortiz-Carmona
“My paintings are a narrative of living with and loving my undocuqueerness, navigating life as a vegan of color, sharing my experiences with self-harm, all while creating a balance of pain/trauma and celebration/self-love. Creating is both my tool for empowerment and my weapon for dismantling my battles with self-esteem and self-love.”
Adriana’s art is nostalgic and painful, but also bold and vibrant. Through her pieces, you can see her experience and her own coming to terms with life as an undocumented and queer artist.“Through my art, I also try to really think about what terms like “undocumented” and “illegal alien” mean to me. I migrated into the country at a very young age of 1 ½ months old, so I don’t have memories of crossing the border or even living in Mexico. Despite not having any memory of life in Mexico, I think about my feelings of loss, confusion, yearning, gratitude, and fear when I think about my life as undocumented for my whole existence. My art makes me think about how I feel like an “alien” in this country, as I would in Mexico.”
“As an immigrant you find different ways, creative ways, to get things done. I never thought of it as a career, it’s just something I had to do. I had to make art, it was a necessity.”
Julio’s art is messy and colorful, it speaks of sex and tragedy and sadness and happiness all at once. When I spoke with Julio about the means of producing such a mixture of emotions, he reminded me that as artists we must push ourselves to create, just like we hustle to make ends meet, we must hustle for our art. “Do what you gotta do to make art, find a way to create; if you wanna be a writer, you gotta read, go to the library, start your own blog. In order to re-own art history, you gotta make art.”
To buy Julio’s artwork visit juliosalgadoart.bigcartel.com and make sure to follow the hilarious web series Osito, created by Julio and Jesús Iñiguez from the team at Dreamers Adrift. You can find all of the episodes and other amazing undocuart on their website: http://dreamersadrift.com/