Month: March 2014

Francisco Martinez with United Farm Workers of America

During the 11th Annual Cesar Chavez March that took place in San Juan Texas, I met Francisco Martinez. He wore a United Farm Workers red shirt covered with Cesar Chavez pins. One pin reads “Until the Ink is Dry on the Contracts, Don’t buy grapes & Gallo.” It makes reference to the boycotts that were proposed by farm workers as a way to promote solidarity with their cause.

As a young man, Francisco marched with Cesar Chavez in California. On the same shirt covered with pins, he wore a badge that mentions the 1st Constitutional Convention that took place on September of 1973 in Fresno, California.

As a veteran of United Farm Workers, he recalls that the color blue should never be worn or used by sympathizers of the workers’ cause while participating in their events. “Never use it in a flag or in a shirt that has the symbol of the Union” he said. The reason for this is that people who opposed the workers’ cause would wear blue colored clothing during workers’ demonstrations.

Francisco Martinez Farm Worker

Francisco Martinez with UFW at the 11th Annual Cesar Chavez March in San Juan, Texas. March 29, 2014.

Francisco Martinez Farm Worker

Francisco Martinez with UFW at the 11th Annual Cesar Chavez March in San Juan, Texas. March 29, 2014.

Francisco Martinez Farm Worker

Francisco Martinez with UFW at the 11th Annual Cesar Chavez March in San Juan, Texas. March 29, 2014.

Erika Said at Hemisfair Park in San Antonio Texas

I set up a meeting with Erika Said in San Antonio’s Hemisfair Park to talk about her poetry and her cultural background. I first met her at South Texas College Pecan Campus in McAllen while she was covering an art exhibition for a newspaper story.

Erika is from Cuidad Madero Tamaulipas, Mexico. As a first generation Mexican American living in Texas, she hangs out with people from Latin America and Mexico, which makes her feel culturally at home.

Erika mentioned that she didn’t like the idea of mixing English with Spanish at first. However, that has slowly changed. As she spends more time in Texas she finds it interesting that both languages merge. Such phenomenon of mixing both languages has become part of her life in Texas.

I asked Erika, what she thinks about the term Mexican American. She replied that what comes to mind is people of Mexican descent who were born in the United States. In other words, second generation Mexican Americans. However, she was quick to admit that it’s a fine line. The definition of who is Mexican American can be a matter of debate.

Erika is well traveled when it comes to the Texas-Mexico border. She lived in Cuidad Juarez, Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley. She is inspired by border culture, music, and contemporary 21st century gadget terms. Hence, the title of her book, iPoems, which is mostly written in Spanish but incorporates words in English. The book is filled with quotes from a variety of singers and music bands ranging from Daft Punk and Regina Spektor to David Bowie and Billie Holiday.

I look forward to reading iPoems.

Writer and poet Erika Said

Erika Said holding her published poems iPoems. Hemisfair Park, San Antonio, Texas. March 21, 2014.

Writer and poet Erika Said

Erika Said holding her published poems iPoems. Hemisfair Park, San Antonio, Texas. March 21, 2014.

Writer and poet Erika Said

Erika Said at Hemisfair Park, San Antonio, Texas. March 21, 2014.

Writer and poet Erika Said

Erika Said at Hemisfair Park, San Antonio, Texas. March 21, 2014.

Writer and poet Erika Said

Erika Said at Hemisfair Park, San Antonio, Texas. March 21, 2014.

Writer and poet Erika Said

Erika Said at Hemisfair Park, San Antonio, Texas. March 21, 2014.

Celerino “Cele” Castillo III Vietnam Veteran and Chicano artist

Celerino “Cele” Castillo III is a Vietnam veteran and Chicano artist. I met him at Art Studio by Design located on Main St in McAllen arts district. Inside the gallery, I found a small room reserved for Celerino’s drawings some of which deal with war but all feature Chicano themes.

Celerino told me that he wishes to educate people about Mexican-American cultura, a term that refers to culture. We talked about the word Chicano as a civil rights term with political connotations. He brought up symbols like the Pachucos, which refers to certain Mexicans living in the United States during the 1950s who carved a cultural identity of their own.

Maya and Aztec references are also present in Cele’s work. We see the indigenous pyramids of Mexico and the quetzal bird as references to a lost Pre-Columbian heritage.

I asked him if Mexican Americans are still exploring the symbols depicted in his drawings. He said that in places like California and San Antonio, Chicano symbols are more common than in the Rio Grande Valley. He attributed the lack of Chicano symbols to little emphasis put in Mexican American themes in the Valley.

Overall, I found this exhibition very interesting because it put me in direct contact with traditional Chicano topics. Some of the symbols addressed in Cele’s work are important because they have given Mexican Americans a cultural voice through the decades.

Artist and Vietname Veteran Celerino Castillo III

Artist and Vietnam Veteran Celerino “Cele” Castillo III at his Chicano Arte Exhibtion in McAllen’s art district. Mar 7, 2014

Artist and Vietname Veteran Celerino Castillo III

Artist and Vietnam Veteran Celerino “Cele” Castillo III at his Chicano Arte Exhibtion in McAllen’s art district. Mar 7, 2014