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.