War Veterans

Lupe and Rosa Navarro celebrating on Easter Sunday in San Juan, Texas

On Easter Sunday I visited the San Juan Texas Municipal park and met Guadalupe Navarro and his wife Rosa. Guadalupe is a 66 year old Vietnam Veteran who goes by the name Lupe for short. He is originally from Cotulla, Texas, which is about 90 miles Southwest of San Antonio.

I asked him what the term Mexican American means to him. He replied that the term describes his identity. He said that he is neither Mexican nor hispanic, he is Mexican American, born in the United States with Mexican descent. He has not used the terms Latino or hispanic when filling out job applications. Instead, he has always selected the option “Other” and filled out the blank with “Mexican American.”

“For me the word Latino means nothing, the word Hispanic means nothing” he mentioned “I know I made a lot of people angry, that was me.”

Lupe Navarro in San Juan Texas

Lupe Navarro and his wife Rosa celebrating on Easter Sunday with family. San Juan, Texas. Photo from April 20, 2014.

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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