Things That Matter

One Of The Major Artists In The Chicano Art Movement Has Died At 75

m4martinez / raysantisteban / Instagram

On May 29, René Yañez, a man instrumental in shaping and cultivating the Chicano art scene in the Bay Area, died from prostate and bone cancer at age 75. Yañez, an artist, curator and social justice activist was the co-founder of Galería De La Raza and the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. Yañez has been curating the beloved SOMArts’ annual Dia de Los Muertos group art show in the Mission District for years. However, he was one of the first curators that presented arts shows centered around Day of the Dead in the U.S. back in the early ’70s. Yañez was also Director of Special Projects and Building Manager at SOMArts.

Rio Yañez, René’s son, posted the news of his death on Facebook and wrote that he had been preparing for this exact moment for the past four years.

Hi Everyone, my Dad passed away this morning about an hour ago. He was surrounded by people who loved him and having…

Posted by Rio Yañez on Tuesday, May 29, 2018

“Rene is my Father, my creative partner, and my best friend,” Rio writes. “I miss him so much already. These last two weeks have been the hardest of my life but I’ve had a partner and extended family that have taken such great care me. I may be grieving but please know I that feel incredibly loved and supported right now.”

René had been working until the very end. In March, he presented his retrospective exhibition titled “Into The Fade.”

René put on his retrospective all the while receiving weekly infusions of chemotherapy or blood, according to Mission Local.

“The artist, who has lived in the Mission District for most of his adult life, said that when he told his doctor earlier this year that he was thinking of doing a show in the fall, ‘the doctor told me, ‘You’d better do it sooner.’ So I’m doing it sooner.’ He laughed at the thought that he might beat his prognosis. ‘I’m playing this out.'”

His last show included one of his most known works titled “The Great Tortilla Conspiracy” which featured the face of Emma Gonzalez.

The concept behind “The Great Tortilla Conspiracy” is that it brings “the gospel of tortilla art” to the masses.

People took to social media to remember René and all that he contributed to the art scene, social justice movements and to their lives.

According to an interview in Mission Local, René was born in Tijuana and migrated with his family to San Diego.

René’s family has requested that SOMArts establish a memorial fund in his honor. All proceeds from this fund will be dedicated entirely to continuing René’s legacy of hospitality, beauty and creativity in SOMArts’ garden. Help us honor René by contributing to the memorial fund. We were truly blessed to work with such an incredible mentor, artist and friend for so many years. SOMArts will host a community memorial for René in the coming weeks.

Rene’s coworker at the Somarts Cultural Center said: “You bless all you know and meet by sharing your talents and humor.”

I had the privilege of working with Rene Yanez for over 16 years at SomArts Cultural Center. I miss sharing an office…

Posted by Mary Molly Mullaney on Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Rene was also a military veteran having served in a medical unit during the Vietnam War.

René is remembered as “El Padrino de la Mison.”

Grammy nominated emcee, DJ, actor, Wonway said that Rene inspired him.

“Que viva René Yáñez!”

Alicia Cruz, has worked with Rene for several years for the Day of the Dead exhibition and said that he took a chance on her and her altar vision.

 “He nurtured my evolution as an artist.”

CREDIT: Instagram/@mexichicastyle

“He was a gentle soul, very personable, lots of humor, he was a guide,” Cruz described Rene.

She says he also inspired her activism.

“He was my social media,” Cruz said. “He would tell me when there would be a march and say ‘you should join us.'”

Adding that “He’s the glue, he’s the heart of the SOMarts.”

An altar has been placed in front of the SOMArts Cultural Center in his honor.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Alicia Cruz

René was once asked what advice he would give to young artist, which he responded with: “Do what you like and be passionate about it, because you can’t be mediocre and be successful at it. Try to be as diverse in your skills, from computers, theater, performance, set design — all different aspects — because if you can’t get one thing, something else will come out.”


READ: This New Exhibit Shows The Incredible Evolution Of Lowrider Culture

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The Statue Of Liberty Gets Arrested By ICE In A New Las Vegas Mural That Speaks To Our Inhumane Immigration Policies

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The Statue Of Liberty Gets Arrested By ICE In A New Las Vegas Mural That Speaks To Our Inhumane Immigration Policies

A mural showing the Statue of Liberty being handcuffed by immigration enforcement officers has been unveiled in Las Vegas, amid rancour and anger over Donald Trump’sharsh immigration policies.

The mural, titled “Chained Migration,” was unveiled late last month in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Mural by Izaac Zevalking / Photo by Jesse Hudson

Since then, it has caused a lot of dialogue between those who support it and those who don’t. 

The mural is a 20×50 art installation that depicts the Statue of Liberty handcuffed and bet over the hood of an ICE patrol car. It was created by Izaac Zevalking, also known as Recycled Propaganda, a political artist that aims to create art influenced by history and current events. Zevalking himself is an immigrant from the UK. Zevalking is using the Statue of Liberty, who is considered a beacon of hope for immigrants, to demonstrate how the harmful rhetoric used against them is harming the American Dream.

In an interview with KTNV Las Vegas, Zevalking explains that the goal of the mural is to create a conversation about immigration in the United States. “I want people just to think about the issue. Wherever that thought leaves you. Wherever that conversation with someone else leaves you. I think it needs to be discussed more in human terms.”

Although some came to the internet to praise Zevalking for his mural, others were quick to disagree with his artwork. 

This Twitter user used the infamous MS13 gang as her reasoning for this mural being shameful. Her comment imitates the language that Trump uses in his statements referring to those who migrate into the United States. She plays into the stereotype that all people who are immigrating to the U.S are dangerous gang members. 

Some on Twitter were quick to claim they’d happily paint it over.

In the replies, a Twitter user suggested they paint over the mural in protest. 

However, Recycled Propaganda clapped back, suggesting that if it gets painted over they keep on bringing it back.

The art piece could not have been more timely given the recent comments made by Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

After being asked in an interview with NPR if the words of Emma Lazarus are part of the American ethos, Cuccinelli replied, adding a line to the poem, “They certainly are – give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.” 

The original reads as, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

Recently, the Trump administration decided to make it more difficult for immigrants to obtain a Green Card if they receive government aid, such as food stamps or Medicaid. Cuccinelli is a big defender of this policy, so it is not surprising that these comments about Lazarus’ sonnet were made. 

When immigrants are being discussed in politics, it is usually done so in ways that strips them of their humanity.

When folks migrate to the United States, it is often done so out of desperation and necessity. Immigrants come with nothing but a backpack filled with the essentials. They come to work low-paying jobs and because of their status, it is difficult for them to get the assistance they need for issues like healthcare and food assistance. To ask immigrants to come to the United States and to be self-sufficient only treat them with very little dignity is unfair.

When describing this policy, Cuccinelli uses words like a burden when describing immigrants who need public assistance. After his initial remarks about the poem, Cuccinelli said on CNN that the poem was originally referring to Europeans who migrated to the United States. 

The artist, who is an immigrant from the UK points out that America is a very different place for white immigrants.

KTNV Channel 13 Las Vegas / YouTube

“I personally wasn’t born in America. I was born in the UK and I don’t ever feel attacked as an immigrant and I think that’s cause my skin is white,” Zevalking says. 

There is a stark difference between the ways European immigrants and Latin American immigrants are treated in the United States and Zevalking is tapping into that notion with his mural, “Chained Migration.” He is acknowledging his privilege as a European immigrant and using it to shed light on how criminalizing it is for non-white immigrants living in the United States.

This New Border Wall Mural Features QR Codes That You Can Scan To Hear Emotional Stories Of Deported Migrants

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This New Border Wall Mural Features QR Codes That You Can Scan To Hear Emotional Stories Of Deported Migrants

pdtmuralproject / Instagram

Deportation is a reality that many people living in the United States face in some way or another. It is an unfortunate consequence of immigration and the policies that are currently in place.

Lizbeth De La Cruz Santana aims to shed light on those who migrate into the United States as children and are deported as Adults.

De La Cruz Santana is a Mellon Public Scholars Fellow and is a UC Davis Ph.D candidate. Her project titled, “Who Are the Real Childhood Arrivals to the United States?” is influenced by her family. Both of her parents immigrated to the United States and were later granted permanent residency.

The mural is located at Playas de Tijuana, where her father crossed in order to enter the United States, and took a total of 9 days to complete. It focuses on the stories of 6 different people who came into the United States as children, some of which were deported later in life or are currently at risk of deportation.

The people represented in the mural are Karla Estrada, Monserrat Godoy, Jairo Lozano, Isaac Rivera, Andy de León, and Tania Mendoza.

CREDIT: Credit: pdtmuralproject / Instagram

Estrada and Lozano are DACA Recipients. Lozano’s first experiences working was in the fields with his family. During the summer, he continued working because he was not eligible for financial aid or loans. He went on to receive his Bachelors in Sociology and his Masters in Marriage and Family therapy.

Godoy and Mendoza are DREAMer Moms. Both Godoy and Mendoza are strong mothers who want to see their children more than anything. After living in the U.S for some time, Godoy was threatened and ordered by her husband to go back to Mexico. She took her 2 daughters with her because she feared for her life, but they struggled in the Mexican education system. The father of the two girls successfully arranged to have them brought to him in the U.S, but he denies Godoy the right to see them. Similarly, Mendoza has not seen her daughter in years after getting deported due to her daughter’s father not wanting to give her custody rights.

Rivera is a Repatriated Childhood arrival who came into the United States at the age of 6. He was then deported after being stopped at a border checkpoint in Temecula, California.

De León is a U.S Veteran and a Repatriated Permanent Resident. He lived in the United States for more than 50 years until he was deported after his green card was revoked. He is a senior citizen who has lived in United States his whole life and struggles to live in Tijuana.

Each face that is painted is accompanied by a QR Code to engage the viewer and allow for them to interact with the mural.

CREDIT: Credit: pdtmuralproject / Instagram

It’s easy to passively watch art, but the QR codes allows these murals to come to life and tell their story without being interrupted or  without fear. Viewers can learn more about the stories behind the faces first-hand and admire the mural at the same time.

The goal of the mural is to create awareness for undocumented folks living in the United States and to obtain legal help for the individuals showcased.

The project was personal for most of the people who worked on the mural with De La Cruz Santana. For instance, Mauro Carrera and Robert Vivar.

CREDIT: Credit: pdtmuralproject / Instagram

Carrera is the muralist who brought the De La Cruz Santana’s idea to life. For him, the project has been filled with emotions because he was just a child when he came to live in the United States. He was born in Veracruz, Mexico and migrated with his family when he was 4 years old.

Vivar, who has born in 1956, immigrated with his family from Tijuana, Mexico to Riverside, CA in 1962. He grew up in the United States, his experiences shaping his childhood and adolescence. He held a variety of jobs in California, got married, and started a family. However, he eventually got deported after ICE came to his home. Vivar has lived away from his family and the country he has ever known since 2011. In a video that is part of the Humanizing Deportation project , Vivar recounts his life and says, “[I am] Proud to have been born in Mexico, but I am also a proud American because the United States is where I grew. It is my home and no deportation and no government will take that from my heart.”

The mural emphasizes the fact that the stories we hear about immigrants are not all the same. Every immigrant has a story that deserves to be told and shared.

If you would like to visit the mural, it is located in Playas De Tijuana