Things That Matter

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

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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A San Francisco Mural Is Honoring An Undocumented Guatemalan Immigrant Who Was Unarmed And Killed By Police

Things That Matter

A San Francisco Mural Is Honoring An Undocumented Guatemalan Immigrant Who Was Unarmed And Killed By Police

cialuart / Instagram

The people of San Francisco have a lot of heart. Yes, the wealthy thrive there, and the homeless community continues to grow, but somewhere in the middle is an empowering group of fighters for justice. They do not back down but instead make their voices heard loud and clear. It’s a tight-knit alliance that is responsible for forcing change on all fronts of authority. San Franciscans are also incredibly beautiful at honoring fallen residents. 

Almost five years after 20-year-old Amilcar Perez-Lopez was gunned down by police in San Francisco, artists are honoring him with a massive mural in the Mission District.

Credit: crashgrammy / Instagram

The mural was designed and directed in community and collaboration by Carla Elana Wojczuk with, Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth (HOMEY), Justice4Amilcar Coalition, Mission community, Lucía González Ippolito, and assisted by Flavia Elisa Mora; Lead Muralists: Carla Elana Wojczuk, Lucía González Ippolito, Cristian Muńoz, Anna Lisa Escobedo, Adrianna Adams, Flavia Elisa Mora (painting and poetry), Pancho Pescador; lettering: Sonia G Molin. The mural is titled “Alto al Fuego en La Misón” and the most prominent subject on the mural is Perez-Lopez, the undocumented young man from Guatemala.

On Feb. 26, 2015, Perez-Lopez was fatally shot by the SFPD, who were in plainclothes in the Mission District. The officers reported that they “opened fire to protect themselves and others from a man who was acting erratically and was armed with a knife,” the SFGate reports. Witnesses told a different story. They said Perez-Lopez was running for his life, which is why he was shot in the back. 

The Perez-Lopez investigation went on for years, and in the end, the SFPD was never charged, but Police Chief Greg Suhr did resign from his post. However, it wasn’t just because of the pushback from the Perez-Lopez investigation but from multiple fatal shootings of unarmed people at the hands of the police. His parents eventually won a settlement from the SFPD

Aside from the artful depiction of Perez-Lopez, the mural also pays tribute to Black and brown people who have died as a result of police brutality as well as people who have died on the southern border.

Credit: amaya_papaya28 / Instagram

During the year in which he was killed, Perez-Lopez “was one of the 67 Latino people killed,” the Guardian reports. The publication adds that Perez-Lopez was also one of the 58 percent who was killed and unarmed. 

“‘Why didn’t you put in Jessica Williams?’ Or, ‘Why didn’t you put in this person?’ The truth of the matter is that we just didn’t have enough space,” Ippolito told the SFWeekly. “And I wish we could include a lot more.”

Ippolito said she and the rest of the mural team were confronted with the fact they didn’t have enough space to put every person that lost their life because of the SFPD. The mural is already one of the largest murals “to be painted in the Latino Cultural Corridor in a decade,” according to the local publication. 

“That was the hardest part,” Anna Lisa Escobedo, another artist on this project, said to SF Weekly. “From the community, a lot of people were saying, ‘We are missing this person, this person, this person.’ We could do five more murals and focus on people who had the same circumstances, and that is sad.”

This isn’t the first artwork that has honored Perez-Lopez.

Credit: msmichellemeow / Instagram

His painted portrait was seen throughout the streets of San Francisco when residents demanded justice in his death. A couple of months after he was killed, artist YESCKA painted a mural that included Perez-Lopez. The mural was painted on the sidewall of the gallery Red Poppy Art House, which is located just blocks two from where Perez-Lopez was shot and killed. 

The mural by Ippolito is pretty remarkable because of its use of bright colors, and the inclusion of Mexican motifs, both the Guatemalan and San Francisco landscape, and Perez-Lopez in his signature Giants baseball cap. But the mural is also representative of an altar of sorts. Perez-Lopez is pictured inside an altar, and the rest of the people that are honored in the painting are seen on prayer candles. 

The other deceased individuals on the mural include Roxana Hernandez, Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, and Oscar and Valeria Martinez, who died either on the southern border or in ICE custody. 

Credit: cialuart / Instagram

This mural is a perfect addition to the many outstanding paintings that the city of San Francisco has to offer. 

One of my favorite things to do when I am back in the Mission is to go on a walking tour to gaze at the stunning murals that depict the people of San Francisco, but also the history of our community.  

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

These Historic Moments Defined Life For US Latinos In The US During The Last Decade

Things That Matter

These Historic Moments Defined Life For US Latinos In The US During The Last Decade

@DanielAlvarenga / @RepAOC / Twitter

The 2010s have been a tumultuous decade for Latinos in the United States. On one hand, Latino culture and Spanish have made huge leaps towards being acknowledged as part of the mainstream. On the other hand, politicians have created a conflictive environment for being Latino in the United States, as immigration policies toughen up and some political discourse becomes borderline racist. These are some of the moments that defined Latino life in the United States in the 2010s. 

1. This is the decade in which we saw Latin American kids locked up in cages.

Credit: CBP / Department Of Homeland Security

This will be perhaps the most infamous fact about the decade. Latinos in the United States saw how migrant kids were locked up in what are actually cages as they were separated from their families and kept under custody of Border Patrol authorities.  

2. Juan Gabriel and Jose Jose died, sending US Latino abuelitas everywhere on a singing spree.

Two of the greatest Mexican singers of all time, adored by tias and abuelitas everywhere, passed away during the decade. Juanga died on 2016 and Jose Jose took his last breath in Miami in 2019. Both deaths were shocking and sent the Spanish-speaking Internet on a meme and condolences frenzy.  

3. DACA was approved by Obama and now Trump wants to get rid of it and the fate of thousands remain uncertain.

Credit: Jeff Chiu / Getty

Barack Obama kept the hopes of millions of DREAMERS alive by pushing DACA, an act that delays action towards people who arrived to the United States as kids and do not have a full citizenship status. As has been the case with most things that Obama did, Trump is now trying to reverse it and DACA sits en la cuerda floja. 

4. Mexican filmmakers ruled over the Oscars, and made strong political statements as they were crowned kings of the movie business.

The Four Amigos, the group comprised by Mexican directors Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo Del Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu, along with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, dominated the Oscars. The directors won 5 of the Best Director awards of the decade and whenever they took the stage they talked about immigrant rights and basically Latino awesomeness. 

5. Trump made that infamous speech calling Mexican migrants “rapists” among many other racist, wrong, and troubling comments.

Credit: CNN News

In part he said: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

He set the tone of his presidency right from the beginning, when he announced he was running. This vile remark drew the ire of the Mexican government and Mexicans in the United States. There is no coming back from words like these. Latino companies started to break business ties with him following the remarks. These words will resonate forever when we think of how Trump began his path to the White House and the tone of his presidency. 

6. Three letterS: A.O.C. Love her or hate her, she has disrupted politics and that is a fact.

Credit: Desus & Mero / Showtime / Giphy

Some people think she us the next big thing in American politics, while others, perhaps not being used to respect women in power, dismiss her as a know-it-all. Fact is that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has redefined the place of Latinas in US politics and is one of the most articulate people in Congress today. 

7. Andy Ruiz Jr became the heavyweight champion of the world (briefly).

It was hard to believe, perhaps too hard. Andy Ruiz Jr, a Mexican-American boxer, became the heavyweight champion of the world in early 2019 by knocking out the undefeated British champ Anthony Joshua. It was a surreal moment that made Latinos proud. Sadly, Ruiz did not train for the rematch, gained weight and was soundly defeated over 12 rounds. 

8. Latino women got more and better representation on mainstream television.

Credit: Jane The Virgin / ABC / Giphy

The 2010s saw two shows in particular that represented Latinas in a more nuanced and truer way than your usual hot mamacita fare. Jane the Virgin and One Day at a Time demonstrated that Latinas can lead a show and be fabulous and intelligent and proud in doing it. 

9. Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017.

Credit: Christopher Gregory / The New Yorker

This fatal event brought out the best and the worst in people. It inspired acts of solidarity both in the island and in the United States, where communities came together to support people in need. But it also brought some nasty comments from some people in power that do not even know that Puerto Ricans are actually US citizens. There were also renewed cries for independence after some considered that the response from the federal government was substandard. 

10. The saddest and most impactful photo of the decade: a father and daughter lose their lives trying to cross the border.

Credit: download. Digital image. La Jornada

This photo travelled the world and became the symbol of the plight of millions of people who try to cross the US-Mexico border. A Central American father and his daughter lay on the Rio Grande, having died by drowning. The photo, originally released by Mexican newspaper La Jornada, became viral and triggered countless discussions about migrant rights.