Things That Matter

Migrant Portraits Won A Prestigious Smithsonian Art Award And The Artist Is The First Latino To Win

How do you illustrate the emotion of the U.S. immigration story without using any words? Artist Hugo Crosthwaite won the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition Friday, for accomplishing exactly that. Crosthwaite is the First Latino to win the competition, held every three years since 2006 by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

Born in Tijuana, Crosthwaite grew up familiar with the starting point of the Mexico to U.S. immigration story. Today, he lives in San Diego, California, where he was able to interview Latinos living on the other side. The work that won him a $25,000 grant, is just one part of a series of interviews. 

Meet Berenice Sarmiento Chávez.

Credit: National Portrait Gallery / YouTube

“Set to the soundtrack of a dissonant guitar and a raspy voice singing in Spanish,” The National Portrait Gallery describes the video on YouTube. “This animated video reveals the dreams and experiences of a young woman from Tijuana who seeks to take part in the American Dream. Black ink, gray wash, and white paint—applied by the invisible hand of the artist— take turns to expose Berenice Sarmiento Chávez’s humble background and the threat of violence in her home country that pushed her to immigrate to the United States. The film suggests that the immigration journey is seeded with constant danger, especially for women and children.”

While the video editing work conveys a story, Crosthwaite’s drawings are improvisational.

Credit: National Portrait Gallery / YouTube

We first meet Chávez in her Mexican home. Then, a calavera is drawn into the backdrop, seeming to either place an idea onto Chávez or minimize her story to that of a cartoon. The American Dream, as depicted by a Micky Mouse lookalike, seems to be a familiar character to this angel of death.

Crosthwaite captured at least 1,400 images to create the video.

Credit: National Portrait Gallery / YouTube

Crosthwaite told CNN that Chávez honored her story as she told it, with embellishments and all. “We are defined by the stories that we tell ourselves, either real or imagined, to deal with difficult situations in our lives,” he told CNN. “Rather than playing the role of journalist where I recount a factual event, I have left the video open to interpretation just as Berenice left me with her vague and unsettling story.”

One by one, the women and children that migrated alongside her died.

Credit: National Portrait Gallery / YouTube

Chávez continues on, with her head down, carrying just a couple bags. Soon, the black cloaks of her lost friends overwhelm the image. Surrounded in a deep shadow of presumable grief, her delicately drawn face is covered in the thick swipe of deep black paint in a single moment.

The next scene shows Chávez trying to make her life in the U.S., surrounded by unseen wealth.

Credit: National Portrait Gallery / YouTube

Soon, these men, too, are cloaked in dark black paint. Then, their faces are embellished with the symbol of U.S. currency: a white dollar sign. This time, the rest of the portrait is overwhelmed by white paint. Instead of being overshadowed by the black paint that marked the death of her fellow migrant Latinos, Chávez’s face is covered by a stark white paint. She’s in America now.

Then, we finally see an intimate look at her face, only to watch a gun be painted inside her world.

Credit: National Portrait Gallery / YouTube

In an instant, the gun fires, and she’s once again overtaken by a stark white paint, that erases the detail of her person. It’s almost as if the gun has a similar perspective to the grim reaper. The details of her life, or why she is fleeing everything she’s known, are no matter. To the grim reaper, to the gun, to ICE, she is a caricature of what ‘migrant’ means.

Finally, we see a small child, living under a dome of black paint.

Credit: National Portrait Gallery / YouTube

Is it Chávez as a child? Is it her own child, who seems to be dressed in American fashion, left behind, alone? There are no words to this story. Our guess is as good as yours.

The last jolt of emotion is felt in the credits.

Credit: National Portrait Gallery / YouTube

After watching Chávez’s migration story – its hope, its deaths, and the resultant family separation – the video tells us this simple fact. The cheerful audio and traditional Mexican music we hear may be the beginning of someone else’s story. The cycle continues. Hope that is lost to U.S. immigration policies that result in migrants being deported without their children.

READ: David Zambrano of “DezCustomz” Talks to Us About Family, Art, And When He Finally Thought He’d “Made It”

Google Launches Faces Of Frida So You Can Pass The Time Learning About The Artist’s Life

Culture

Google Launches Faces Of Frida So You Can Pass The Time Learning About The Artist’s Life

Google

Few artists have reached the level of fame as Frida Kahlo. The Mexican painter is more than an artist. Kahlo is a point of cultural pride that transcends nationality within the Latino community and unites Latino art lovers in their le of Latin American art. Now, Google, in the time of self-isolation, is giving everyone a chance to learn about the iconic painter.

Google wants to give everyone a chance to learn about Frida Kahlo with its online “Faces of Frida” exhibit.

Credit: Google

Anyone who visits the “Face of Frida” exhibit can browse through the artist’s incredible paintings. Kahlo is one of the most influential artists the world has ever known. Her fame and people’s admiration continue to this day with tributes still appearing around the world for the Mexican artist.

Viewers can decide which museum’s Frida Kahlo collection they want to explore.

Credit: Google

The exhibit is made possible by 32 museums from around the world collaborating to show Frida Kahlo’s impressive and iconic works of art. Museums across four continents shared Kahlo piece from their exhibits with Google to create an exhibit showing more than 800 paintings. Some of the museums include Museo Frida Kahlo in Mexico, Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the United States, Nagoya City Art Museum in Japan, Fundación MAPFRE in Spain, and Buenos Aires Graffiti in Argentina.

The interactive exhibit is perfect for all Frida Kahlo and art lovers alike. While 3.4 billion people in the world are on lockdown orders, the incredible virtual exhibit of Kahlo’s work gives people a chance to see works of art they haven’t been able to visit yet.

The exhibit is easy to navigate and some of Kahlo’s works have been collected into their own themed galleries.

Credit: Google

Kahlo is most famous for using her own life as the inspiration for her works of art. The artist often played with the themes of pain and death due to her own near-death experiences. Her tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera influenced Kahlo’s work depending on where they were in their relationship. The couple was notorious for taking extra-marital lovers throughout their marriage.

“Faces of Frida” also offers art fans a chance to learn about Kahlo through editorial features.

Credit: Google

Kahlo was one of the most revolutionary women in the world. She moved through space unimpeded by society’s views on her gender and place in society. She was politically engaged and held onto a list of values that many still argue over today. Namely, there have been discussions and think pieces about the sudden commercialized usage of Kahlo’s image and what she might have to say about it. As someone who was opposed to capitalism, it seems safe to say she might not have appreciated herself being used for capitalistic gains.

You can visit “Faces of Frida” by clicking here.

READ: This LA Play Explores The Mystery Surrounding Frida Kahlo’s Death, Her Love Affairs, And Her Passion For Art

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Calls For ICE To Release Some Migrants To Help Fight COVID-19

Things That Matter

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Calls For ICE To Release Some Migrants To Help Fight COVID-19

icegov / Instagram

COVID-19 cases continue to increase across the globe and governments are desperately trying to get a handle on the virus. More than a third of the world’s population are living under lockdown conditions in more than 20 countries on all continents. Thirty-two states are currently under lockdown orders as of April 1 and Florida’s lockdown will take effect the night of April 2. That translates to about three out of every four Americans living under some form of lockdown orders.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is demanding ICE release migrants in detention centers during the COVID-19 crisis.

Credit: @NBCLatino / Twitter

Now, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is calling for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to step up and release migrants in detention. There are thousands of migrants currently in detention centers in the U.S. and documented overcrowding of the facilities is cause for alarm during a health pandemic.

According to a report from ICE, four detainees and five agents have tested positive for COVID-19. Immigration advocates have been calling for ICE to release detainees to protect migrants from contracting COVID-19.

“ICE’s failure to reduce detention numbers and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 has a real possibility of creating a severe health crisis for detention centers and overwhelming local health care facilities,” Rep. Sylvia Garcia of Texas said in a statement.

As the novel coronavirus COVID-19 spreads across the globe, there is one population the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties (ACLUF-SDIC) is trying to protect: migrants. The virus, which is highly contagious, has infected more than 127,000 people across 6 continents. More than 68,000 people have recovered from the virus. To date, more than 4,700 people have died from the disease and the ACLU wants to make sure detained migrants don’t die because of the virus.

The ACLUF-SDIC is calling on the U.S. federal government to create a plan to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in migrant detention centers.

Credit: @ACLU_NorCal / Twitter

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 is spreading across the globe triggering strong reactions from governments seeking to limit the spread. Italy has locked down the country to tell everyone in the country to quarantine.

So far, more than 1,300 people in the U.S have tested positive for COVID-19 and 38 have died. Most of the fatalities were in Washington state where 21 deaths happened in Seattle-area long-care facilities.

The ACLUF-SDIC is calling on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to develop a detailed plan to prevent the spreading of COVID-19 in detention centers.

The ACLUF-SDIC wants a written plan to prove that immigration officials have the migrants’ health in mind.

“ICE detention facilities in San Diego and Imperial counties must act quickly to put in place a comprehensive emergency plan that protects people in their custody from COVID-19,” Monika Langarica, immigrants’ rights staff attorney for the ACLUF-SDIC, is quoted in a release. “The spread of the virus into a detention center would have devastating consequences for the people locked up inside.”

The ACLUF-SIDC is concerned about the inadequate medical care and overcrowding could lead to a serious outbreak of COVID-19 within the detained migrant population.

Other ACLU chapters are calling on ICE to work with migrants to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The ACLU of Louisiana has asked ICE to offer expedited hearings for the elderly detained migrants to preserve their health.

“Given the CDC’s warnings about avoiding confined spaces and the threat COVID-19 poses to the frail and elderly, immediate steps must be taken to safeguard the health and well-being of incarcerated people across the state,” Alanah Odoms Hebert, ACLU of Louisiana executive director is quoted in a statement. “We know that confining people in close quarters increases the risk of infection, but right now thousands of Louisianans are incarcerated based on the mere accusation of a crime and an inability to pay bail. In the interests of public health, we’re calling for expedited parole hearings for the elderly in state prisons and for the immediate release of people who are being jailed pretrial based solely on their inability to pay bail. We look forward to working with state, federal, and local officials to ensure the health and well-being of all people under correctional control in our state.”

For more information about COVID-19 and how you can prevent it, click here.

READ: What To Know About The Coronavirus And How To Prevent It