Things That Matter

Wonder Woman Isn’t The Only Latina Superhero To Be On Display At The Smithsonian In Washington

Historical artifacts from the 1869 Transcontinental Railroad and posters of the women’s suffrage that date back to 1832 that are on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington. Among these historical and important artifacts is the costume of La Borinqueña, an Afro-Puerto Rican superhero.

The costume of La Borinqueña, created by comic book writer Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, is featured in the “Superheroes” exhibition at the Smithsonian.

Courtesy of Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez

This significant addition to the exhibit comes just three years since Miranda-Rodriguez debuted La Borinqueña in the first graphic novel.

“La Borinqueña debuted in 2016 at the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City,” Miranda-Rodriguez said in a statement. “Throughout the last three years, her overwhelmingly positive reception has provided me the platform to address the humanitarian crisis that grew out of the island of Puerto Rico’s economic crisis. For a year and a half, La Borinqueña became recognized and celebrated by mainstream media outlets and cultural institutions positioning me as a prominent voice for Puerto Ricans.”

Miranda-Rodriguez said that after Hurricane Maria, La Borinqueña became an example of pride and determination.

Courtesy of Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez

Miranda-Rodriguez adds that through the La Borinqueña brand, they’ve been able to raise a quarter of a million dollars from the sales of Ricanstruction and La Borinqueña Grants Program.

“Via this program, we have awarded grants to local grassroots organizations in Puerto Rico, further showing the world that our hero truly embodies a heroic ideal,” Miranda-Rodriguez said. “Fight for justice, work for justice. In a time where popular culture centers around superhero storylines that take characters to fight in intergalactic wars, La Borinqueña shines a light on the battles that we all need to fight here in our country.”

The costume of La Borinqueña is featured right next to Wonder Woman.

Courtesy of Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez

“The fact that both of these costumes were worn by Latinas (Wonder Woman’s Linda Carter is Mexican American) is fitting with the Smithsonian’s American Women’s History Initiative, #BecauseOfHerStory in which we are highlighting the many ways women play a role in our culture,” Melinda Machado, director of the Smithsonian’s Office of Communications and Marketing, told NBC News.

The exhibition can be seen now through Nov. 12, and people are praising the addition of La Borinqueña.

Instagam/@jessi_iraida

“Having ‘La Borinqueña,’ a Puerto Rican superhero, at the Smithsonian is a source of pride,” Flavio Cumpiano said. “It’s a proven fact that children feel empowered to shoot for greatness when they see real-life people who look like themselves achieve greatness, whether it is a Barack Obama or a Sonia Sotomayor. The same is true for superheroes or action figures or characters.”

Click here for more information on the show.

READ: ‘La Borinqueña’ Is The Afro-Latina Superhero The Comic Book World Has Been Missing

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These Terrariums And Fairy Gardens Are A Lil’ Homies Dream Come True

Culture

These Terrariums And Fairy Gardens Are A Lil’ Homies Dream Come True

Lil’ Homies are one toy that we all remember. They little figurines were so much more to us than little toys that we got from toy vending machines. Adrian Ortiz is using them to create something magical and giving people a non-Eurocentric take on terrariums.

Adrian Ortiz is giving Lil’ Homies their own terrariums in which to flourish.

Ortiz understands the cultural importance of Lil’ Homies because it was one of the first times he saw himself represented, like so many of us. The toys were a welcomed moment of representation for Ortiz after spending so many years seeing so many white narratives in the media and toys.

“I started making terrariums with Lil’ Homies in them as the figures because I noticed how traditional fairy gardens were always representing white/European figures,” Ortiz told mitú. “I thought about how perfect they were in size. I wanted to dedicate my art page to the idea of people of color existing and participating in nature.”

Ortiz feels supported from his followers as well as his boyfriend. His art has been a welcomed breath of culturally relevant plant art in people’s social media feeds.

The ongoing pandemic gave Ortiz a chance to dive deeper into a hobby he already had: plants.

“I have always been into plants and nature since I was a kid and I began making terrariums and fairy gardens in the past year to deal with the pandemic like so many others,” Ortiz says. “There is something super special about making miniature tiny living worlds. I wanted to make fairy gardens but I ended up with something halfway between terrariums and fairy gardens but with cholos. So I created the ‘Brown People Indoor Miniature Gardening TikTok’ series on my tik tok account.”

Ortiz’s TikTok account, aptly named @botanical_homie, has more than 7,000 followers showing that people are really into the idea of Lil’ Homies living their fairy garden dreams.

The terrariums are another chance for people of color to be represented in the world.

Ortiz was in an arts school for middle and high school. In that time, the school fostered an understanding of racial injustices and introduced Ortiz to the concept of artivism, art as activism. It was, according to Ortiz, a moment when he realized that he wanted to dedicate his art to BIPOC.

“I grew up and live in Colorado and have seen the lack of access BIPOC have to outdoor activities like hiking and mountain climbing,” Ortiz explains. “These are white-dominated sports and activities that some POC never get to experience. I want to create a world where we can be anything and do everything, even if it’s miniature. A utopia for us to take back what is also ours.”

Ortiz is making the terrariums for everyone, even people who struggle to take care of plants.

Covid quarantining has forced so many people to think they make perfect plant parents. Yet, taking care of plants is something that doesn’t com naturally. Ortiz had to spend time trying to figure out what plants are the best for everyone.

“Part of my challenge in creating these terrariums has been figuring out what kind of plants people can keep alive. They all have different requirements so getting plants should always depend on your space and lighting,” Ortiz says. “I come from the generation of YouTube so I always say do research, it’s part of the fun. The biggest thing about having plants that people don’t realize is that you just have to pay attention to them, often. But again it depends, some plants are indestructible.”

Ortiz is happy to be able to create this art and hopes to make them more accessible.

“If you want to support me and my art work you can contact me via Instagram about commissions,” Ortiz says. “Shipping these pieces is not easy or ideal so I appreciate everyone’s patience as I learn and evolve. My goal is to work on larger installations and I’ll be putting out DIY kits in the near future.”

READ: If You Call Yourself A Frida Kahlo Fan Then You Should Be Following These Five Artists

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The Pink Seesaws Along The U.S.-Mexico Border Won Design of the Year For 2020

Things That Matter

The Pink Seesaws Along The U.S.-Mexico Border Won Design of the Year For 2020

For many years now, when you think of the U.S.-Mexico border, you think of the families torn apart by cruel and inhumane immigration policies and of kids and families being thrown into cages.

One artist tried to highlight the cruelty happening at the border, while also providing local children with a happy distraction, through an art installation at the border zone between El Paso, TX and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua.

Now, that art installation is gaining international recognition for its aim to bring together a physically divided community.

Pink seesaws installed along the U.S.-Mexico border have won a prestigious design award.

The collection of bright pink seesaws placed along the border wall between a section of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez is being recognized for its importance. The art installation/children’s playground that allowed people to interact through the border wall has won the prestigious Design of the Year award, with its creators saying they hoped the work encourages people to build bridges between communities.

The Teeter Totter Wall, which bridged across El Paso in Texas and Ciudad Juárez in Chihuahua during a 40-minute session, was described as not only feeling “symbolically important” but also highlighting “the possibility of things” by the judging panel.

Original story published July, 25, 2019:

Lately, when you think of the U.S-Mexico border, you think of the children being kept in cages, of migrant folks being kept in unthinkable conditions in detention prisons, and you think of the possible construction of Donald Trump’s beloved wall–among other negative connotations that the border brings. Then there are times when heartwarming images and scenes from the border show that despite the weaponization of the border, we’re still connected to one another in many ways. 

Architect and artist Ronald Rael designed and installed pink seesaws at the border for children from the United States and Mexico to play together.

The art installation, “Teeter-Totter Wall,” was created by Rael, an architecture professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and Virginia San Fratello, an associate professor of design at San Jose State University.

The custom-built seesaws were placed on both sides of the steel border fence that separates the U.S. and Mexico. The artist called it “one of the most incredible experiences of his career” in a post he shared on Instagram. 

About a decade ago, both Rael and San Fratello had designed the concept for the seesaw at the border for a book titled “Borderwall as Architecture.” Now, the drawings became a reality. 

Despite the negative headlines that dominate the news cycle every day, it’s refreshing to see artists like Ronald Rael use their platform and creativity to spark positivity and strengthen our sense of community. 

“The wall became a literal fulcrum for U.S.-Mexico relations and children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side,” Rael wrote in his Instagram caption. Rael also gave a shoutout to the team who helped make this powerful art installation a reality in Cuidad Juárez, Mexico.

CNN also points out that the New Mexico town is also where a militia detained migrants in April (the ACLU called it a kidnapping), and where a private group began building its own border wall with the use of millions donated to a GoFundMe campaign. 

Last week, the Supreme Court also gave Trump a victory in his fight for the construction of a wall along the border. Further, the Supreme Court allowed the administration to use $2.5 billion in military funds for it. 

Despite all of the negative news surrounding the border, it was a different scene there on Monday near the Sunland Park stretch. Instead, it showed a heartwarming and lighter scene compared to what we’ve recently seen.

The art installation that this artist created is also meant to serve as a reminder. A reminder that “we are connected” and “what happens on one side impacts the other.”

The pink seesaws showed people from both sides of the border coming together in a unifying act. Children and adults alike on U.S soil were recorded playing with children from the other side. These light-hearted scenes from the border make one for if only a second forget the actual reality of it all. 

RAICES, a non-profit focusing on immigration legal services in Texas, shared on Twitter that “Art is such a powerful vehicle for change”

In the past, other scenes of art installations at the border have made rounds. For example, The Guardian notes the time when an architectural practice in Mexico designed a pink interpretation of Trump’s border wall. 

Claudia Tristán, the Director of Latinx Messaging for 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke also praised the art installation for the message it spread. 

“The symbolism of the seesaw is just magical,” she wrote in a tweet. “A #Border fence will not keep us from our neighbors.”

The video of architect and artist Ronald Rael that’s also making rounds on social media shows him saying that the seesaw that there are still “good relations the people of Mexico and the United States.” Therefore, the seesaw can portray that we are “equal” and the wall, he says, cuts those relationships between us. 

Ultimately, it is important to remember that with or without the U.S.-Mexico border, much of this land belonged to and will always belong to Native Americans.

We need to remember that the homelands of tribes including the Kumeyaay, Pai, Cocopah, O’odham, Yaqui, Apache and Kickapoo peoples were all split into two by the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the 1853 Gadsen Purchase–which is what makes up modern-day California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas

So while it is important to highlight the positive and humanizing images on the U.S.-Mexico border when we can, we should also be mindful of the indigenous communities to which this land belongs to. 

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