Things That Matter

An Art Project Portraying Immigrants As ‘Aliens’ Is Stirring Up Discussion About Who Can Make Art About POC

Immigration is an intensely sensitive subject. Though people migrate from all over the world, it’s one that seems to touch communities of color more often than white communities because of the prejudices our society holds against brown and Black people. One look at the border wall discussion exposes just how narrow-minded some people can be concerning migration. The use of words like “illegal immigrant” or “illegal alien” further expose how ugly people can be towards migrants. 

Considering all this, it’s not surprising that people who are uneducated about the subject of immigration seem to be the ones who talk the most about it. 

Take, for example, this offensive art project that Twitter exposed for its shocking commentary on immigration.

Twitter / @itsapobitch

Twitter user @itsapobitch ⁠— who goes by Coyolxauhqui on the social media site ⁠— shared an image of a classmate’s art project. The painting originates from the campus of the University of California Santa Barbara. According to the post, the art class’ assignment was to depict something with the theme of extraterrestrial or subterranean. For some reason, the person who created this offensive picture decided to depict a child wearing a Mexican sombrero and a serape while trick-or-treating. The painting is captioned “I’m an alien.”

Naturally, Twitter didn’t react kindly to this outrageously insensitive art project. 

Twitter / @neoputa

Twitter quickly labeled the panting as racist. This response wondered how “white people manage to be racist with every little thing.” Many comments asked Coyolxauhqui to share the artist’s name and location so they could talk to her (aka drag her) about her interpretation of the theme. Ultimately, the comments all suggested that they were upset by the outright racism of the painting but sadly weren’t surprised because of the constant state of bigotry people of color experience. 

In a strange twist to this story, the artist herself came to the Twitter thread to defend her intent and the painting’s meaning.

Instagram / @juliettecollet_

The artist, Juliette Collet, shared an explanation of the art project in a statement. She first apologized for the piece before diving in to defend her intention. According to Collet, the idea behind the painting came from a conversation with her boyfriend last year around Halloween. Her boyfriend is allegedly Mexican and came to the United States from Mexico City. Collet explains that her boyfriend was shocked to see people dressing in sombreros and serapes as Halloween costumes and appropriating his culture during the Fall holiday. 

Collet says in her statement that her boyfriend’s father was deported that same year. Due to these experiences, she felt that the theme of this project was a good opportunity to expose “how the American white gaze has stereotyped an entire people with the xenophobic notion of being an ‘alien.'”

The artist also acknowledged that her intention missed the mark and she would take the piece down and replace it with one that more positively reflected the project’s theme. Collet even shared her email address and invited people to contact her to continue the conversation. 

Though she issued the apology, many still had a problem with how oblivious this piece seemed to be about the topic of immigration. 

Twitter / @a_new_hopee

Comments responding to Collet’s explanation and apology pointed out that her instinct to depict a child in Mexican dress when the theme was essentially about aliens was a strange stretch. Twitter questioned her intention to provide societal commentary with a painting that so obviously was problematic at best. 

Despite her supposedly having a Mexican boyfriend, Collet isn’t part of the Latinx community. As Twitter user @a_new_hopee suggested, “It’s always the one’s who aren’t even a part of the community that have the most to say. In other words, outsiders to our spaces would do better to listen than attempt to speak on an issue that doesn’t directly involve them. 

The original poster of the art project, Coyolxauhqui, had some final thoughts to add to the conversation following Collet’s excuse.

Twitter / @itsapobitch

Twitter user @itsapobitch confirmed that Collet removed the painting from public view. Still, despite the artist’s apology, Coyolxauhqui explained that she let it be known when it was first displayed that the painting was dehumanizing and anti-immigrant. She also explained that the piece encouraged the misconception that all immigrants come from Mexico and this thinking can be especially harmful. 

In conclusion, Coyolxauhqui echoed the same sentiment that many on Twitter shared. As she wrote, “Point blank, never try to make artwork with experiences that don’t belong to you, especially if you’re white.” Hopefully, this will serve as a warning to any would-be artists in the future. Instead of inserting yourself into a conversation that doesn’t concern you, lift up the voices of the community. When given the opportunity, we can tell our own stories.

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

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

LUIS TORRES/AFP via Getty Images

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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Latino Twitter Gifted The World With These Seriously Good Inauguration Memes

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Latino Twitter Gifted The World With These Seriously Good Inauguration Memes

Google/NBC

It’s official: the United States has a new president! Yesterday was Inauguration Day in the U.S. and we welcomed Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States and Kamala Harris as the 49th Vice President.

It was an historic day full of major milestones for the country and the world – and that was made obvious by the sheer amount of attention paid to the day’s events. One has to look no further than the amount of memes that were produced in the wake of the inauguration, from Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga to Bernie Sanders and the adiós to Donald and Melania Trump.

As usual, Latino Twitter showed up with the memes and left many of us on the floor laughing our a** off. These are some of the honorable mentions from a day full of historical moments and incredible memes.

Tío Bernie may have stolen the spotlight from President Biden with his very practical inauguration attire.

The long-serving Vermont senator was there to watch proceedings, bracing the D.C. cold to witness Biden being sworn in as president. To withstand the cold climes, Sanders came prepared in a big old reliable coat and mittens – with his inaugural look and general demeanour waiting for the event to begin capturing the creativity of the internet through a series of ‘Cold Bernie’ memes.

Bernie was everywhere!

The former presidential candidate was popping up in all sorts of places as the Internet memed him into a frenzy.

And he was all of us…

The former aspiring presidential candidate later addressed the attention his outfit was getting in an interview with Gayle King, noting: ‘You know in Vermont we know something about the cold and are not so concerned about good fashion, we want to keep warm and that’s what I did today.’

The Internet has even created a website where you can insert Tío Bernie into any scene you want with Google Maps.

And yes, it actually works!

Michelle Obama told us all how she felt without telling us all how she felt.

When Michelle and Barack Obama departed the White House in 2017 to make way for Donald and Melania Trump to take over the reigns, Michelle did not hide how difficult and upsetting she found the moment. So a lot of people were thrilled to see the Michelle we know and love, happy, thrilled and generally paving the way at the 2021 inauguration ceremony.

Lady Gaga giving the world Hunger Games vibes…

Lady Gaga had the honour of performing the American national anthem, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ and, of course, she ‘killed’ it. The dramatic and rousing performance was made even better by her custom-made Schiaparelli gown, adorned in the US colours and complete with patriotic hidden meanings. However some thought they’d seen it – particularly the brooch – before…

Then there were the adiós Trump memes that left Mexican Twitter on fire!

A la verga! Adiós, Señor Trump! 👋

This one is too good!

I. Can’t. Stop. Laughing.

Mexican Facebook was also on fire!

This Twitter user is too right, Mexican Facebook really is undefeated!

And some want to reclaim red hats!

If you could bring back red hats, what would yours say?

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