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When we hear of migrant children, we immediately conjure up images of minors being held in cages, being separated from their parents, and other sorts of horrifying stories we see in the media. And indeed, these migrant children have been through trauma. But, underneath it all, they are still children. The most recent exhibit at the Museum of Latin American Art illustrated that fact to the world.

On Sunday, the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach held a one-day event that exhibited the artwork of unaccompanied migrant children that had been housed at the Long Beach Convention Center.

The artwork was made by the migrant children in workshops conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A total of 1,538 children were housed in the Long Beach Convention Center between April 22 to July 23, 2021. The children were all over the age of five, and most of them were girls.

“These young artists remind us all why it was so important for us to create a safe and welcoming environment for these kids,” said Long Beach major Robert Garcia in a statement. “These children have gone through so much hardship. They are smart, creative and their inspiration shines through in their beautiful artwork.”

This Sunday, people came from all over Southern California to look at the art—a once in a lifetime opportunity, as MOLAA doesn’t have room in their schedule to display the artwork again.

The migrant children’s artwork included “campaign” posters for a makeshift election of “council members” for the migrant shelter—sort of like a student body election. The migrant children also designed a logo for the emergency shelter—one that became the shelter’s official logo worn by the staff. MOLAA chose to hold the exhibition on a Sunday because that is when they traditionally wave their entry fee. That way, more people could attend.

The exhibition also included handmade dresses made from recycled materials. Many of them resembled quinceañera dresses with wide skirts and ruffles made from tissue paper. The dresses were made by the migrant girls as part of a fashion show held at the migrant shelter.

The artwork was a beautiful reminder that these migrant children are more than just a political talking point—they are human beings with complex interior lives.

Solimar Salas, the MOLAA’s Vice President of Content and Programming said that the exhibition was a chance to “humanize the kids” who have been the subject of such media attention. “These children, they have dreams, they have hopes, they have a future,” he told The Long Beach Post.

One man, Daniel Trujillo, came all the way from Koreatown, Los Angeles expecting to see a heart-wrenching display. After all, most (if not all) of these children have been through the traumatic event of migrating without their family. However, Trujillo was struck by how “joyful” the migrant children’s artwork was. “I can just see they’re having so much fun.” he told The Long Beach Post.

You can see pictures of the exhibition’s artwork here.