How do you define your culture? It’s a complex question. My culture is influenced by my Latino heritage, but I also identify with LA and American culture. Last month, I had an interesting discussion with LA artists -- Edlin Lopez, John “Zender” Estrada, and Jacqueline Valenzuela -- about culture, intersectionality, and art.
Edlin, a South Gate artist and curator for SELA Arts Fest and its virtual gallery, Open Walls, is a first generation Mexican-American. “A lot of my artwork really encapsulates the two identities. They exist as a dichotomy,” she explained.
Jacqueline identifies with her Mexican-American heritage, as well as the punk and lowrider subcultures. Her experience seeing old cars while growing up on Whittier Boulevard inspired her to paint women in lowrider culture.
For John, known by his muralist name, “Zender”, culture is a key part of his work. “A big debate was, ‘What is Chicano?’ It opens up Pandora’s Box. Now, people are having those conversations about Latinx,” he added.
‘Latinx’ often incites mixed reactions. Jacqueline mentioned that ‘Latinx’ is inclusive of gender nonconforming individuals. “I don’t personally identify with Latinx, but I use it when describing groups because you don’t know how people identify,” she said.
The discussion shifted to how terms like Latino and Hispanic often marginalize communities. Edlin said, “It doesn’t encompass the complexities of the cultures in Latin America.” Jacqueline chimed in explaining, “For me, it’s being aware that the language is a colonizer language.”
The artists often feel marginalized as Latino artists. John described his experience in art school, “They said you’re not an American artist. You’re a Chicano artist,” he remembered.
The complexities of culture can’t be defined in one word. Culture is a conglomerate of identities that influence how we see the world. You can watch this Art Talk on my Instagram rendon63rd.