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Visualizando la conciencia mestiza : the relation of Gloria Anzaldúa's mestiza consciousness to Mexican


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Visualizando la conciencia mestiza : the relation of Gloria Anzaldúa's mestiza consciousness to Mexican
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Serrano, Maria
University of South Florida
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Tampa, Fla
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Border art
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ABSTRACT: This thesis explores Gloria Anzaldúa's notion of mestiza consciousness and its relation to Mexican American performance and poster art. It examines how the traditional conceptions of mestizo identity were redefined by Anzaldúa's Borderlands/La Frontera in an attempt to eradicate oppression through a change of consciousness. Anzaldua's conceptions are then applied to Guillermo Gomez-Peña's performance art discussing the intricacies and complexities of his performances as examples of mestiza consciousness. This thesis finally analyzes various Mexican American posters in relation to both Anzaldúa and Gomez-Peña's art works. It demonstrates that the similarities in the artist's treatment of hybridity illustrate a progressive change in worldview, thus exhibit mestiza consciousness.
Thesis (MLA)--University of South Florida, 2010.
Includes bibliographical references.
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by Maria Serrano

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_visualizando la conciencia mestiza_ :
b the relation of gloria anzalda's _mestiza consciousness_ to mexican american performance and poster art
h [electronic resource] /
by Maria Serrano.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains X pages.
Thesis (MLA)--University of South Florida, 2010.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
3 520
ABSTRACT: This thesis explores Gloria Anzalda's notion of mestiza consciousness and its relation to Mexican American performance and poster art. It examines how the traditional conceptions of mestizo identity were redefined by Anzalda's Borderlands/La Frontera in an attempt to eradicate oppression through a change of consciousness. Anzaldua's conceptions are then applied to Guillermo Gomez-Pea's performance art discussing the intricacies and complexities of his performances as examples of mestiza consciousness. This thesis finally analyzes various Mexican American posters in relation to both Anzalda and Gomez-Pea's art works. It demonstrates that the similarities in the artist's treatment of hybridity illustrate a progressive change in worldview, thus exhibit mestiza consciousness.
Advisor: Daniel Belgrad, Ph.D.
Border art
Dissertations, Academic
x Humanities
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
4 856


Visualizando la Conciencia Mestiza: The Relation of Gloria Anzalda’s Mestiza Consciousness to Mexican American Performance and Poster Art by Maria Cristina Serrano A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Liberal Arts Department of Humanities and Cultural Studies College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Daniel Belgrad, Ph.D. Adriana Novoa, Ph.D. Ylce Irizarry, Ph.D. Date of Approval: October 26, 2010 Chicano/a, border art, immigration, hybridity, borderlands Copyright 2010, Maria Cristina Serrano


i Table of Contents List of Figures ..................................................................................................................... ii Abstract .............................................................................................................................. iii Introduction ..........................................................................................................................1 Chapter 1: Gloria Anzalda’s Mestiza Consciousness ........................................................4 Chapter 2: The Relation of Mestiza Consciousness to Guillermo Gomez-Pea’s Border Brujo and The Couple in a Cage .....................................................................18 Chapter 3: The Creative Synthesis in Mexican American Poster Art ...............................30 Conclusions ........................................................................................................................43 References ..........................................................................................................................46


ii List of Figures Figure 2.1: Still from Border Brujo ................................................................................... 22 Figure 2.2: Gomez-Pea as Border Brujo .......................................................................... 22 Figure 2.3: Fusco and Gomez-Pea in Couple in the Cage ............................................... 22 Figure 2.4: Close-up of performers ....................................................................................22 Figure 3.1: Andrew Sermeno, Huelga! (Strike!) ............................................................... 31 Figure 3.2: Unknown, Tierra o Muerte! Venceremos........................................................ 31 Figure 3.3: Diego Rivera, The History of Mexico: The Ancient Indian World .................. 33 Figure 3.4: David Alfaro Siqueiros, Cuauhtemoc Against the Myth ................................. 34 Figure 3.5: Malaquias Montoya, Vietnam, Aztl n ..............................................................34 Figure 3.6: Xavier Miramontes, Boycott Grapes (Boicotea las Uvas) .............................. 34 Figure 3.7: Rodolfo “Rudy: Cuellar, Bilingual Education Says Twice as Much ............... 37 Figure 3.8: Jose Montoya, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzalez, and Louie “The Foot” Gonzalez, Jose Montoya’s Pachuco Art: A Historical Update ........................................ 37 Figure 3.9: Victor Ochoa, Border Bingo ........................................................................... 38 Figure 3.10: Laura Molina, Cihualyaomiquiz, The Jaguar ............................................... 41 Figure 3.11: Tina Hernandez, Ya Basta! ............................................................................ 41 Figure 3.12: DC Comics, Wonder Woman ........................................................................ 41 Figure 3.13: J. Howard Mitchell, We Can Do It ............................................................... 41


iii Abstract This thesis explores Gloria Anzalda’s notion of mestiza consciousness and its relation to Mexican American performance and poster art. It examines how the traditional conceptions of mestizo identity were redefined by Anzalda’s Borderlands/La Frontera in an attempt to eradicate oppression through a change of consciousness. Anzaldua’s conceptions are then applied to Guillermo Gomez-Pea’s performance art discussi ng the intricacies and complexities of his performances as examples of mestiza consciousness. This thesis finally analyzes various Mexican American posters in relation t o both Anzalda and Gomez-Pea’s art works. It demonstrates that the similaritie s in the artist’s treatment of hybridity illustrate a progressive change in worldview, thus ex hibit mestiza consciousness.


1 Introduction Having been raised in both the Latino and Anglo American cultures, I have always been fascinated by the dynamics between the different traditi ons. This has led to the study of hybridity and how its expression through the arts illustrates such va rying worldviews. I am particularly interested in the dynamics that influenc e Mexican American or Chicano visual arts. The art is quite complex as it incorporates ele ments of Indigenous, traditional Mexican and Anglo American cultures Analyzing these various influences in Mexican American art is a significant means of understanding and appreciating the hybrid experience of the postcolonial world. In the process of grasping the hybrid experience of Mexican American cul ture, this thesis poses the following questions: Why are the multitude of varying ima ges, languages and ideas in Chicano/a art so prevalent? Why do Mexican American arti sts depict these contradictions and juxtapositions in worldviews as a natural synt hesis? Is there an alternative way of understanding Mexican American art other tha n labeling it as hostile and critical? I began my investigation by looking at the ways in which Mexican America ns were portrayed through history and observed that in most texts, women were portray ed as inferior. The mestizo held “masculine” traits and the construction of identity largely ignored the female experience and continued to be exclusive Although the Mexican American Movement of the 60’s and 70’s sought civil rights and freedom, it greatly negated women the opportunity to overcome machismo The Chicana Movement thus


2 sought to awaken a feminist consciousness by advocating equal rights Intellectuals like Gloria Anzalda began liberating women’s consciousness by voicing the problem s within the Mex. Am community and pressing for a change of consiousness. Anzalda’s Borderlands/La Frontera (1987) presents hybridity in Mexican American art and culture as a progressive unity between the different traditions and ideas that influenc e the heritage. Anzalda’s work discusses the variety of issues that Chicanos often encount er and narrates their experience in the “Borderlands” as continuously changing: Living on borders and in margins, keeping intact with one’s shifting and multiple identity and integrity, is like trying to swim in a new element, an “alien” e lement. There is an exhilaration in being a participant in the further evolution of humankind, in being “worked” on. (Anzalda, Borderlands Preface) As a way of eradicating oppression and embracing intercultural dialogue, Borderlands discusses a new mestiza consciousness that calls for divergent thinking and a tolerance of differences. This new consciousness serves as a resolution to the issues of isol ation and the conflicting identities that Chicanos often struggle with. The issues that Anzalda engages in her writings reappear in the visual texts of the 80’s and 90’s and span various Mexican American art forms such as performance and poster art. Guillermo Gomez-Pena performs the various stereotypes and identi ties associated with Chicanos as illustrations of hybridity. I use the notion of mestiza consciousness to analyze the inconsistencies and complexities of Guillermo Gomez Pea’s performance art in an alternative light. Although the art appears agg ressive in its critique of imperialism, it demonstrates a synthesis of ideas and traditions si milar to Borderlands.


3 Mexican American poster art further illustrates mestiza consciousness in its expression of hybrid culture. I selected nine posters which illustrate the evol ution of the art form from a revolutionary critique of the dominant culture, to one that embraces and celebrates the amalgamation that constitutes the Mexican American tradit ion. The posters selected for analysis not only express hybridity by incorporating Indigenou s, traditional Mexican and Anglo American elements, but best depict the progressive change of consciousness that Anzalda advocates in Borderlands. This thesis demonstrates the relation of mestiza consciousness to Mexican American performance and poster art as an alternative method for analyzing and understanding the intricacies of the art forms.


4 Chapter One Gloria Anzalda’s Mestiza Consciousness Mexican American art is influenced by a rich history of hybrid culture The hybrid experience is reflected in the illustration of the various elements of Indigenous, traditional Mexican, and Anglo-American cultures. Throughout Mexican American history, this hybridity has seemingly been depicted as a clash of cultures that portrays a conflict of ideas and world views. The contradictions and juxtapositions found in Mexican American art have been attributed to the continuous struggle between the dominant and dominated cultures. For example, much of Mexican American art includes traditional Mexican iconography along with images of Anglo-American popular culture. Another contradiction is the use of Indigenous symbolism alongside modern technology. The intricacies of hybridization have been explored by numerous scholars and art ists in an attempt to define Mexican American identity and understand the multi-cultural experience. To appreciate Mexican American visual art, it is vital to exam ine the role and development of the mestzaje in Mexican American history. Mexican Americans have been portrayed historically as mestizos, oppressed and continually mistreated due to their hybrid origins. Their history illustrate s a struggle for identification and equality demonstrated in works like I am Joaqun (1967) by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales’, El Plan Espiritual de Aztln (1969) by Alurista and Aztln: An Anthology of Mexican American Literature edited by Valdez and Steiner. These depict the hybrid experience and emphasize the importance of mestizo culture in the history of


5 the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. The works are unique in that they employ code-switching to illustrate the nature of living “in-between” cul tures as complex. They also emphasize the role of Aztec mythology in defining their heritage as resistant and powerful. The anthology for example, brings together various Mexican American texts such as native American poems, essays from the Chicano Moveme nt, and twentiethcentury barrio stories, illustrating diversity in Mexican American literary history. Although the works largely exclude the female experience, which I di scuss below, they seek to portray the various aspects of the multiplicity of Mexican A merican culture. Women have been active participants in Mexican American history, but have been misrepresented in literature; this illustrates a masculinist repr esentation of Mexican American identity. Up until the Chicana Movement of the 70’s and 80’s, the image of the Chicano was identified with traditionally “male” traits and associated wi th the war-like image of ancient Aztec gods. The machista attitudes of Chicano men subordinated women, and the mestiza was looked down upon as the descendant of a “treacherous” figure known as La Malinche 1 Chicanas were portrayed in literature as sexual objects whose responsibilities included raising the children, looking after the home, and only supporting their husbands in the struggle for racial equality. In the 1970’s, Chicana intellectuals began questioning the patriarchal system that oppressed them thr ough history and voiced their oppositions to the hegemonic masculinist ideology within the Chicano community. Chicanas gathered in conferences held throughout the U.S. to 1 For an explanation of the role and symbolism of La Malinche see Del Castillo, Adelaida R. “ Malintzin Tenepal : A Preliminary Look into a New Perspective.” Garci a 122. Also see See Louise Pratt, Mary. “Yo Soy La Malinche: Chicana Writers and the Poetics of Ethnonationalism.” Callaloo 16.4 (1993): 859-873.


6 discuss women’s liberation and promote gender equality. The Chicana Movement promoted figures such as La Malinche and La Adelita as significant female icons of mestizo culture. Activists of the movement also defied traditional female roles by pursuing higher education; Chicanas demanded that they be recognized as somethi ng other than wives and mothers and sought to become financially and emotionally independent. During the 1980’s and early 90’s, with the publications of Chicana activists such as Ana Nieto Gomez, Gloria Anzalda, Cherie Moraga, and Chela Sandoval, among others, female representation changes. Chicanas began to be recognized as inte llectuals, scholars, and artists engaging in the discussion of Mexican American identity and paying attention to the long-ignored female condition. In the 1980’s, writer Gloria Anzalda sought to resolve oppression of Chicanas with her notion of a new mestiza consciousness. In her first major work Borderlands/La Frontera (1984), Anzalda not only retells mestizo history, but also promotes her resolution to the various socio-cultural issues that affect Mexican Americ ans. She advocates revolutionary change by introducing a radical world view that eli minates binaries and challenges the dualistic tradition of Western thinking. Her conc eptions engage in more than racial and gender conflict; the new mestiza consciousness aims to develop an inclusive society open to multiplicity and inclusivity. This chapter will first trace the development of mestiza consciousness through reference to the Mexican American literary tradition. The portrayal of Chicanos will be discussed in relation to three works that illustrate the role of mestizo and Aztec culture in the construction of identity: I am Joaqun El Plan Espiritual de Aztln and Aztln: An Anthology of Mexican American Literature These works have traditionally depicted the


7 Chicano conceptually as masculine. The Chicana Movement’s response to this masculinist conception of mestizo identity will then be examined. Finally, Gloria Anzalda’s mestiza consciousness will be discussed as a radical approach to the mestizo identity issue. Her notions provide an alternative way of understanding the juxtapos itions within contemporary Mexican American art; they help understand the contradictor y images as the illustration of a negotiation of traditions. Alurista’s El Plan Espiritual de Aztln presented at the first National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference in Denver Colorado in 1967, has acted as a defining declaration of Mexican American racial pride and as a manifestation of Chi cano identity politics (Rosales 224). The text calls for nationalism as a tool for organizing and mobilizing Mexican Americans to action; despite any differences in religi on, class, or political backgrounds, it “is the common denominator that all members of La Raza c an agree upon” ( El Plan 2). El Plan reminds Mexicans Americans of their “proud historical heritage” and emphasizes their destiny to take back the lands seized from thei r ancestors. It proposes that Chicanos take control of their lives by engaging in community meeti ngs and campaigns. Through national unity, economic control, education, the establishment of institutions for the people, self-defense, and the preservation of cultural value s, the plan affirms liberation. El Plan is established upon the importance of race and cultural heritage. It asserts that Chicanos are capable of overcoming “oppression, e xploitation, and racism” by invoking the mestizaje that unites and empowers them (2). El Plan Espiritual de Aztln calls for brotherhood and aims to unite the masses in defense of their culture. It calls for a battle against racism, but ignores the gender issues that plague Mexican American communities. Women’s rights are not addresse d and


8 machismo is never mentioned to maintain a patriarchal system. Chicano men are urged to overpower the Anglos, yet it also suggested that women continue to be subordinate to men. A dimension of the dualistic aspect of Chicano identity is seen here; the patri archal system empowers men and sustains exploitation through gender. Chicano men are to be controlling and dominant, and Chicanas are to remain subservient, docile beings. The importance of mestizaje in the construction of a Mexican American national identity can also be seen in Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales I Am Joaqun (1967). This epic poem reflects the nation building of “La Raza” as for example, The Aeneid, did for the Romans. It simultaneously celebrates hybridity while condemning the cru el nature of its origins. It begins by describing Chicanos as “lost in a world of confusion” living in between the cultures of the Anglo and Mexican people (1). The narrator continuously embraces the different aspects of his mestizo identity by admiring Aztec culture in one part of the poem, and honoring Christian figures like Jesus Christ in another. He uses aspects of multiple traditions to define himself against the Anglo, emphasizing t he enduring and powerful aspect of hybridity. He demonstrates that although Chicano history has been that of struggle, their resistance is grounded in the ability to continuously adapt and assimilate. Adopted as the anthem of the Mexican American Movement, I am Joaqun avidly portrays the significance of mestizaje in the unification and mobilization of the Chicano people (Rosales 229). Although the epic poem seeks to establish a Mexican American nationalist ideology, it embodies a masculinist, and therefore, a separatist quality of Chi cano identity. The narrator in I am Joaqun refers to his “fathers” and “brothers” as significant participants in the struggle (16). Gonzales mentions numerous male figures such a s


9 Cuauhtmoc Cortes, Pancho Villa, Emiliano Zapata, Benito Juarez, and Francisco Madero, but only alludes to two females, the deities Tonantzn and La Virgen de Guadalupe. Joaqun is represented as a brutal revolutionary who “killed those men who dared to steal my mine, who raped and killed my love, my wife” (22). The female is depicted as one who is abused and in constant need of male protection. Although Joaqun states he is “in the eyes of woman…I am her and she is me,” (27) he is also “arro gant with pride and bold with machismo” (25). In his representation of the “masses of the people,” Gonzales typically associates a powerful mestizo identity with historical male figures and their contributions to the cause. It seems unfeasible that a Chicana could relate to this revolutionary past and, from this poem, derive the confidence to act i n the present struggle. Aztln: An Anthology of Mexican American Literature (1972) also portrays a negative image of Chicana women and contributes to the masculinist representation of Mexican American identity A majority of the works contained in the anthology are written by men with a predominantly machista 2 attitude. The chapters narrate the history of the Chicano people focusing on the experiences and struggles of Chicano men. Writte n from the male perspective, there are several examples of machista representations of Chicana identity that emphasize the dualism within the Movement and establish a hierarchy. A chapter titled “Life in the Barrios” consists of five stori es that illustrate everyday life in Chicano neighborhoods. The barrio is portrayed through the eyes of five male authors who objectify women and portray them as weak and vulnerable characte rs. In stories such as “On the Road to Texas: Pete Fonseca” and East Los Angeles : Passing 2 For an explanation of machismo in Chicano/a society see page 83-85 in Borderlands/La Frontera.


10 Time” Chicanas are over-sexualized and addressed in a demeaning manner. In st ories such as “Tuscon, Arizona: Las Comadres,” women endure physical abuse from their husbands and associate abuse as an ordinary occurrence they must accept. The storie s present an ignorant image of Chicana women and support the stereotypical image of Mexican Americans. In the Anthology, Chaper IX, “La Causa: La Mujer (The Woman)” further illustrates the masculinist attitude that the oppression of Chicanas is merel y a subset of the general racial oppression. The chapter addresses the Chicana’s “existence a s dependent upon her ability to conform to Anglo society” and the challenges of having to reject her Mexican heritage (275). Mostly written by male authors, it f ocuses on the continuous racial prejudice faced by women in all phases of daily life. Only in the fi nal pages does the chapter quickly mention the imbalance of power and sexual prejudice found within the Mexican American community. A Chapter in the Anthology, “La Causa: La Mujer (The Woman)” includes The Woman of La Raza by Longauez y Vasquez, an early declaration of Chicana feminism. It tackles the problem of machismo and how it is ignored to keep men in power and calls for women’s liberation as a process that has to begin in the home to consequently affect the rest of society. A poem by Mary Lou Espinosa, “La Madre de Aztlan,” follows stating that “True woman’s liberation must happen first in the mind of the woman/ Man cannot change his attitude toward woman until the woman perceives her deep psychological s elf as independent and asserted from man…” (279). These early works ushered in concern for change an demonstrated a step towards a transformation in consciousness.


11 The Chicana Movement of the early 1970’s sought to awaken a feminist consciousness 3 in Mexican American women. Chicanas began questioning their role in el movimiento and their positions within Mexican American society as shown in this excerpt from La Raza journal: “What role does the Chicana serve in the Movement? Just how important is she to the Movement that is dominated by men? The men in the movement only think of her when they need some typing done or when their stomachs growl…” Chicana artists and scholars challenged the subordinate position given to Mexican American women through history demanding recognition and liberation from male control (Garcia 5). With their publications, Chicana feminists mobilized their efforts and created a new image of la mujer Chicana. Many embraced La Malinche as an influential figure in mestizo history: Doa Marina should not be portrayed as negative, insignificant or foolish, but instead be perceived as a woman who was able to act beyond her prescribed societal function, namely, that of being a mere concubine and servant, and perform as one who was willing to make great sacrifices for what she bel ieved to be a philanthropic conviction. (Del Castillo 123) Chicana feminists challenged the ideologies of the Catholic Church and attacke d the restrictions placed upon them through the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe. They no longer wanted to be portrayed as passive wives and mothers, but as active partic ipants in the Mexican American fight for “freedom.” 3 Anna Nieto Gomez discusses the history of the Femin ist movement explaining the major differences between Anglo and Chicana Feminism. As Mexican American women face multiple oppressions, they have created an agenda that addre sses the specific needs of Chicanas. Nieto discusse s welfare rights, child care, and race as significant issues of the Chicana feminist consciousness.


12 Gloria Anzalda, as a Chicana feminist, challenged the traditional conceptions of mestizo identity as her ideology and lifestyle completely rejected the standards create d for Chicana women. Her work, Borderlands/La Frontera celebrates Mexican American identity from the perspective of an educated, autonomous, lesbian woman who embraces the various aspects of hybridity and encourages a dialogue among traditions. Fi rst, the work is written in a variety of languages from “English to Castillian Spani sh to the North Mexican dialect to Tex Mex to a sprinkling of Nahuatl, to a mixture of all of these” (preface to Borderlands ). Anzalda’s text intermingles with Mexican corridos songs from conjunto bands, Native American poetry and other literary texts to emphasize the inter-cultural mixing of language systems. She uses these various forms as affirmations of a hybrid culture that continuously changes as it assimilates. The author al so switches from a personal account of oppression to a collective Mexican American experie nce; her personalized story thus becomes a reflection of an entire community. The code-s witching allows the text to become relatable and accessible to all Mexican Americ ans, including and especially women. Instead of simply celebrating her cultural heritage by incorporating c odeswitching in her text, Anzalda uses the different dialects to highlight the oppr ession occurring within her own community and by means of their “own” languages. She uses code-switching repetitively, not merely as an anti-establishment tool of re sistance, but to emphasize the oppression she experiences by her own people. Utilizing Spanish, Anzalda comments on the cultural expectations that Chicana women must bear: “Nothing in my culture approved of me. Haba agarrado malos pasos. Something was “wrong” with me. Estabba mas all de la tradicin” (Anzalda 16). She frequently


13 switches to Spanish when discussing her rebellious character and when describi ng the ways in which she was criticized for being “untraditional.” In a section tit led “Cultural Tyranny” Anzalda employs code-switching to critique machismo ; she mentions Spanish words associated with women such as hociconas, callejeras, mujer mala, puta and hija de la chingada to express the chauvinistic attitude towards Chicanas (17). As another way of defying the established conceptions of Mexican American women Anzalda changes the traditional use of Aztec mythology that has empowered men and shamed women. She embraces Aztec goddesses in defiance to Catholicism but most importantly, as examples of ambiguous entities whose dualities strengt hen resistance and transcend oppression. To regain female power and status, Anzalda invokes Coatlicue Coatlalopeuh, and Tonantsi as symbols of duality and ambiguity. Her “reclamation of Aztec deities and traditions begins a reformulation of Aztl an from a male nation-state to a feminist site of resistance” (Saldivar-Hull 60-61). By w ay of this reappropriation of Aztec culture, Anzalda creates a new “mythos” 4 of mestizaje The serpent figure, as a metaphor for sexuality, the underworld, and the feminine, has been changed by Anzalda to represent positive images of creativity, energy and li fe: “By implication, metaphors are imposed upon the individual by the collective unconscious, powerfully influencing the individual’s construction of her/himself” (AignorVaroz 49). By reclaiming ancient Indigenous symbology, Anzalda changes her concepti on of the world and “unlearns the masculinist versions of history, religion, and myth” (Saldiva rHull 65). Having changed her unconscious conception of the world, she creates a positive, liberated image of her Self and other mestizas 4 See Aignor-Varoz, “Metaphors of a Mestiza Conscious ness: Anzalda’s Borderlands/La Frontera ,” Melus 25.2 (2000): 47-62.


14 Gloria Anzalda introduces the notion of mestiza consciousness as one that not only tackles the problems of a collective hybrid identity and attends to the experi ence of Chicanas, but also promotes the elimination of binaries altogether. Anzalda propose s a consciousness tolerant of opposing ideas and knowledges and rejects the dualities that dominate the Western tradition. Having been oppressed on multiple levels, Anzalda presents her perspective on oppression and conceives a way of thinking that can resi st its various forms. According to Maria Lugones, “Anzalda focuses on the oppressed subjec t at the “moment” of being oppressed. Thus she can capture and everyday history of oppression and an everyday history of resistance. Her culture, though oppressive, al so grounds her resistance…” (Lugones 32). Because she continuously participates i n all of these, “the white, the Catholic, the Mexican, the indigenous, the instincts” she can sli p into one consciousness or the other and thus envision an ideology that accepts and balances all of them. In “ La herencia de Coatlicue / The Coatlicue State” the writer describes the act of seeing and being seen and the subject/ object position. The binary concept of Wester n thought has created boundaries that Anzalda believes are the sources of oppression; put into categories of either/or, she believes Mexican Americans do not fit into any of them. The Coatlicue state or the state of “in betweeness” in which Mexican Americans often find themselves, is “a state of isolation, separation from harmful sense” (Lug ones 33). The Coatlicue state encourages resistance and the creation of a new identity, “it represents duality in life, a synthesis of duality, and a third perspective—so mething more than a mere duality or a synthesis of duality” (Anzalda 46). In between wo rlds, Anzalda yearns to cross into a third, “alien” world; one that eliminates binarie s and


15 accepts all ideologies. Her survival in this new world depends upon her capacity to a dapt and continuously transform in this “third space (Moreira-Slepoy 4).” 5 Anzalda’s vision of a new mestiza “challenges the dualisms that underpin the power structure of the United States” (Saldivar-Hull 61). She believes it is not enough to question and refute the dominant culture’s views and beliefs but that the oppressed must eventually reconcile with the oppressor or “write it off altogether as a lost cause” and cross into a completely new territory (Anzalda 79). In this new territory the New Mestiza must learn to be flexible and change her perspective so that it is inclusive rather than exclus ive. “The new mestiza copes by developing a tolerance for contradictions, a tolerance for ambiguity” (79). She can embrace all cultures at once, never rejecting or abandoning any asp ect of one or the other; she is a plural being operating in “pluralistic mode” (79). Oft en perplexed about the clash of ideas and knowledges, the mestiza develops a new consciousness that helps her deal with her plural personality. This mestiza consciousness attempts to break down the binaries that have dominated her and are the foundation of a history of oppression: The work of mestiza consciousness is to break down the subject-object duality that keeps her a prisoner and to show in the flesh and through the images in her work how duality is transcended. The answer to the problem between the white race and the colored, between males and females, lies in healing the split tha t originate in the very foundation of our lives, our culture, our language, our thoughts. (80) 5 See Rutherford, Jonathan.“The Third Space. Intervie w with Homi Bhabha.” Identity: Community, Culture, Difference London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1990.


16 The new mestiza must transcend dichotomies and form a new unity between the contradictions. She must overcome the battle with male chauvinism, with the “dominant white” culture, and most critically, she must end her inner struggle: “I w ill not be shamed again/ Nor will I shame myself” (87). Like other Chicano/a activists, Anz alda believes her people will be recognized with dignity and “with a sense of purpose—to belong and contribute to something greater than our pueblo ” (88). Mexican Americans will help create an “open” society without the need to be accepted or understood. Rejection due to difference will no longer be a socio-cultural issue; instead, everyone wil l be invited to participate in the transformation of consciousness and live the “mestiza way.” Anzalda’s reappropriation of Indigenous symbology has allowed her to conceive a consciousness that eradicates established ideologies and creates a new and all-inclusive world view. The mestiza consciousness thus allows for a new notion of Mexican American identity; a dynamic, adaptive, flexible personality that accept s all aspects of its multiple cultures. It provides a new approach to analyzing Mexican American vi sual arts. Instead of the traditional notion that Mexican American artists are struggl ing in a realm of confusion in between the cultures of the Indigenous, Mexican, and Anglo American, it may be that they are in an “alien” or third world. Anzalda’s conception of mestiza consciousness is an effective frame through which to analyze Mexican American visual art. Examples such as performance and poster art depict the negotiation of oppositions that Anzalda conceived. The visual works do not illustrate a conflict of worldviews, but demonstrate an ability to continually a dapt and accept them depicting a synthesis of traditions. In the process of inclusion, the artists continue to examine the oppressor in an attempt to understand the opposing worldviews


17 and create one that does not reject any particular aspect of each. Mexica n American visual artists juxtapose divergent ideas and traditions not solely to celebrat e one or critique another, but as an expression of the amalgamation of their “new” identity Chapter two of this thesis will analyze the ways in which the mestiza consciousness is manifested in the performance art of Chicano artist Guillermo Gmez-Pea and Cuba n American artist Coco Fusco.


18 Chapter Two: The Relation of Mestiza Consciousness to Guillermo Gomez-Pea’s Border Brujo and The Couple in a Cage Gloria Anzalda’s mestiza consciousness offers a unique insight into the performance art of Guillermo Gomez-Pea and its presentation of the complexi ties of a mestizo identity. The art of Gomez-Pea depicts the negotiation of oppositions that Anzalda has conceived of as promoting a “global border consciousness” 6 needed to eradicate oppression (Fox 62). Although his works appear hostile and confrontational in the depiction of cultural struggle, they actually demonstrate a synthesis of wor ldviews by way of intercultural dialogue. As Barbara Kirshenblatt explains in “The Ethnographic Burlesque,” “Gomez-Pea’s works shifts the locus of repudiation and admonishment from the “other” to the practices of othering” (Kirshenblatt 77). This study applies Anzalda’s mestiza consciousness as a new method of analyzing Gomez-Pea’s contentious and “extreme” border art. It will demons trate that although there are considerable differences between these two Mexican-Ame rican artists (one example is that Gomez-Pea is a Mexican native living in the United State s as opposed to Gloria Anzalda who was born and raised in Texas), the effects of hybridity have had similar effects upon their art. In the process of accepting the different elements of a hybrid culture, Gomez Pea examines both the oppressed and dominant traditions and ultimately creates an 6 See the discussion of “border consciousness” outlin ed in Claire F. Fox’s “The Portable Border: Site-Specificity, Art, and the U.S.Mexico Frontie r.” Social Text 41 (1994): 61-82.


19 amalgamation that does not reject any particular aspect of each--however juxtaposing the synthesis may seem. The Chicano artist brings together divergent ideas and tradi tions not solely to celebrate one or critique another, but to express his new-found adaptable and changing identity. This study analyzes how his use of juxtapositions in language s, images, and messages constitutes the notion of an “alien” identity. It will show that these inconsistencies are due to the “in betweenness” aspect of hybridity and that they depict the notions of inclusivity, multiplicity, and a “third” consciousness that Anzalda ha s conceived. Guillermo Gomez-Pea, performance artist and writer, was born in Mexic o City in 1955 and moved to the United States in 1978 to study Post-studio Art at the California Institute of the Arts. He has done pioneer work in performance and video art, insta llation, poetry, journalism and cultural theory. His artworks deal with cross-cultura l issues such as immigration and the politics of language and technology (Gomez-Pea Border Art Clasicos). As a Mexican American artist, he focuses on issues of hybridity, multiculturalism, and the immigrant experience: I want to articulate the ever-changing parameters of my multiple com munities, but always from a multidimensional perspective, the border perspective, the only one I know. I crisscross from the past to the present, from the fictional to the biographical. I fuse prose and poetry, sound and text, art and literature, political activism and art experimentation. (Gomez-Pea Warrior for Gringostroika 16) His works incorporate pop iconography, kitschy props and stereotypical images of Mexicans, Chicanos, and Anglo-Americans as representations of hybrid culture: “Gomez-Pea’s border literature allows for the liberating revelat ion that Latin America


20 has invaded the US (and Canada) in the cultural and social spheres, not to mention demographics, unleashing a transformation from which there is no turning back” (Smorkaloff 91). He often collaborates with other interdisciplinary artists like Roberto Sifuentes, Michelle Ceballos, Violeta Luna, and Coco Fusco. Cuban American artist, Coco Fusco, is a New York based interdisciplinary art ist and writer whose works deal with intercultural relations and the relationships bet ween “North and South.” Her works include English is Broken Here: Notes on Cultural Fusion in the Americas (1995) and The Bodies that Were Not Ours and Other Writings (2001). She has also edited Corpus Delecti: Performance Art of the Americas (1999) and Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self (2003) (“Coco Fusco Biography”). The artist performed in collaboration with Gomez-Pea in The Couple in a Cage providing vital insight into the female experience of hybridization and identit y performance. In the process of understanding how the mestiza consciousness can be used to examine Gomez-Pea’s works, we must engage the themes of sexuality and Indig enous symbology that Anzalda’s and Gomez-Pea’s works share. Both themes appear i n The Couple in a Cage: A Guatinaui Odyssey (1993), a travelling performance featuring Coco Fusco, in which the artists exhibit themselves as Indigenous people from an imag inary island resulting in a performance study of the dynamics of the subject/object pos ition and the effects of colonialism. In both Border Brujo and Couple in a Cage, the artists employ surrealist strategies 7 to visually represent the cultural elements that influence a hybrid identit y. 7 See Gaston Criel’s “Surrealism” in which the autho r elaborates upon the definition of surrealism as a realization of one’s existence: “The merit of Surrealism consists in systematizing this concept, in


21 Throughout the performances, the artists juxtapose seemingly incompatible rea lities, which initially shock and confuse the viewer. The realities that coexist wit hin the art cannot be reconciled within the viewer’s mind and therefore seem strange and ec centric. The result is a glimpse of mestiza consciousness. In Border Brujo, for example, the artist’s “costume” consists of a mariachi outfit and sombrero along with a banana necklace, an Aztec feather headdress, bone jewel ry, animal prints, a Mexican wrestler mask, and a Pachuco hat among other items (Fi g. 2.1, 2.2). In a similar fashion, as Guatinaui Indians ( made-up characters from a f ictitious island) in Couple in a Cage, the artists combine Indigenous garments with sunglasses, Mexican boots, sneakers, and other articles (Fig. 2.3, 2.4). These diverse components are identified by the viewer as Indigenous, Mexican, or Chicano, thus visually representi ng the Chicano/a as a blended personae. The compounded imagery exercises the “freedom” that the artist feels has been negated by cultural standards. establishing the reason for its existence. It is no t a question of art or of literature, but of an “im mediate” realization of the deepest part of one’s self.”


22 Fig. 2.1 Still from Border Brujo Fig. 2.2 Gomez-Pea as Border Brujo Fig. 2.3 Fusco and Gomez-Pena in Couple in a Cage Fig. 2.4 Close-up of performers Adding to the complexity of costume is the intentional use of kitsch 8 as a statement of cross-cultural negotiations. In Border Brujo, Gomez-Pea employs “rasquachismo” 9 presenting numerous “random” everyday, items positioned together in a manner that is intended to appear natural: 8 See Clement Greenberg’s Art and Culture. Boston: Beacon Press, 1961 and Homemade Esthetics: Observations on Art and Taste. New York: Oxford UP, 2000 for an explanation of or iginal conceptions of “kitsch” art including a discussion of historical debates concerning the status of art. 9 For further discussion on “rasquachismo” see Holly Barnet-Sanchez’s “Tomas Ybarra-Frausto and Amalia Mesa-Bains: A Critical Discourse from Wi thin.” Art Journal 64.4 (2005): 91-93.


23 In rasquachismo, the irreverent and spontaneous are employed to make the most from the least... one has a stance that is both defiant and inventive. Aesthetic expression comes from discards, fragments, even recycled everyday materi als... The capacity to hold life together with bits of string, old coffee cans, and broken mirrors in a dazzling gesture of aesthetic bravado is at the heart of rasquachi smo. (Mesa-Bains 156) For example, Gomez-Pea places Catholic prayer candles immediately next t o a Tijuana clay hamburger. These are simple, common items the viewer may think of as unsophisticated and “kitschy”. By recycling them artistically and as a n illustration of his “Mexicanness,” Gomez-Pea makes a statement critiquing the cultural prete nsions of Anglo-American “high” art and declares his acceptance of both traditions as e quals. He questions the established notions of high vs. low, challenging Clement Greenberg’s notion that kitsch is art of an “inferior” culture. In “Art and Culture” Gree nberg claims that peasants will not waste their time attempting to understand a Picasso w hen a simple and straightforward piece is much easier to enjoy: There has always been on one side the minority of the powerful—and therefore the cultivated—and on the other the great mass of the exploited and poor—and therefore the ignorant. Formal culture has always belonged to the first, while t he last have had to content themselves with folk or rudimentary culture, or kitsch. (Greenberg 16) Gomez-Pea inverts valueless items to pieces of great value by utilizing t he rasquache technique, thus commenting on the cultural status accorded to different ethnicities and problematizing traditional Anglocentric conceptions of what constitutes art


24 The use of the various items presents a problem for the viewer as they are set si de by side and produce a dissonant image, thus a disturbed vision of reality. But the items, which include pop culture iconography, ceremonial Catholic pieces, statues of Nati ve American Indians, and a clay model of a hamburger, symbolize everyday experie nces of Mexican Americans and depict the exchange of ideas and traditions resulting f rom colonization. Thus it is a visual representation or performance of mestiza consciousness. The visual representations of hybridity at first seem perplexing in Couple in a Cage a performance originally intended as a “satirical commentary on Western conc epts of the exotic, primitive Other” (Fusco, 143). Trapped in a cage and on display, the performers act as undiscovered Indians from an imaginary island in the Gulf of Mex ico. As in Border Brujo, the diversity of images results in a dissonant impression of reality: “Fusco and Gomez-Pea parodied Western stereotypes of what ‘primitive peopl e do.’ Every stereotype was exaggerated and contested—the sunglasses offset the body paint, the ‘traditional tasks’ included working on a computer” (Taylor 167). The performa nce sought to dramatize the colonial experience by illustrating that what appears to be a struggle between the “primitive” and modern cultures, is actually their com munion. When the spectator first approaches the cage he/she notices two figures tha t appear to be Indigenous as suggested by their garments. They are silent but pa rtake in “normal” activities such as sitting at a table and watching television. Ite ms in the cage include a laptop computer and a set of weights. The spectator is baffled at the “performance” and does not fully comprehend how such “primitive” beings interact s o naturally with “civilized” activities and technologies: “our cage perform ances forced these contradictions out into the open” (Fusco 152). The Indians’ use of these particular


25 props (as symbols of “cultured” peoples) was not merely a critique of the postcolonia l subject/object position, but a way of inviting viewers into a world of inconsistencies; a way of stirring their preconceived ideas of the contemporary “other” and trigg ering an intercultural dialogue. Another aspect of Gomez-Pea’s performance of hybridity is his use of multi ple languages and dialects similar to what we have seen in Anzalda’s Borderlands. Border Brujo begins with Gomez-Pea speaking in tongues while lighting candles. The audience cannot understand what the artist is communicating, but infers that it must be a sort of ritualistic prayer. His tone of voice and his language continually change; a t times he speaks in English with a Vato accent, at others he chants in Gregorian style, and inclusively addresses the audience in Mexican Spanish and “gringo” English. At first, the changes in language and tone add to the puzzling array of images and messages. As the performance unfolds, the changes occur less harshly as the audience becomes a ccustomed to the unusual changes. By eliminating the traditionally used English/Spanish bi nary and using all of these dialects and accents to communicate a message of natural dia logue among cultures, Gomez-Pea performs mestiza consciousness. As Fusco states, Border Brujo articulates a notion of multiple identity that defies monocultural definitions of a Mexican, a chilango (a Mexico City native), or a Chicano. It presents a world of constant intercultural interaction—symbolized by the Casa de Cambio— a territory in which opposing worldviews and stereotypes are endlessly juxtaposed. (Fusco, Introduction 47) Assuming that the audience will catch on to these constant changes constitutes the artist’s invitation to break down the physical and psychological borders that have controlled


26 communication among people: “ Border Brujo is another strategy to let you know we are here to stay, and we’d better begin developing a pact of mutual cultural understandi ng” (GomezPea Border Brujo 50). Although the artist continuously changes his personae in Border Brujo the Aztec “character” dominates for several reasons. Using Indigenous imagery, langua ge, and ritual allows him to freely experience a part of himself that he has previ ously had to suppress and/or reject. The Indigenous aspect of his identity has been the one most greatly negated and attacked. Thus through this performance, he is asserting its a bility to persist. The audience is then forced to ask themselves, who is this foreign identity a nd why is it a key factor in the piece? Gomez-Pea not only recognizes and celebra tes a culture that has been ignored, but is self-fulfilled in the process. The liberating experience achieved by the artist parallels Anzalda’s in Borderlands she states: When I write it feels like I’m carving bone. It feels like I’m crea ting my own face, my own heart—a Nahuatl concept. My soul makes itself through the creative act. It is constantly remaking and giving birth to itself through my body. It is this learning to live with la coatlicue that transforms living in the Borderlands from a nightmare into a numinous experience. (Anzalda 73) The indigenous theme is ubiquitous in Couple in a Cage; along with the display of “civilized” behavior, the artists act out “exotic” activities and rituals s uch as sewing voo doo dolls and grooming one another (Fusco145). In addition to educating the public and attempting to change the “unconscious of American society”, the artists a lso become conscious of the effects of colonialism (Fusco 152). As the artists put themselve s on display, they too become vulnerable and put themselves in the “object” position; they


27 now experience the difficult aspect of being “seen”: Fusco has stated, “Gome z-Pea found the experience of being objectified continuously more difficult to tolerate tha n I did … my experiences as a woman had prepared me to shield myself psychologically from the violence of public objectification” (Fusco 162). Anzalda believes this viole nt experience resulting from oppression is linked to Western conceptions of the gender binary (Anzalda 83). As a homosexual or “half and half,” she conceives reality as limitless and invites her reader to embrace human nature as evolving: What we are suffering from is an absolute despot duality that says we are able to be only one or the other…I am the embodiment of the hieros gamos : the coming together of opposite qualities within. (Anzalda 19) In many of his works, Gomez-Pea deals with gender and sexuality in ways that emphasize tolerance and ambiguity. He does not limit himself to the portrayal of “masculine” personae, but wears makeup and female clothing to illustrate a fl exible interchange among sexes. Many of his works are overtly sexualized and incl ude characters performing or photographed in the nude and in erotic positions. His works, like Anzalda’s, openly tackle the “border problem” by manifesting identity and ge nder issues as not binary. Initially, one might consider Border Brujo and Couple in a Cage as statements of conflict between “North and South, Anglo and Latin America, myth and social reali ty, legality and illegality, performance art and life” (Gomez-Pea Warrior 75). At times, Gomez-Pea exerts anger and frustration at the dominant culture for oppressing t hose with historically less power. He often questions why the Western tradition has regarded the “other” as incapable and insignificant; why their customs have been misi nterpreted


28 due to a lack of interest and awareness: “You thought Mexican art was a bunch of candy skulls and velvet paintings…” (Gomez-Pea 86). He answers through his “extreme” performance of stereotypes and identities in order to expose the audience to the multiplicity that is Mexican American cult ure. By witnessing this eccentric performance, the audience is shocked and realize s they previously perceived absurdities as reality; most conceived the “other” as s trange and now realize that they are the ones being mocked for their ignorance. Although confrontational in his performance, the underlying message is not a hostile one. As Fusco states in“Introduction to Border Brujo ”: “Although his tone is often biting and sardonic, Border Brujo’s message is ultimately of hope” (Fusco 47). The works display the selfdiscovery of a malleable identity described by Anzalda as the new mestiza. Like Anzalda, Gomez-Pea weaves in and out of personalities, continuously challenging his systems of thinking. Influenced by various worldviews, Border Brujo examines what Anzalda calls the Coatlicue state in which a third perspective is created and an “alien” world may be embraced: We want to bring back the ghosts and unleash the demons of history, but we want to do it in a way that the demons don’t scare the Anglo-European others, but force them to begin a negotiation with these ghosts and demons that will lead to a pact of co-existence. (qtd. in Tobing-Rony 191) As Gomez-Pea and Fusco explore the “process of othering” they partake in the “travelling” notion that Anzalda discusses. The artists use reverse anthr opology to study the “other” and gain a better understanding of oppression. As Anzalda “weaves” i n and out of personalities and identities, the artists continuously change and transform f rom the


29 oppressed to the oppressor partaking in the notion of mestiza consciousness The artist’s ability to transform their consciousness and “travel” from one worldview to another illustrates the pluralistic mode of thinking Anzalda envisioned in Borderlands. The performances do not exemplify a state of uncertainty, but an acceptance of diversity; they call for a dialogue among cultures in an effort to explore a p ost-modern identity. As Daniel Belgrad describes, “the discourse of cultural hybridi ty envisions the collapse of colonialism’s structural inequalities into a polyglot global culture where cultural difference becomes the basis for creative syntheses” (Belgrad 249 ). The following chapter will examine this creative synthesis in Mexican Amer ican poster art.


30 Chapter 3: The Creative Synthesis in Mexican American Poster Art Gloria Anzalda’s mestiza consciousness not only provides new insight into the performance art of Guillermo Gomez-Pea, but also into the discussion of the significance of Mexican American posters. Like performance art, M exican American posters illustrate themes of Indigenous symbology, traditional Mexican iconogr aphy and images of Anglo-American popular culture. They similarly explore hybr idity by employing the rascuache and surrealist strategies used by Gomez-Pea. Like the works of both Anzalda and Gomez-Pea, the posters simultaneously depict the pain and suffering caused by hybridization, while celebrating the possibilities and e mpowerment of multiculturalism. They use the hostility towards the dominant culture imag inatively and constructively to explore the “process of othering” in an attempt to resolve the internal conflict caused by hybridity. This chapter will analyze nine Mexi can American posters to illustrate the evolution of the art form from the early 60’s to the twenti eth century. Early Mexican American poster art of the 60’s and 70’s illustrates the pres sing needs of the Mexican American Movement’s fight for reform (Fig. 3.1, 3.2). In the earl y 60’s Cesar Chavez emerged as an iconic Chicano figure as a representative of Mexican


31 American farm workers 10 The United Farm Workers organization (UFW) used strategies such as strikes, fasts, and boycotts to rebel peacefully against harsh and oppres sive working conditions (Rosales 130). Although the UFW’s intentions were nonviolent, posters of the time depict impassioned people with an aggressive stance against inequality. As George Lipsitz states, “unlike art created primarily for the approval of critics and for display in galleries and museums, these posters functioned as cr ucial components of a Chicano public sphere created by community-based artists and activis ts at the grass roots” (Lipsitz 72). Fig. 3.1 Andrew Zermeno, Fig. 3.2 Unknown, Huelga! (Strike!) 1965 Tierra o Muerte! Venceremos 1970 These early posters express a hostile message against the dominant AngloAmerican culture. Their call for reform utilizes strategies that ex ert a sense of frightening 10 See Rosales chapter 8, “The Struggle in the Fields ” in Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement.


32 power. Tere Romo asserts “the Chicano artist’s initial strategy towards pol itical activism combined revolutionary and culturally affirming imagery” (Romo 95). Huelga! (Strike!) illustrates such great exigency for equal rights. In the poster, a Mexican Am erican farm worker holds a UFW flag and runs uncontrollably towards a dream of equality. He fervidly yells “huelga!” as he steps over the large red letters communica ting the focal message of resistance. The poster’s open composition is largely significant indicating that the Mexican American farm worker will no longer be detained by the boundaries a nd restrictions put upon him. As the worker leaps out of the poster and confronts the viewer, he asserts his irrepressible need to be recognized and accepted. This passionat e portrayal of the Mexican American’s demand for freedom illustrates the Movement’s se nse of urgency. Tierra o Muerte! Venceremos uses a similar strategy to arouse a rebellious strike against oppression. The title, which translates to “Land or death! We will overcome, ” relays a potent message of opposition and endurance. Like Huelga! this poster similarly calls for resistance, yet instead of focusing on the individual’s power to enact c hange, it centers on the power of community. The shouting figures emerge abruptly from t he red background holding their firsts in the air to symbolize power. Although fairly simpl istic in composition, the message is clear: power in numbers is the effective way to ove rcome injustice and gain respect in a discriminative society. These revolutionary poste rs were not merely the artistic outcome of the social movement, as Lipsitz explains “they played crucial roles in constructing organic solidarity and in defining collective ideolog y” (Lipsitz 73).


33 During the 70’s, posters continued to depict a message of resistance, although artists turned to Indigenismo 11 as counter-cultural sources of empowerment Alurista’s El Plan Espiritual de Aztl n gained momentum as it justified the southwest U.S. as Aztln, the mythical homeland of the Aztec Indians. Poster art for this period shows that Chicanos embraced their Indigenous roots in an even greater manner by adopting Az tec symbology and mythology into their works and referencing a connection to their Indigenous past (Fig. 3.5, 3.6). The references to Aztln and Indigenous imagery can be traced back to the works of the Mexican muralistas (Fig 3.3, 3.4) Their murals often narrate a rich heritage of Aztec origin that later reappears in Mexic an American poster art. Fig. 3.3 Diego Rivera, The History of Mexico: The Ancient Indian World 1929-35 11 The Indigenismo movement arose during the Mexican Revolution and ac cording to Encyclopedia Britannica, advocated “a dominant soci al and political role for Indians in countries wher e they constitute a majority of the population.” The ideas of the Indigenismo movement were emphasized during the Mexican American Movement as an Indigeno us past became a source of empowerment and resistance for Chicanos.


34 Fig. 3.4 David Alfaro Siqueiros, Cuauhtemoc Against the Myth 1944 Fig. 3.5 Malaquias Montoya, 1972 Fig. 3.6 Xavier Viramontes Vietnam Aztl n Boycott Grapes (Boicotea las uvas) 1973 Montoya’s Vietnam Aztln relays an anti-war message by connecting the horrors of the Vietnam War with the history of Aztln and the Mexican-American str uggle. The term fuera indicates a call for the retreat of the United States not only from the Vi etnam War but also from the occupied territory of Aztln. The poster draws parallels be tween Vietnam and Aztlan as victims of the imperialist agenda of the United State s. It also


35 utilizes irony as the same troops fighting for “freedom” in Vietnam, are se cond-class citizens in the U.S. The poster aims to unite the Vietnamese and Chicanos in an effort to defeat the imperialism of the dominant culture. The poster states “ unidos venceran,” “ together they will overcome” creating a sense of camaraderie not only bet ween the Vietnamese and Chicano people, but also between all non-Anglo peoples. Once more there is an illustration of fists, this time, coming together to communicate a message of powerful unity and brotherhood. Another significant statement is conveyed through the facial expressions of the figures. They look stern, defiant, and very much focused on defeating oppression and gaining equal rights. Boycott Grapes, another poster of the UFW organization, employs Aztec imagery as a statement of counter-cultural resistance. The poster ensures tha t the Indigenous, having been massacred in the process of colonization and imperialism, continue to exis t as examples of resilience and strength. The Indigenous figure crushes grape s in a threatening manner as to demonstrate the violence that may be reciprocated i f the Movement’s demands are ignored. Much like the figures in Vietnam Aztln, the Indigenous man holds a firm expression of temerity. His piercing eyes stare at the audience in an intimidating manner as to arouse instability in the viewer. This s erves to validate the potency of the Movements by creating a sense of uneasiness in the domi nant culture The strategy of Indigenismo, used much like Anzalda and Gomez-Pea, serves as a mutual reminder to both Mexican and Anglo Americans of the continuing persistence of the mestizo people In the late 70’s and 80’s, poster art significantly changed due to the labor, politica l and educational reforms established in the United States. Chicanos attained equa l rights


36 and became recognized as leaders, scholars, intellectuals, and artists. The Chi cano and Chicana Movements gained success and intellectuals like Anzalda began dis cussing hybridity in a new light. As discussed in chapter one, in the process of exploring a hy brid identity, Anzaldua discussed hybridization and multi-culturalism in a more constr uctive and tolerant manner. Mexican Americans began celebrating their multi-cultura l heritages, even accepting their Anglo-American influences. Posters, instead of solel y displaying political messages, now aimed to celebrate their achievements by illustrat ing Mexican American pride and heritage. Tere Romo asserts that “in visualizing a new Chi cano cultural identity, artists became part of a cultural reclamation process to reintroduce Mexican art and history, revitalize popular artistic expressions, and support comm unity activities” (Romo 100). Posters were being commonly used to announce the exhibition of art shows, musical and theatrical performances, and to promote educational s eminars in the barrios. Jose Montoya’s Pachuco Art: A Historical Update and Rodolfo Cueelar’s Bilingual Education Says Twice as Much are prime examples of the poster’s communicative functions as advocators of heritage and education (Fig. 3.7, 3.8):


37 Fig. 3.7 Rodolfo “Rudy” Cuellar, Fig. 3.8 Jose Montoya, Rodolfo “Corky”Gonzalez Bilingual Education Says Twice as Much and Louie “The Foot” Gonzalez, Jose Montoya’s 1975 Pachuco Art: A Historical Update 1978 Posters from the late 80’s up until contemporary times continue to be used for communication in the barrios, although there is a new emphasis on hybridity. Like Chicano literature, performance art, and mural painting, poster artists super impose Indigenous, traditional Mexican, and Anglo-American pop culture images. They not only emphasize the significance of the Indigenous tradition by incorporating Aztec i magery but also include Catholic iconography such as La Virgen de Guadalupe, patron mother of Mexico. The Aztec and traditional Mexican icons are oftentimes juxtaposed wit h references to Anglo-American popular culture such as comic book heroes. The poste r artists use their aversion of the dominant culture as a creative impulse to illust rate the future of hybridity as a continuous and inevitable process. Like Gomez-Pea, the posters use surrealist strategies to capture the at tention of the viewer. They employ rascuache techniques to invert the kitsch process and comment


38 on the validity of art. For example, Victor Ochoa’s Border Bingo uses a traditional Mexican game template to organize his poster (Fig. 3.9). The template is unique to the Mexican Lotera, a traditional Mexican game similar to Bingo (Iglesias and Swanson). The loteria cards are not only considered components of a game, but also revered as Mexican folk art. These rascuache items have been transformed into folk art and now used by Ochoa, the cards become subjects of poster art. Like Gomez-Pea, the ar tist inverts kitschy items into artistic icons of artistic significance. Gomez-Pea’s performances of various Mexican American “characters” e xpress the internal conflict of identities he often experiences. Ochoa similarly illustrates this struggle in Border Bingo : “the poster presents an extensive array of images, icons, signs, and symbols evoking the shared social history and the common collective of people of Mexican origin in the U.S.” (Lipisitz,74). Fig. 3.9 Victor Ochoa, Border Bingo 1987 When first examining the poster, the viewer identifies an array of character s associated with the Mexican American experience. These include El Vato, La Migra, El


39 Nopal, La Turista, La Criada, El Marine, La Facil, El Indio, and La Punk These “border” characters are exaggerated, portrayed stereotypically as a s tatement of the absurdities believed to be the “border” experience. In a satirical manner, t he poster actually illustrates the harsh reality of Mexican American history. The changes that have occurred in Mexico as results of imperialism are demonstrated by the trans formation of El Indio to El Nopal, then into La Turista and finally into La Punk. The changing characters mimic the influence of American culture on the Mexican way of li fe. The immigrant experience is depicted with the characters of La Migra and El Marine; these are illustrated as impetuous and aggressive figures that pitilessly at tack Mexican immigrants. La Migra is illustrated with a huge pair of binoculars holding a net and on the look out for illegal “aliens.” It seems as if La Migra is looking to capture escaping animals, rather than human beings. Similarly, El Marine holds weaponry as he intends to “hunt” anyone who does not belong. Chicana stereotypes are also addressed as the ar tist characterizes Mexican American women in two traditional ways, as either faciles (easy), or criadas (servants). As discussed in chapter one, Mexican American women traditionally had limited paths they could choose in life. They could either become prostitutes, or wives and mothers thus perpetually perform the role of caretaker These Mexican American stereotypes resemble those discussed by Anzalda and perf ormed by Gomez-Pea. Although the joining of varying images may confuse the viewer at fir st, the divergence illustrated is eventually to be experienced as an identity synthesi s, a visual representation of mestiza consciousness. The mestiza consciousness is further illustrated in Tina Hernandez’s Ya Basta and Laura Molina’s Cihualyaomiquiz, The Jaguar The posters are not only feminist


40 representations created to help fight gender oppression, but also depict Anzalda’s vision of an adaptable identity (Fig. 3.10, 3.11). For example, Cihualyaomiquiz, The Jaguar clearly embodies the ongoing struggle for women’s liberation by claiming that Chicana women “resist, and will never be tamed.” Ya Basta! states that “it is enough, you don’t have to suffer anymore.” The posters empower women through both a literal and visual message of resistance. Both depict fierce female characters portrayin g aggressive characteristics in a rebellious stance. Like the earlier posters, these present an urgent need for a change in the social structure, however, they now depict the Anglo American tradition as a powerful and influential part of their identity. They unite famili ar images of American popular culture such as Wonder Woman (Fig. 3.12) and Rosie the Riveter 12 (Fig. 3.13), with unique Indigenous and Mexican characteristics illustrating t he transformation of poster art to a more inclusive medium. The various cultural ele ments that take part in the Chicana experience are relayed to show the interchangeable e ffects of hybridity. Like the performances of Gomez-Pea, the posters explore the “proc ess of othering” using the strategy of converging images from both Mexican and Anglo American traditions as an equalizer. The poster artists are not merely “borr owing” from the Anglo American tradition, but cleverly translating a universal message of equality; they demonstrate the ability to adapt to changing traditions while retainin g a strong sense of cultural heritage. 12 Rosie the Riveter came to symbolize working Americ an women of WWII. She became a cultural icon of the United States and is commonly used as a symbol of feminism.


41 Fig. 3.10 Laura Molina, Cihualyaomiquiz, Fig. 3.11 Tina Hernandez, Ya Basta! 2003 The Jaguar 1996 Fig. 3.12 DC Comics, Wonder Woman 1970’s Fig. 3.13 J. Howard Mitchell, We Can Do It 1942 Anzalda’s mestiza consciousness helps understand the historical progression of Mexican American posters from an art form that heavily and aggressively cr itiqued the dominant culture, to one that embraces hybridity in an attempt to relieve the tens ion of difference. Although contemporary posters continue to question imperialism and the effects of colonialism, they are more prone to accepting the notion of changing


42 consciousness and exercising multiperspective. They have evolved to illustrate a tolerance for ambiguities and contradictions; like Anzalda, the poster artis ts depict a Mexican American identity as flexible and pluralistic. In relation to Anza lda and Gomez-Pea, poster artists internalize the Mexican American struggle and manifest their negative and positive experiences through creative forms. Anzalda’s conception of a new mestiza consciousness may seem utopian, but as society has shown in its progression, the idea of a global culture is apparently becoming reality. The inf luence of hybridity in all aspects of society becomes more apparent as consciousness bec omes less exclusive and more open to new and divergent ideas. Mexican American performance and poster art not only contribute a rich portrayal of Chicano/a history but also provide an engaging perspective on what may be the future of hybridization and a new “wor ld” culture.


43 Conclusion This thesis has explored Gloria Anzalda’s notion of mestiza consciousness and its relation to Mexican American performance and poster art. It has exam ined how the traditional conceptions of mestizo identity were redefined by Anzalda’s Borderlands in an attempt to eradicate oppression through a change of consciousness. This notion wa s then applied to Guillermo Gomez-Pea’s performance art discussing the intric acies and complexities of his performances as examples of mestiza consciousness. This thesis finally analyzed various Mexican American posters in relation to both Anzald a and Gomez-Pea’s art works. It demonstrated that the similarities in the a rtist’s treatment of hybridity illustrate a progressive change in worldview, thus exhibit mestiza consciousness. Chapter one introduced Mexican American heritage as multi-faceted due to its heterogeneous roots. It discussed the various Indigenous, Anglo-American, and traditional Mexican influences that constitute Chicano/a culture. The chapter pa rticularly focused on an examination of Mexican American literature and its portrayal of cultural identity. It traced Mexican American literary history emphasizing i ts masculinist approach especially during the Movement, a vital time in Chicano/a history whic h sought civil rights and equality. The study went on to examine the radical changes m ade by Gloria Anzalda to the masculinist ideologies of the Movement. Her approaches to the discussion of cultural identity challenged the established traditions by elim inating the binaries that dominate Western thinking. Her notion of mestiza consciousness ushered in


44 an alternative way of dealing with inner conflict by embracing and celeb rating all aspects of hybridity. Her literature demonstrates a negotiation of oppositions through the us e of code-switching and the interchange of literary styles. It also appropriat es Indigenous concepts as paths of progression towards a future free of oppression. Her conceptions call for a change of consciousness from the traditionally binary form to a pluralis tic way of thinking; tolerant of ambiguities and welcoming to difference, this new mestiza consciousness attempts to resolve both external and internal struggles by envisioning a “third world” in which oppression due to difference is nonexistent. Chapter two reveals similar qualities between Anzalda’s theoretica l resolution to oppression and Guillermo Gomez-Pea’s performance art. It analyzes two per formance pieces in which the use of juxtaposing languages, images, and ideas express t he negotiation of oppositions that Anzalda has conceived. Like Anzalda, Gomez-Pea uses the hostility towards the dominant culture as an expressive medium of resoluti on. The artist employs kitsch and rasquache techniques to comment upon the validity of art and culture affirming the absurd nature of the high vs. low standards that permeat e the Western tradition. His surrealist techniques serve to shock the viewer and challenge him/her to consider new ways of communicating and thinking, thus promoting a change of consciousness. Similar to Anzalda’s Borderlands, Gomez-Pea’s Border Brujo and The Couple in a Cage employ code-switching and the use of various languages and dialects interchangeably. The artist also acts out the multiple personalit ies associated with Mexican Americans focusing on the Indigenous aspect of himself in the liberat ing and self-fulfilling process. He often mixes Indigenous costume, language, and ri tual with


45 modern technology and futuristic elements to portray, like Anzalda, that progress cannot be attained by negating but only by including and accepting. The final chapter continues the study of mestiza consciousness as a new approach to Mexican American visual arts. It focuses on poster art, an affirming and inf luential cultural identity tool. The chapter traces the evolution of Mexican American poster s from an art form that expressed acute hostility to one that illustrates a harmoni ous amalgamation of traditions. It proposes a significant change from the posters of the 60’s and 70’s to those created in the 21 st century. Whereas earlier posters exhibit a revolutionary and threatening tone to demonstrate Chicano/a resistance, the poster s of contemporary times illustrate an inevitable and progressive union among culture s. Like Gomez-Pea’s works, the posters do not ultimately envision a utopia as they continue to explore the painful results of colonization; however, they do accept the possibility of reconciliation as a resolution to the border crisis. The creative synthesis il lustrated in the work of these Mexican American artists indeed demonstrates that the possibili ties for change in world consciousness are active and infinitely dynamic.


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