Visualizing Latinx (Hi)Stories

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Three works of art featured in the Visualizing Latinx (Hi)Stories exhibition including two collages and a photograph

LAGEORGIALATINA Magazine cover created by Yvette Flores Orlenas and Lupita Rosas VerdinesWhat does it mean to visualize Latinx histories and stories? In Fall 2023, undergraduate students enrolled in “Latinx US History” blended historical knowledge with contemporary studies and lived experiences to answer this question via creative practices. This installation of their work balances individual Latinx stories with collective Latinx histories from the Caribbean, Latin America, and the US. Contributors worked individually and collectively to illustrate the connections between past, present, and future while attending to the (trans)national aspects of Latinx history. By using “Latinx,” students followed the example of Afro-Indigenous (Zapotec) poet Alan Pelaez Lopez who treats the “X” as a wound that “represents the exact inarticulation of the Latin American experience.” This installation views the “X” in Latinx as a space of possibility, a canvas upon which to explore diverse perspectives, experiences, celebrations, and critiques of latinidad. 

Adriana Ortiz, Aquí y Allá pero en Familia (Here and There but as a Family, Digital phototograph collage

Here you will find themes of anti-blackness, displacement, migration, memory, labor, (il)legality, imperialism, transnationalism, and placemaking. For example, Franco, Urban, Maza, Hanson, Ortiz, and Venegas each bring our attention to the central role that oral history and familial memory play in passing down stories about migration and transnational lived experiences. Oral histories and interviews animate the works by Bonilla, Black, Olivo, and Reyes, with each piece showcasing individual or collective aspects of Latinx everyday life across the US. Contreras, Gamez, Flores Orlenas, and Rosas Verdines take varying approaches to depicting the realities of Latinx labor in the US South, including here in Georgia. And Barrios, Hibbeln, and Zavarro take us from the local to the hemispheric, with each paying attention to the transnational realities that have shaped migrants’ experiences with imperialism and displacement. 

Through these various mediums and thematic approaches, the curators reject a monolithic understanding of Latinx identity and history. Rather, these pieces show how Latinx (hi)stories can be best understood as an in-progress mosaic that has been and continues to be shaped by everyday processes and people across the Americas. 

This installation was made possible by the visionary students enrolled in Professor Yami Rodriguez’s Fall 2023 “Latinx US History” course who worked in collaboration with Carlos Museum staff. 

 

Exhibiting Artist Statements

The below artist statements are arranged counterclockwise from the exhibition's introductory panel. Please click on the student's name to view their statements. 

Louisa Hanson, ‘26 C, “Arrumando a Mesa (Setting the Table)”

Throughout the Fall 2023 semester we looked at the importance of oral histories and their role in strengthening communities and family relations. For this project, I looked to material objects that have united individuals and propagated the telling of oral histories across various Latinx cultures. Reflecting on my own lived experiences with my mom and grandma, listening and learning about Brazilian culture, the toalhas de renda, or lace towels, stood out to me as objects that prompted conversations at the family table. The toalhas, which are mainly used as tablecloths, are commonly passed down through generations, as are the various methods by which they’re made. The toalha displayed in the frame was made using a crochet technique, and one similar to it can be seen in use, under a vase, in one of the photos. Keep an eye out for other toalhas spread around the exhibition!

Alberto Bonilla, ‘26 C, Nuestras Voces (Our Voices)

With a focus on individual undergraduate stories about fostering community at Emory, this series illustrates the diverse range of experiences and opportunities that are offered on-campus for the Latinx-identifying population. The portraits and accompanying oral history interviews also provide insight into themes that have been helpful in shaping the experiences of students. Further, students voice their ideas on what should be changed to create a more welcoming campus. By listening to individual stories and voices, I hope that we can cultivate an environment where people can be free to relate or provide insight into ways that we can expand what it means to not only be a Latinx student at Emory but other universities as well. I invite you to scan the QR code to access and listen to the various stories and experiences of some of the Latinx student body here at Emory.

Listen to the oral histories recorded by Alberto:

Luke Hibbeln, ‘26 C, “The long walk from San Salvador to DC”

This piece visualizes the confluence of events and forces that converged on activists, clergy, and entire cultures during the Salvadoran Civil War. In addition, the collage illustrates the conditions that have and continue to make it untenable for so many to stay in their cherished homeland. This piece captures the tremendous hardship of rebuilding one's life and keeping faith despite loss of community, state violence, and economic inequality. I show how the journey of immigration is not a unidirectional experience and illustrate the dynamic and reciprocal nature of transnational links. This project also portrays the everchanging role of faith, its potential to uplift the downtrodden, and the influence of liberation theology. Most critically, I seek to visualize why so many DC-based Salvadoran refugees drew parallels between life in San Salvador in 1981 and, later, during the 1991 DC Mount Pleasant Uprising.

Cassandra Olivo, ‘23C, “Lo que me niegan” (“What they deny me”)

This work depicts the reactions that a Black woman received on social media when she claimed a Mexican identity. Anonymized comments are laid over the creator’s portrait in order to demonstrate an incorrect, yet commonly  held belief, that one cannot be both Black and Mexican. Additionally, it calls attention to the misconception that all Mexicans speak Spanish, which outright excludes those who, for example, speak one or more of the various indigenous languages that are spoken in Mexico, even as indigeneity is seen as a component of the modern Mexican identity. By reinterpreting the original TikTok via this collage, I aim to show how individuals, in their attempts to perform Mexicanidad (Mexicanness) and combat anti-blackness, may unintentionally reinforce boundaries of belonging. The creator, for example, asserts their Spanish language skills as proof of their Mexicanidad. Overall, this piece asks us to broaden individual and communal understandings of what it means to “look” and “sound” Mexican.

Yvette Flores Orlenas (‘26 C) & Lupita Rosas Verdines (‘26 C), LAGEORGIALATINA - Los Caminos de La Vida

This magazine honors and puts forth the labor and businesses Latinx people take on. Specifically, we shine light on what it means to be from the South, particularly Georgia, and be Latinx. Thus, we immersed ourselves into various ethnic enclaves and spaces that include, but are not limited to: Buford Highway, Plaza Fiesta, la Vaquita, and the communities in Mableton and Marietta. Some of the people pictured were only comfortable having their picture taken, which we respected. This means that everything shared in this magazine—names, stories, backgrounds—were given to us by these wonderful individuals, and we are honored to be given the platform to present it to a larger audience. We invite you to look into the businesses shared as you flip through these pages, and to think about what it means to visualize Georgia Latinx hi(stories).

Nicole Urban, “Humanizing the Immigrant Label”

In recent history labels and statistics have been used to shape the Latinx community into a perceived threat. My collage serves as a visual testament to the resilience and liveliness of the Latinx community in the face of such stereotypes. Although there are many parallels among immigrant experiences, one label completely fails to encompass the millions of unique histories. My piece is a call for empathy. By focusing on my mother's story, I connect broader themes of migration and placemaking to a single person's perspective. Fragments of my mother's account are written by hand, expressing how oral histories are often collected in an informal and personal manner.

Adriana Ortiz, ‘26 C, “Aquí y Allá Pero en Familia”

In my twenty years of life, I have visited Mexico eighteen times. Six of these visits were to reunite with my mom and siblings who were deported when I was six years old. Going back and forth during the eight months that my loved ones were gone blurred the Texas-Mexico border for me. While the culture I was surrounded with in Texas was so similar to what I experienced in Mexico, there was still an underlying difference in the upbringing of my siblings and I that persisted within our interactions. My siblings’ childhood experience in Mexico was very different but through shared blood and familial embedded traditions we made the border state experience feel inseparable from life in Mexico. Through blended pictures capturing both my Texas childhood and my siblings in Mexico, I showcase how similar our lives were despite the distinct environments. This project isn't just mine; it's our family’s shared narrative, melding both worlds seamlessly.

Sabrina Reyes, ‘26 C, “The Golden Drops Café”

As a proud Dominican and Ecuadorian woman from Brooklyn, my project explores the layers of identity, belonging, and power of community. Born and raised in Brooklyn's vibrant melting pot of culture and community, my transition to Emory brought a palpable contrast. Latinx students face challenges in claiming both figurative and physical space on campus. However, I found solace and family among my Latinx friends at Emory, with spaces like Centro and Professor Yami's unwavering support playing a crucial role in fostering creative expression and authentic selfhood. This project serves as my creative haven, amplifying the voices and spaces of Latinx life at Emory. As you explore this exhibit, immerse yourself in the diversity of community and culture. I extend an invitation to visit the third floor of the Carlos Museum. There, you can savor the warmth of the community, perhaps with a cup of the delightful Golden Drops coffee.

Special thanks to Centro Latinx, an identity space for Latinx students at Emory.

Marc Zavarro, ‘26 C, “The Forgotten Victims of Hurricane Irma“

When Hurricane Irma made landfall on Florida’s coast in 2017, the impacts of the storm were seen immediately. After months of reconstruction and government assistance, Florida and the majority of the United States forgot about Irma and moved on from its devastation. The cities of Immokalee and Fort Myers in Florida, both densely populated with undocumented immigrants, did not see assistance for months or, in some cases, years. There are a wide range of historical and contemporary factors that caused this prolonged aid delay, many of which stem from the failures of the United States immigration system. Reliance on low-paying agricultural jobs, distrust of the government, and fear of deportation are just some of the reasons thousands of people did not seek help in the storm.

Karla Franco, ‘26C, “From California to Georgia” (“De California a Georgia”)

Paying homage to my mom’s lived experiences, this photo album shows her Mexican upbringing in Dos Palos, California, including her school days to her quinceañera, and the life she eventually created for herself In Lawrenceville, Georgia. My mom was the last of her siblings to be born in Durango, México and was only two years old when my grandparents migrated to the United States. With these photos of not only my mom, but also my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and extended and immediate family, I offer a glimpse of what it was like for my mom to grow up in the United States and the ways my family has stayed connected in important moments despite the distance between us. The Latinx history of my mom’s side of my family in the United States dates all the way back to 1980, but it’s also constantly being created anew.

Kimberly Gutierrez, ‘25 C, “La Inocencia de los Niños”

The innocence of the children is lost. Young kids increasingly come to the United States, often alone, to avoid acts of violence happening in their homeland. Before they know it, they are separated from their parents and detained in detention centers. Then, they are taken to immigration court to defend themselves against the government of the United States. Many of them do not have any representation, and the court system is not required to appoint an attorney. Because of this, children are taught what to say and what not to say in court. This process is tedious and takes time. Nine out of ten children are deported. The immigration court system is not suitable for these children. My work is targeted to bring awareness, bring justice to these children, and finally, if possible, restore their innocence and protect them from the monsters of the real world. (Please feel free to look through the files.)

Angel Barrios, ‘25 C, “The United Fruit Company in Guatemala”

Through an illustrated timeline condensed into a thought-provoking pamphlet, this interactive piece explains the impactful repercussions of American corporate greed and its long-lasting effects on Latin American countries' economies. Specifically, I illustrate the United Fruit Company's strategic outsourcing to Latin American countries, with a focus on Guatemala between 1899 and 1954. Initially, the United Fruit Company's expansion appeared to be a positive addition to the Guatemalan economy. In theory, the company would provide job opportunities and contribute to the nation's infrastructure by creating hospitals, railroads, and a telegraph. However, the facade of positivity concealed a darker reality that became evident as the company established a monopolistic role by controlling Guatemala's economic fate. The images included in the pamphlet will help the audience navigate the history of the UFC in a visual manner. 

Victoria Maza, ‘26C, “Remembrance: Impromptu Family History”

Remembrance: Impromptu Family History explores the importance and privilege of having access to visual memories and oral histories within immigrant families and communities. This work synthesizes oral family histories into short pieces of prose and poetry in connection to important family photographs. The joy of childhood informs the bulk of this work as it seeks to traverse the intricacies of biases and the rose-colored recollections of the past to (re)contextualize the lives of immediate family members. Memory is an essential tool for immigrant communities seeking to maintain connections, serving as a glue to connect past, present, and future not solely through hardships, but the quiet pride of small victories and moments of happiness. This work is meant to be experienced and impart familial history through tactile and visual interaction.

Priscila Venegas, ‘24 C, “Mi hogar transnacional (My transnational home)”

I was born in Fort Worth, Texas. At around the age of three, my family moved to my parents’ hometown in Michoacán, México, where we lived during my mother’s and little brother’s legal process to obtain US residency. In Michoacán, I grew up with extended family and attended primary school. Four years later, the residency request was approved! The good: being able to return to Texas and all be reunited with my father. The bad: leaving behind the life we established in Michoacán. It was a radical change; the images in this collage capture the different landscapes, languages, and everyday connections that I had to navigate as a child missing the open spaces of Michoacán and re-learning to love the small family spaces in Fort Worth. Eventually, I got used to these changes and learned to call Texas my home again. And, despite only visiting once per year, Michoacán is still my home too.

Kennedie Black, ‘26 C, “Tell Me A Story, Cuéntame Una Historia”

One of my first introductions of Latinx history was via a close friend who was a second generation Mexican American. Our friendship is full of stories from each of our backgrounds and histories, with both of us sharing stories our parents and family told us while growing up. I wanted to highlight such stories and elements of her history here. The embroidery was designed to represent the broader intermingling of her Mexican and American identities. From tales of her family in Guanajuato to elements of her identity here in America as a White Sox fan, this piece was made with the intention to visualize her story as a Mexican American and Latinx individual living in the US.

Alejandra Gamez, ‘26C, “Under the Gaze of Belonging”

In "Under the Gaze of Belonging", the stitched eye in the sky serves as a disheartening metaphor for government scrutiny of undocumented individuals. Given the agricultural industry's high rate of undocumented laborers and the challenging nature of this specific crop, I chose a strawberry field as the backdrop. The lone laborer works beneath an unblinking, fixed stare, which mirrors the sun’s relentless heat. The eye, rigid and watchful, echoes the pressures faced by undocumented immigrants in every aspect of their lives, where the desire for belonging clashes with the burden of constant observation. The artwork illustrates the inescapable anxiety of being an undocumented immigrant in the United States, where true belonging feels unattainable for many. The eye, indifferent to occupation, character, or morality, imposes an unsettling awareness that sentences a person to an isolating existence solely based on their immigration status.

Arturo Contreras, ‘24 C, “Pool is Closed at This Time, Fall 2023”

“Pool is Closed at This Time” is a venture into experimental photojournalism, utilizing analog and instant film to document the often overlooked physical labor within the imagined community of “Latinx Emory.” The community of "Latinx Emory" centers around Latinx students, staff, and faculty as agents of academic pursuits, community-builders, and promoters of cultural awareness for the institution. In this conceived narrative, my lens shifts focus to the often overlooked Latine individuals and groups - who work indirectly with the institution, yet maintain and sustain the institution’s physical structure. Through this Polaroid series, I document the labor-intensive renovations undertaken by Latino men from Sauve Pool LLC at the Clairmont Campus pool. The series visualizes and explores questions of power dynamics within an imagined community, as well as the relationship between photographer and subject who have a “shared” ethnic identity.  In these pairings, the left image pays respect to the laborers' agency and records them how they chose to be photographed. The right image captures the raw elements, “herramienta (tools),” and the “chamba” (work) setting.

Credit

 Visualizing Latinx (Hi)Stories will be on view in the John Howett Works on Paper Gallery on Level One.