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Synopsis

In this essay, written for the catalogue of the exhibition La Frontera/The Border: Art About the Mexico/United States Border Experience (1993), artist and professor David Avalos describes his experience working at San Diego’s Centro Cultural de la Raza between 1978 and 1988 and the significant events and challenges faced by the Centro during this period. Avalos briefly profiles the Committee on Chicano Rights (CCR), emphasizing its efforts to bring awareness to injustices against migrants in the border region in order to pressure the United States to adopt a more humane immigration policy. He goes on to underscore the intimate connection between Chicanos and the borderlands, re-consecrated as Aztlán, and the importance of this connection in Chicano visual and performance art, manifest in the founding of the Border Art Workshop/Taller de Arte Fronterizo (BAW/TAF). Avalos discusses the intentions of BAW/TAF to set a standard for art production on the border and the establishment of local, national, and international dialogues. The document includes a poetic manifesto by Avalos entitled “Me ‘n u,” which addresses the co-optation of border art by a self-serving artist who was a former BAW/TAF member. Avalos describes his participation in public art projects, including the San Diego bus project, and his desire to bring attention to the problem of multiculturalism, or lack thereof, particularly within societies with multiple systems of justice. Avalos concludes by advocating a justice system based on the Mayan expression “You are my other self,” arguing that the possibility of community—on the border and elsewhere—rests on a willingness to embrace such a principle.

Annotations

David Avalos is an artist, writer and founding father and member of the Border Art Workshop/Taller de Arte Fronterizo, a bi-national collectivecommitted to creating political art about the US/Mexico border. The exhibition, La Frontera/The Border: Art About the Mexico/United States Border Experience was co-curated by the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego’s curator Madeleine Grynsztejn and Centro Cultural de la Raza’s curator, Patricio Chavez. It was a unique collaboration between a large mainstream museum and a small community cultural center. As such, it countered the prevailing trend in the late-1980s and into the 1990s of major museums co-opting Chicano border art and turning “the border” into a strictly metaphoric, non-political concept. Though not exclusively comprised of Chicano/Latino artists, the La Frontera/The Border exhibition maintained the focus on the border as a geographical site and on its sociopolitical reality. Despite the critics and the controversy that surrounds the topic of the U.S./Mexico border, the exhibition functioned as a truly critical, collective effort between the two organizing entities, thus becoming a model for other institutions. 

Also see catalogue essays by both co-curators Patricio Chávez and Madeline Grynsztejn (doc. no. 809326), and individual essays by Grynsztejn (doc. no. 809400), Chávez (doc. no. 809385), as well as Texas author Gloria Anzaldúa (doc. no. 809763).

Researcher
Tere Romo.
Team
Chicano Studies Research Center, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA
Credit
Courtesy of the private archives of David Avalos, National City,CA