Growing up in a Mexican-American household, my childhood was saturated with the machismo and marianismo culture. Hyper masculinity oozed brutality, control, and bad cologne. Placated and tongue biting women don’t speak up, act up, and always have rice and tortillas on the table at precisely six o’clock. Daughters are being raised to submit to men, are being taught to fetishize purity and holiness. We are expected to feed stomachs, ego, and taste for violence.
With my work, I draw from my experience within this toxic culture and provide a call to action for the women who don’t have a voice to feel empowered and for the men with a little too much to say to be softened. The imagery I use within my work references the everyday accessible household items that are traditionally associated with my Mexican-American household: fiesta spices, fideo, prayer cards, candles, blankets, and tortillas. I want these items to be culturally and physically accessible. A visual language usually reserved for Abuela’s kitchen and living room is transformed into defiance, empowerment, and hopefully change. My woven cotton blankets reference Catholic saints and Bible stories I heard growing up, with a critical view of women who were told not to own their sexuality and to not question these religious saints. My self-portraits reproduce a modern-day version of saints using my own image as all of the saints. As a child, I was told to look up to saints that never looked like me—all of them were fair skinned with blue eyes; none of them had brown skin with brown eyes. By reproducing them with brown skin, I am creating a more relatable representation that is more inclusive. As we look towards the future, my work encourages women in my culture to find the strength to forget about the old traditions and to raise their daughters to be independent.