Reclaiming the Latinx Narrative
A Letter from the Curator, Amada Torruella
Visiones focuses on individual visions for the future of the Southern Latinx community and Latin Americans around the world. In today’s climate it’s crucial for Latin Americans to redefine our place in the art world and society, and spread knowledge of the depth of our culture through the creative arts. Through the project Visiones, our main objective is to celebrate Latin American culture and shed light on our stories and proudly showcase our role in shaping new Southern culture.
I have been an immigrant my entire life. Ever since my family fled El Salvador’s civil war in the late 1980s and started anew in Canada in search of happiness, safety and well-being; mobility has tremendously affected my way of life and has shaped my worldview. As a Salvadoran woman living in the South, I found the need to connect with my community, longing for all of the aspects of my culture that made me feel complete. I joined the board of directors of Palmetto Luna, the only non-profit arts organization focusing on Latin American art in South Carolina, which was key in this process as they helped me see all the work that needs to be done to help us move forward. Latin Americans are everywhere in the South; their businesses, customs, and languages impact the South in a major way.
The numbers show that South Carolina experienced a 154% growth in its Spanish speaking population from 2000 to 2011 and now has the second fastest growing Latinx population in the country. This demographic shift is changing the face of the South. More than half of Latinxs in South Carolina have ties to Mexico, followed by Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Colombia. Artists are taking a lead in uniting the disparate and oftentimes marginalized Latinx community and shattering Latinx stereotypes across the region.
Those artists are exactly what Visiones needed, but are only a part of the story. For the 2017 festival, we wanted the theme to exist across all forms of creative expression and inform each and every component. We carefully curated blocks of diverse shorts and feature films that showcased the unique ideas, and dreams of media makers from across the Southeast and Latin America. Live theater was present at Visiones, adding the exceptional energy of a group of performers that joined us all the way from Mexico City. Under the guidance of Alfredo Salazar-Caro, Indie Bits highlighted the creativity found in interactive media such as video games, board games, and virtual reality projects. Finally, the Food Truck Parranda, brought Latinx tradition and heritage into the streets for all to enjoy while also promoting Latinx-owned small businesses.
Visiones stems from the desire to connect a multitude of creative minds from a region as complex and diverse as Latin America. We shouldn’t be able to fit such a wide array of experiences under one thematic umbrella, but this very dilemma is, in part, where the inspiration for our concept originates. Through the process of curating, we came to realize that the only way to accomplish this would be to study the places Latinx individuals and Latin Americans occupy, as we are a people in constant motion, migrating and transforming across time.
the process and the visiones cohort
For Indie Grits Visiones, finding individuals who expand the concept of what it means to be an artist was key, since the scope of an artist’s responsibility in contemporary society has dramatically expanded to include roles traditionally held by organizers, educators, social justice advocates, and journalists. In this day and age artists have become cultural makers and community builders; using their creativity to translate the resistance of the marginalized and lighting up the world with truth. It’s crucial to give these artists the tools they need to empower the voiceless and help our communities grow as a whole.
Over a six-month period, the Indie Grits leadership team pulled together a group of Latinx cultural makers from across the state to connect, to reflect on the significance of this year’s theme, and to determine what kind of creative role they would play in the festival. These individuals have tight ties to our state and are deeply invested in our growth. During the festival, they presented new work at various locations spread around the downtown area, sharing their individual visions in astoundingly creative ways.
Throughout the entire process we encouraged the Visiones cohort to create these new projects through the lens of the past, present, and future. The past is about acknowledging our lineage. The present is all about deconstructing one’s community to its core, revealing the components that give it depth. The future is our abstract lens — it’s about visions, dreams, surreal figures, premonitions and hallucinations.
The idea behind all these works is to present public art exhibits that welcome everyone. I wanted the work to be engaging and to have some participatory element. In the end, in order to evolve, the conversations need to happen with everyone. In our mind, exposure to unfamiliar ideas and ways of living is what will infuse the city of Columbia with much needed empathy.
visiones, a demonstration
For the art program, our intention was to collect a variety of visuals that exhibit stories, voices and also reasons why Latin Americans migrate. It was a struggle to envision how this effort would manifest itself, especially when–at the beginning — the idea was extremely abstract. Since the backbone of this entire program has been activism and portraying our truth, we thought a demonstration would be an ideal and unexpected setting in which to offer a platform where people can heal, reinvent themselves, and rise.
Thus, in addition to the work of the creative cohort, we developed a project that attempts to encapsulate the entire Visiones concept through a series of screen printing workshops. We invited members of the Latinx community to participate by creating art pieces that function as demonstration signs, in playing with the idea of a demonstration and the attention it attracts. The objective is for people to think it’s a rally and then, when they get closer, to realize that it’s actually an art show — one that exposes them to different views. The intention with this final project was to prove just how cathartic and therapeutic art can be, especially when you make it accessible to a community that has been marginalized and targeted. We welcomed all members of the community to be a part of the demonstrations which happned throughout the festival and helped make these stories visible. By picking up a demonstration sign you are contributing to sharing someone’s story, you are contributing to helping someone’s voice be heard.