Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"Aqui y Alla" on WHYY Radio

Young Mexican immigrants bridge 'here' and 'there' with mural

September 17, 2012
by Elisabeth Perez- Luna
With all the million tears I cried, I could build a stairway to Heaven and bring you back home," he wrote.

The mural is called "Aqui y Alla" or "Here and There." With it, Ortiz wanted to give a voice to adolescents from both sides of the border.

Expressions of loss and longing

"The Mexican immigrant teens that work directly with us in this project, immigrated at the ages of 9 and 10 with their parents and family members and some of them on their own.

"For some of them, it is very difficult to talk about that journey and crossing, but also, they find themselves with many family conflicts of the fact that they were left behind by their parents at an early age and then they came to be reunited with their parents here in Philadelphia. There's a relationship that's broken," said Ortiz.

Ortiz is not new to the mural art project system of bringing people together to tell their personal stories. In this case, she also worked with four painters from two Mexican public art collectives from the border cities of Chihuahua and Juarez. She trained them to collect stories and artwork from teens in their cities and invited them to Philadelphia to collaborate with young Mexican immigrants here.

The process was a revelation for street artist David Flores, a member of a graffiti arts collective in Juarez.

"This project was groundbreaking for me as an artist," said Flores in Spanish, "because Michelle taught us to use a more ambitions approach to street art in terms of size and permanence. We went from fast wall graphic work and gallery painting to doing enormous collective murals."

After climbing up the three-story scaffolding, Ortiz describes a stylized Aztec calendar that forms one of several large circles in the mural.

"You have these two circles that will represent a young lady who has arrived with a map of South Philadelphia behind her, and then you're going to have a young boy that actually has a map that represents a mapping of Juarez and Chihuahua along with a specific map from Puebla, which is where most of the Mexican immigrants are coming from to Philadelphia," explained Ortiz.

'We see ourselves as artivists'...
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