Connecting with Communities: Migration

October 6, 2021
A color photograph captures a target range in a desert landscape. A row of nine targets aligns with the horizon. Each features a human figure silhouetted in dark gray. In the foreground, thousands of dark red and turquoise shell casings are scattered amid the dusty beige rocks and pebbles of the desert earth, while grasses in shades of brown, yellow, and green fill the middle ground. An open sky in shades of hazy blue provides a backdrop for the scene.
2018.112 Richard Misrach, American, Border Patrol Target Range, Near Gulf of Mexico, Texas, 2013. Pigment print. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of the artist, 2018.112. © Richard Misrach. Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.

This past spring, a cohort of Harvard Latinx students from Professor María Luisa Parra-Velasco’s course SPANSH 59H: Spanish for Latino Students II: Connecting with Communities worked with curators and educators from the Harvard Art Museums to explore works from our collections by Latinx artists, Latin American artists, and others whose practice engages Latinx experiences.

This advanced language course encourages Heritage Spanish speakers to strengthen both their linguistic repertoires and their global social awareness through civic engagement with local Spanish-speaking communities. In a series of reflections, current Harvard students and recent alumni consider works of art from the collections alongside their personal and professional experiences within Latinx communities around the United States, as well as how they relate to the most pressing issues confronting Latinx communities today. Each of the objects selected below relates to the theme of migration. Focusing on topics such as the perilous, liminal space of the U.S.–Mexico border to the vibrant, multiethnic communities of Boston, these reflections reveal how migration is shaping Latinx communities around the United States.

This article, the second of a three-part series in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, is published in English and Spanish.

Durante la primavera pasada, un grupo de estudiantes latinx del curso “SPANSH 59H: Spanish for Latino Students II: Connecting with Communities” dado por la Dr. María Luisa Parra-Velasco colaboró con los curadores y educadores de Harvard Art Museums para explorar obras de nuestras colecciones de artistas latinx, latinoamericanos, y las obras que reflejan la experiencia latinx. Este curso avanzado de español apoya a los hispanohablantes de herencia a fortalecer sus repertorios lingüísticos y su conciencia social global a través de la participación cívica en las comunidades hispanohablantes en diferentes partes de los Estados Unidos. En una serie de reflexiones, los estudiantes y los ahora exalumnos conectan las obras de arte de las colecciones con sus propias experiencias personales y profesionales dentro de las comunidades latinx en los Estados Unidos, así como con los problemas más urgentes que enfrentan las comunidades latinx hoy en día. Cada uno de los objetos de arte seleccionados se relaciona con el tema de la migración, una de las cuestiones más urgentes que enfrenta nuestro mundo moderno. Desde el espacio peligroso y liminal de la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México hasta las vibrantes comunidades multiétnicas de Boston, estas reflexiones exploran cómo la migración está dando forma a las comunidades latinx en los Estados Unidos. 

Este artículo, el segundo de una serie de tres partes para conmemorar el Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana, se publica en inglés y en español.

Borderlands/Zonas fronterizas
by Chris Chu de León 

The photograph above by Richard Misrach was taken on the Texas–Mexico border and depicts a target range for the Border Patrol against a desert background. The targets are silhouettes of people. I chose this photo because it was taken in my home state of Texas and addresses a central theme we explored in class and my volunteer work: migration. Particularly, it highlights the cruel reality that, all too often, migrants are seen as literal shooting targets, and this danger does not end as they near the border.

La foto arriba de Richard Misrach fue tomada en la frontera de Texas y México, y representa un campo de tiro para la Patrulla Fronteriza en un fondo de desierto. Los blancos son siluetas de personas. Elegí esta foto porque fue tomada en mi estado natal, Texas, y aborda un tema central que exploramos en clase y mi trabajo voluntario: la migración. En particular, la foto destaca la realidad cruel donde, con demasiada frecuencia, los migrantes son vistos como blancos de tiro literales y sus peligros no terminan cuando se acercan a la frontera.


Chris Chu de León is a master’s student in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.
 

El Passport
by Karla Chavez-Espinosa

There are two images side by side. The left-hand image is in a horizontal format and comprises three sheets resembling passport folios displayed in a row. The sheet on the left appears to be a passport with a photograph of a Black individual accompanied by text and a passport stamp. The folio in the middle features two small rectangular ID documents that appear to be green cards or visas. One the right, a black passport “cover” reads “El Passport” in white text on a black background, accompanied by an image of a white domino with three black dots on each end and additional white lettering. The image on the right is a photograph of a white bungalow house. It has a red brick porch with two black patio chairs and a brown wooden door. An “OPEN” sign hangs on the door. Green boxwood shrubs line the foundation.
2012.178

Adál Maldonado, American (Puerto Rico), The Passport, from the series The Spirit Republic of Puerto Rico, 1995. Ink on paper. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Transfer from the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University, Gift of the artist, 2012.178. © Adál Maldonado.

The Latin American Association (LAA) in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Image courtesy of LAA.

Adál Maldonado’s work The Passport, from the series The Spirit Republic of Puerto Rico, in its essence demonstrates movement, particularly the exodus of Puerto Ricans to the United States. I decided to put this piece in conversation with the Latin American Association’s (LAA) Centro de Programas y Servicios building, which resembles a home. From the exit point (represented by the passport) to the point of arrival (represented by the homes that Latinxs in this country must rebuild) both recall migration and the new lives that Latinx must make in this country, as well as those institutions and individuals along the way, like the LAA, that will help them achieve any version of the American Dream. 

La pieza de Adál Maldonado titulada “The Passport,” de la serie “The Spirit Republic of Puerto Rico,” demuestra, en su esencia, el movimiento y, particularmente, el éxodo de puertorriqueños a los Estados Unidos. Decidí poner esta pieza en conversación con el edificio Centro de Programas y Servicios de la Asociación Latinoamericana (LAA) que parece una casa. Desde el momento de la salida (el pasaporte) hasta el de la llegada  (representada por los hogares que los Latinxs deben reconstruir) ambas imágenes muestran la migración y las nuevas vidas de los Latinx en este país, así como aquellas instituciones e individuos como la LAA que, en el camino, les ayudará a lograr cualquier versión del American Dream.
 

Alumna Karla Chavez-Espinosa ’21 concentrated in history, Spanish, and government.  
 

Powerful Communities/Comunidades poderosas
by Alejandra Nava 

There are two images side by side. The image on the left is a lithograph depicting a group of Black female figures in white dresses and bare feet walking from left to right. The figures are rendered using flat, abstract white and dark gray forms on a mint green background. Though most of the figures are wearing their hair in round Afros, one figure wears a sunhat on her head. Two of the figures hold hands. The print is signed “Emilio Sanchez.” The image on the right is a photograph of three Latinx girls dancing in unison as they lead a street parade. Each girl wears a black, flared uniform dress with a white border along the hem of the skirt and a gold braid around their right shoulder. In the background, members of a marching band wearing street clothing follow them. On either side of the street, spectators walk alongside the parade. At the very back, individuals carry colorful flags of various nations.
2007.60

Emilio Sanchez, Cuban, Negritas Pasendo, c. 1955. Lithograph. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of William S. Lieberman, 2007.60. © Emilio Sanchez.

The 2021 Multicultural Festival in Everett, Massachusetts. Photo: Courtesy of Latinos Unidos en Massachusetts.

Negritas Pasendo, by Emilio Sanchez, shows a group of women walking down the street on a warm day and enjoying each other’s company. I chose this print because it emphasizes two central themes of this pandemic: community and engagement in a time when people feel isolated. The painting reminds me of the mission of the organization Latinos Unidos en Massachusetts (LUMA), which prides itself on its tight-knit community and its ability to have helped thousands of families during the pandemic. The second photograph is of a summer community festival organized by LUMA, where people from different Latin American countries come together to celebrate their cultures and have fun on a nice summer day. 

Esta obra de arte de Emilio Sanchez se llama “Negritas Pasendo” y muestra a un grupo de mujeres caminando por la calle en un día caluroso y disfrutando de la mutua compañía. Elegí esta pintura porque enfatiza dos temas centrales durante esta pandemia: la comunidad y la conexión en un momento en que la gente se siente aislada. La pintura me recuerda de la misión de la organización LUMA (Latinos unidos en Massachusetts), que se enorgullece de su comunidad íntima y de su capacidad de haber ayudado a miles de familias durante la pandemia. La segunda fotografía es de un festival comunitario organizado por LUMA donde personas de diferentes países latinoamericanos se reúnen para celebrar sus culturas y divertirse en un lindo día de verano.
 

Alejandra Nava is a senior concentrating in neuroscience and Latino studies at Harvard College.
 

Overcoming Obstacles/Superando Obstáculos
by Jesus Gomez

A color photograph shows a fork in the road amid a desolate landscape. On the right, a long dirt road winds through grassy plains in shades of brown, yellow, and green, while the left fork of the road extends beyond the picture plane. An imposing, rusty brown wall runs alongside the road. In the background, dark mountains are silhouetted against dusky storm clouds. A glowing white moon hangs low on the horizon.
2018.111 Richard Misrach, American, Wall, East of Nogales, Arizona, 2014, printed 2016. Pigment print. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Margaret Fisher Fund, 2018.111. © Richard Misrach.

Two important things about the Latinx community are sacrifice and community itself. The photograph Wall, East of Nogales, Arizona, captured by Richard Misrach, shows the southern border of the United States as never-ending with dark clouds up above. I chose this photo because for many immigrant families, this is the first obstacle they must overcome, literally and mentally, in search of a better life. They must make a difficult choice to leave everything behind. However, even though there are other obstacles to overcome, we make our own home here. We are in it together.

Dos cosas importantes sobre la comunidad Latinx son el sacrificio y la comunidad misma. La fotografía titulada “Wall, East of Nogales, Arizona,” capturada por Richard Misrach, muestra el muro al sur de los Estados Unidos que parece sin fin, mientras que arriba hay nubes oscuras. Escogí esta foto porque, para muchas familias inmigrantes, este muro es el primer obstáculo que deben superar, literal y mentalmente, en busca de una vida mejor. Ellos deben de tomar la decisión difícil de dejar todo atrás. Sin embargo, aunque hay más obstáculos por superar, nosotros hacemos de este país nuestro hogar. Estamos siempre unidos.


Jesus Gomez is a sophomore at Harvard College.

 

Natalia Ángeles Vieyra, the Maher Curatorial Fellow of American Art in the Division of European and American Art at the Harvard Art Museums, and María Luisa Parra-Velasco, Spanish Senior Preceptor in Harvard’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, compiled these entries and wrote the general introduction.

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