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Downtown El Chuco Mural Tour with muralists Lxs Dos + Nani Chacon

Posted on by Zeke Peña

2017.08.13 - What a great morning I got to spend with these amazing and creative people. We got some breakfast then cruised around Segundo Barrio looking at all the beautiful building and murals. We were out looking for murals that were virtually augmented by Augement El Paso. Shouts to El Cimi, Francisco Delgado and WERC for holding down the walls in the heart of our city.  Learn more about their work: Lxs Dos  +  Nani Chacon . All photos © Zeke Peña 2017.

Humble Homenaje III - National Museum of Mexican Art Chicago

Posted on by Zeke Peña

I'm still vibing from the trip to Chicago. I was so blessed to meet strong people doing great work, experience a great city and have nice weather. I'm so grateful for the opportunity and truly humbled by the experience. The people at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago's Mexican & Chican@ neighborhood gave all the participates in the show such a warm welcome. Dolores Mercado, Cesáreo Moreno, Raquel Aguiñaga-Martinez, Rachel Blanco, Rebecca Meyers, founder/president Carlos Tortolero and everyone at the museum was so helpful. It was nice to see the collaborative way in which they work. it was also so refreshing to see an institution of that scale have such a strong relationship with the community it serves and represents. This aspect was probably one of the most inspiring things I experienced, good medicine I carry with me.

It was an honor to share space with so many creative people that I've long had respect for and taken inspiration from. It was honor to meet Ester Hernandez and she was so helpful in giving me guidance on completing the ofrenda for Jose Montoya. It was so significant because she knew Jose Montoya very well. She brought the spirit of movimento. The ganas of a generation that worked hard for raza & community but also paved the path that so many young chicanas/os, latinas/os, and artists in general now have the advantage of walking on. In many ways the ofrenda for Jose pays respect & gratitude for this fact. It acknowledges, honors and continues the legacy of resistance, self determination, and education/elevation that was pursued by Ester, Jose, the RCAF and many others that marched with them. 

It's hard to express what I feel when I think about my humble work being in the presence of power. Ritos y Recuerdo features the work of Ester Hernandez, Carmen Lomas Garza, Patsi Valdez, John Valadez, Sam Coronado, Sandra C. Fernåndez, and many other groups, young artist & craftspeople. One of deep personal significance to me is a powerful piece by Luis Jimenez that features a calaca and a Mescalero Apache crown dancer. Part of my mothers family descends from this tribe and I'll be writing another post that talks more about this work. 

The opening for Ritos y Recuerdo was a beautiful gathering of people from Chicago and across the world. And as if this dream couldn't get any better the night ended with a powerful performance by LA based group Las Cafeteras at the NMMA. After the show we continued the celebration with some new friends/family. 

Again I'm humbled by this experience and blessing. I'm grateful for the ability, mobility and opportunity do the work I do. I'm very grateful to the Montoya Familia, RCAF and Hector & Natalie Gonzalez for allowing me the opportunity to share Jose's work & spirit in an effort to share & honor.  I'm also thankful for the many people that support and help me. Especially my mother, Dr. Anna Lisa Banegas Peña for giving me life, my father Richard Peña for giving wisdom & skill, my great friend/mentor Vincent Valdez, my studio assistant Rogelio Lozano, my friend/collaborator Sandra Iturbe and my life partner/love Rebecca Rivas.  A'ho. 

Free Maroon

Posted on by Zeke Peña

For the past couple years i've been working with Scientific Soul Sessions in New York. I've helped them with designing their website and creating graphics for their campaigns and sessions. 

They are currently heading efforts along with The Campaign to Free Russell Maroon Shoatz to liberate a political prisoner that was held in solitary confinement for 22 years! Maroon is an author with revolutionary ideas for prefiguring a new society.

Info about Maroon from the SSS website:

Russell Maroon Shoatz is a senior citizen, grandfather & great-grandfather, a human rights advocate, & published author. He was originally imprisoned in January 1972, after years of playing a leading role in the Black freedom movement of his native Philadelphia, PA. As was an endemic pattern during the 1960s & 70s, prominent community organizers doing civil and human rights work were prime targets of the FBI's illegal Counter-Intellience Program (COINTELPRO), with special focus on Dr. Martin Luther Jr., Malcolm X, and the Black Panthers — which Shoatz was a member of at the time. He has been held for 23 years in solitary confinement. Such “prolonged” solitary confinement is a violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, according to UN Special Rapporteur Juan E. Mendez. He must be released immediately from this arbitrary & unjust torture.

I encourage everyone to visit www.scientificsoulsessions.com to get information on their efforts and how to support the Free Maroon Campaign. And to get a copy of Maroon The Implacable The Collected Writings: https://secure.pmpress.org/index.php?l=product_detail&p=541.

Corrido De Bataan - Lorenzo Ybarra Banegas

Posted on by Zeke Peña

Approximately 1,800 men from the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery Regiment – also known as the “New Mexico Brigade” deployed to the Philippines in September 1941, during World War II. My abuelo Lorenzo Ybarra Banegas was among the many Native American, Mexican-American and Anglo Americans that were deployed to the forefront of combat. 

On April 9, 1942 75,000 United States and Filipino troops were captured by the Japanese. These prisoners of war were forced to make a 65 mile trek across the Philippines with no water or food. POWs that stop for water on the roadside ground were bayoneted or shot dead. In total 10,000 soldiers, 9,000 Filipino and 1,000 American, died on what become known as the Bataan Death March. 

Those that survived would be imprisoned in concentration camps for over 3 horrific years. More than 11,500 soldiers would die during these years of confinement. In 1945 the survivors would find their freedom again. Survivors were diseased, frail – emaciated, skin and bones, some blind, others unable to walk. Sadly one third of the former POWs would die of complications within their first year of freedom.

Of the 1,816 men from the New Mexico Brigade, 829 died in battle, while imprisoned, or immediately after liberation.  There were 987 survivors.

My grandfather was among those survivors. He documented the story of his experience with the Corrido De Bataan. The corrido was written in the concentration camp. He tells a historical narrative of war, death, and survival. I recall him telling me about how they would make instruments for the camp trash and sing these songs for comfort. 

My great great great grandfather was the first homesteader of 300 acres in New Mexico between Doña Ana and Las Cruces. My family history is there. It because of my grandfather Lorenzo's service that I am honored to be part of long lineage of struggle to protect our freedom and right to expression. 

These words from my grandfather have always stayed with me:

A lot of kids think that freedom comes on a silver platter, this is not true. You have to fight for our freedom and we're the ones who fought for the freedom that we have today. I ask them not to abuse but to defend that freedom. Think about our country, where you can go to any church you want, where you have the freedom to do whatever you want and nobody's holding a gun to you telling you that you can't do it. They think that freedom is "me," it is not "me" it's "our" country's freedom, that's the freedom that we fought so hard for - and died for.

Lorenzo Ybarra Banegas

I made the above image as a humble offering to my grandfather, to those who marched beside him and to those who follow in his footsteps to serve the United States. 

I also offer this image up in solidarity with those suffering in the Philippines. That those who have died may pass peacefully onto the other side. We stand beside you and march on.

Audio recording of Corrido de Bataan here.

Lyrics of the Corrido in Spanish and English here.