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.