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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. 

El Paso Times - Interview

Posted on by Zeke Peña

I was honored to be included in a short series of stories Kaycee Dougherty from MCAD in El Paso is writing about the arts on the border. She writes very well and does great work to support the arts in our city. Below is the story in it's entirety. 

2 who count: Very different approaches to multimedia art

By Kaycee Dougherty / Special to the Times

Today's story focuses on two El Paso artists with very different stories and approaches.

Christine Foerster

Foerster is a Southern California native who has sojourned in Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Brazil and Peru. She credits these experiences in equal measure with her formal arts education at the University of California, San Diego.

Foerster is a part-time lecturer in UTEP's art department. She is working on a community art performance, "Goatwalking," which is funded through city Museums and Cultural Affairs Department's Artist Incubator Program. The first exhibition of "Goatwalking" will be June 11-Aug. 4 at the El Paso Museum of Art as part of the museum's Artist on Art series.

Foerster's art defies traditional classification. She is a multimedia artist to the fullest extent, working in textiles, performance, sculptural installation and drawing. She explains the focus of her work as "the creation of textile-based, modular and mobile structures that reshape the dynamics and possibilities of exchange within a given space."

"In the best-case scenario," she reasons, "this hybrid approach makes it possible for a diverse audience to engage with a public art work in vitally unexpected terms."

She experiments with principles outside of the traditional canon of art and often makes unexpected use of permaculture and animal husbandry to create what she has coined as "wearable shelter performances."

Foerster appreciates the liberties that come with having time in the studio to learn about and work on whatever it is that interests her. Additionally, her role as educator is a great source of inspiration and influence on her practice because she believes "we live in a time in which intellectual engagement is a requirement for a practicing artist, and the academic world is an excellent fit."

As a seasoned artist and educator, Foerster advises artists who are just starting out to live simply: "Strip away the excesses in your life, particularly material items and expenses that don't feed your work, so that you can dedicate yourself to your work and not need an all-consuming job that will distract you from what really matters.

"If you can't do that, you might want to consider a different career path."

Zeque Peña

Peña is a multimedia artist from the Sun City and the director and curator of the artist collective known as Maintain.

His artwork is colorful and contemporary in style, yet fused with antiquated subject matter that includes imagery from the indigenous peoples of the Americas. His choice of media is equally assorted: oils, gouache, pencils, aerosol and digital media. Peña says he "portrays individuals in ritual, disguise and transcendence. I think of my images as anthropology written by a magical realist."

He borrows a description from a friend, calling his approach "a distortion of reality to create a more apparent truth."

Peña is experimenting with oil paints by creating large-scale works on hand-carved wood panels. He also is finishing a multimedia comic novel with fellow artist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, guitarist for the bands At the Drive-In, The Mars Volta and Bosnian Rainbows.

When asked about his motivation in joining an artist collective, Peña responded frankly: "Because there is power in numbers and even greater power when those gathered are like-minded."

Peña joined Maintain shortly after its 2007 formation by Ramon Cardenas and Miguel Ibarra. Before long, the group decided to expand to include other artists. The El Paso collective includes 14 artists, but Maintain's reach extends from San Diego to Brooklyn.

Peña says Maintain is fluid and consists of anyone who chooses to contribute and collaborate. He believes this inclusive approach reflects the El Paso way of working with the community. Asked about his outlook and motivation to be an artist, he quoted German philosopher Herbert Marcuse: "Art cannot change the world, but it can contribute to changing the consciousness of the men and women who can."

Peña's art can be seen at zpvisual.com. Maintain will take part in the third Neon Desert Music Festival on May 25 in Downtown El Paso. Its work is online at main-tain.com.

La Elder Aguila

Posted on by Zeke Peña

This illustration is a salvaged pen and ink drawing. I was going to use the image for a mural and decided on using another image. I came across the scan of the drawing and decided to see what I could do in Photoshop with it. The color is all digital, using my Cintiq tablet. I'm starting to get the hang of using different brush sets and the tablet shortcut buttons to speed things up. I've included a few process shots here showing the different stages of color. I've been using this technique lately because it is a nice hybrid of using hand-drawn techniques and the efficiency of digital tools. It also helps loosen up the often rigid feel of all digital illustrations. I'm going to use this technique when I color the full-length comic I'm working on right now. I'm using these older illustrations for practice.