New Collab! Soy Indigena, Not Latinx, Not Hispanic
'Soy Indigena, Not Hispanic, Not Latinx' is a new art piece by Ernesto Yerena in collaboration with activist Edna Chavez and photographer Arlene Mejorado inspired by Edna's identity as an Indigenous Guatamalan womxn and her rejection of labels placed upon her like "hispanic" and "latina" that erase her ancestral roots and experience as an indigenous person living in South Central Los Angeles. As Edna reclaims her identity unapologetically, we sought out make an image of "urban Indigeneity" ---- a complexity that is beautiful, challenging, and defiant of the assimilation process promoted in the United States.
Edna says "I asked myself and my mother all these questions about where we originated from, whether we had traditions, why my grandfather was the only one able to speak K'iche, one of Guatemala's Native language. I decided it was my duty to take on my indigeneity and continue to follow my ancestors' footsteps." The creative process began with photography of Edna in one of her favorite places ---- Exposition Park Rose Garden, a green space embedded in the city where she often finds tranquility, joy, and a connection to the earth.
"My identity as an indigenous muxer makes me feel strong. It makes me feel like a warrior. My ancestors didn't cut their hair, they grew out their hair because it was beautiful to them. I feel like it brings me closer to my roots and our ways when I comb my hair and notice it getting longer and longer each day as I braid it." Her hands hold her hair in a nurturing fashion, as if she is preparing to braid it. In the piece she holds her long hair like a thick root reaching for the ground with a firm grip and confident gaze. She also wears prints from Guatemala and her signature hoop earrings with the Los Angeles cityscape and the classic line of palm trees. In the distance Guatemala's divine bird, the quetzal crosses the sun.
Edna is exemplary of the layered obstacles brought forth by displacement, language, violence, and gender but ultimately her existence is resistance and she is a survivor of colonialism and neo-colonialism. The assertion of her identity as an Indigenous muxer is a pushback on the erasure of her people. Edna shared her process into recovering her identity "You let others know that they are not alone or you find out that your narrative is someone else's narrative as well." Through recovering ancestral knowledge and taking control over her story, she empowers herself and mends her spirit and her community.
Edna Chaves, 18, is an Indigenous Mayan womxn with immigrant parents from Guatemala. Chavez represented South Central Los Angeles at the March for Our Lives in Washington D.C. where she gave a powerful speech saying "I learned to duck bullets before I learned how to read." Chavez recently graduated high school and is currently a youth leader at Community Coalition South Los Angeles.