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Latino/a Mobility in California History

Genevieve Carpio, Javier Cienfuegos, Ivonne Gonzalez, Karen Lazcano, Katherine Lee Berry, Joshua Mandell, Christofer Rodelo, Alfonso Toro, Authors

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@elfotografojoaquin Captures Mobility in Urban Landscape

@elfotografojoaquin I

Although representations of Chicana women and cars, such as those in Lowrider Magazine, often hypersexualize women, I argue that @elfotografojoaquin captures a different representation of women and cars in his photography. This photograph shows a woman posing in front of a car, but her body language exudes a sense of ownership over the car. Her fashion is reminiscent of the 1930s/40s, a fashion that might call to mind a pin-up model, but the object in this photograph is not her sexualized body. Rather, she holds her body with dignity and stares confidently into the camera. In this way, we can discern a reworking of pin-up aesthetic and car culture to make the Chicana body less objectifying.

Similarly, this photograph of Rosie driving a car also makes an empowering visual statement about Chicana agency via mobility. The colors in the photograph are bold and riveting, indicating a playfulness to the photograph that suggests fantasy. The fantasy, in this case, is of the Pachuca driving a beautiful, baby blue lacquered car. This is a fantasy that could not have been common among pachuca women in the 1940s. As Elizabeth Escobedo points out, Mexican American women were gaining mobility as they began to work in the wartime industries, but they often rode to work in other men's cars. To have a photograph showing a pachuca woman driving a car with her body language showing a sense of ownership, therefore, is essentially rewriting history with a visual fantasy. In what ways are fashion and automobiles used to create possibility for Chicana agency?

Continuing on the thread of the body elucidating a strong sense of dominance over landscape and mobility, this photograph also depicts a strong Chicana/Latina urban aesthetic. The (often graffitied) telephone booth is ubiquitous in working-class urban communities, and in capturing a female body that oozes mastery over her sense of place, this image reworks our perception of this object. I view this photograph as a form of rasquache, which is a Chicano art form that  Chicana artist Amalia Mesa-Bains describes taking the “vernacular, vulgar, inferior, and tasteless” and reworking it to claim a defiant and inventive stand. It is a form of using cultural materiality to dignify the working-class experience of the Chicano in the barrio. In capturing Latina bodies in such commanding poses, therefore, articulates a rasquache feminist sensibility.

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