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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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Sources and Methodology

[Instagram] After completing my digital review, in which I evaluated how digital institutionalized archives such as Calisphere implicitly guide viewers’ perceptions of Chicana women, I wanted to curate a digital exhibit that exclusively privileges grassroots perspectives. I chose photography as the sole medium of my project, since this is a project that looks at how narratives of California mobility are embedded in visual imagery. Moreover, each individual exhibit relates a different aesthetic, revealing myriad grassroots visions of Chicana/o Los Angeles.

The source of all the photographs in my exhibit is Instagram, and again, this was intentional. Instagram is a social media platform that allows users to upload their own photographs, and other than the usual regulations regarding explicit nudity, there aren't too many restrictions. Users have the freedom to create exhibits that reflect each user’s artistic or self-representative intention.

Exhibit Object 1 – Chicana Self-Fashioning and Bella Doña L.A.

Bella Doña L.A., an L.A.-based, all-female owned clothing brand that describes itself on Tumblr with hashtags such as #westcoast, #homegirls, and #chola, uses Instagram to advertise its merchandise. As I’ve discussed in my digital exhibit, these photographs are taken in different urban locales such as Echo Park, downtown Los Angeles, and the Chicano barrio.
Andrew L. Quesada, whose photography primarily focuses on women’s bodies in different visual contexts, photographs Bella Doña L.A.’s models. On his website, Quesada writes, I love the fact that with a simple photograph, i can boost a woman confidence, reminding her that she is powerful and she is needed.

Exhibit Object 2 -  @elfotografojoquin Captures Latinas in Urban Landscape
These photographs, also showing Latina women in different L.A. urban landscapes, are best described as lenses through which we can experience the city according to the visions of Latino photographer Joaquin Guzman. These particular photographs show women posing against landscapes that evoke a working class urbanism, such as bridges, barbed wire fences, and industrial wastelands. Joaquin’s other photography aims to capture either the griminess or working-class nature of the city, from graffiti, to shopping carts, to (consensual) portraits of homeless individuals. Other photographs depict scenes of barrio life, such as hot dog vendors cooking on the streets, grandmothers making tamales, and working people riding the bus.

Exhibit Object 3 - @blacklotusrosie and Xicana Self-Representation on Instagram
When I encountered “La Chicana” Rosie’s Tumblr, I knew I had encountered something beautifully radical and special. On both her Tumblr and Instagram, Rosie shows how young Chicana women can use social media as an avenue for self-expression and self-representation. Unlike the other photographs in this exhibit, these photographs are captured by a Chicana herself. There are a few sites within Los Angeles that she has chosen to feature on her Instagram page, and I think that these places are indicators of a Chicana’s mobility throughout L.A. Social media allows Chicanas to interpret their own photography, instead of depending on archival institutions that might not do justice to their feminist projects. 

In addition to historical, visual, and discourse analysis, this project is also in some part ethnographic. I’m genuinely curious to learn about the ways in which photographic representation can serve as a form of feminist empowerment, and which is why I incorporated an interview Chicana feminist blogger Rosie in the presentation of my exhibit. Unfortunately, this was a last-minute endeavor and I did not get to interview any of the other photographers, although Rosie was graciously helpful and provided insightful commentary. In retrospect, I would have reached out to her earlier in order to provide a more thorough first-hand perspective on their photographic work. 
Lastly, I recognize the limitations of my curated photographic objects. In no way do I intend to claim that the women in these photographs represent all Chicanas in Los Angeles. As I’m beginning to discover, there are countless Latino urban photographers whose work I have not yet explored. It is also worth noting that most Latinos and Chicanos in working-class communities may not have access to the Internet for blogging, or access to advanced media equipment that would provide us more visions of Latina/o Los Angeles.  

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