Onward and Abound

“Caminante, no hay puentes, se hace puentes al andar” – Gloria Anzaldúa

 

I remember the day I first arrived on campus for the Bridge Scholars Program. The weather was warm with a gentle breeze in the air and my family was filled with joy over the opportunity to let me explore this new space. We wandered around campus and setup my dorm until it was time for that evening’s welcome reception. We sat down for a great meal and an insightful glimpse of what the program and next four years of my life would entail.

 

As Emily Chan delivered the introductory speech, she highlighted the significance and importance of CC being based in the Southern region of Colorado. Geographically, we sit at the foot of Sun Mountain, or Tava, as past Ute had named what today’s folks refer to as Pikes Peak. Aztecs and subsequent Mexica once knew the entire region we occupy as Aztlán. Indigenous peoples of this region crafted their own unique languages and cultural frameworks for contending with the diverse landscapes of this environment. The hybridity of these cultural influences has shaped the aesthetics of what we see today in places like Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, California, or what is typically referred to as the Southwestern United States.

 

Aesthetics can be widely defined as art. Art comes in multiple forms including drawing, painting, sculpture, music, poetry, conversation, cooking, exploring and many more diverse expressions. Throughout my time at CC, I have been fortunate to have access to exploring the Southwest and connecting with aspects of my familial background and the diaspora of our many peoples. Honing in on the aesthetics of a space is largely dependent on the cultural influence and resources available to people and CC has facilitated a lot of opportunities to learn through engaging with new places. Looking back, I never could have predicted that I would have a chance to explore parts of the Southwest with a focus on art and history in their many forms. I would have never been able to predict that four years after beginning the Bridge Scholars Program, I would be venturing out on my own to learn through experience and thoughts while in transit.

________________________________________________________________________

 

Day 1

Have you ever been so excited for something that you couldn’t fall asleep? That’s exactly how I felt the morning before departing on my adventure to explore the aesthetics of the Southwest. I stayed up late packing and planning out my days, but recognized that not everything goes according to plan. My first bus from Colorado Springs to Pueblo was a couple hours late and gave me a chance to listen to music and get mentally prepared for a solo trip. Fellow travelers and myself eventually made it to Pueblo and I jumped off the greyhound with my camera in-hand ready to shoot the scenes as I skated along new streets. I went from the bus station and all around downtown capturing murals and street art. I went to the local Museum and found an exhibit focusing on El Movimiento Chicano and how Pueblo, CO played a key role in organizing Chicano/a activists fighting for better wages, access to education and access to better living arrangements. I skated around the Riverwalk and then visited the levee mural project before having a nice dinner downtown and heading to my Airbnb.

 

Pueblo, CO is full of street art and aesthetics that are unique. While exploring these spaces I came up with a little poem to express my learning:

 

El Pueblo Unido es un parte del cielo

From murals spanning across levees to cityscapes hugging the sky

The spaces we occupy are vibrant and alive

 

A little Riverwalk, nothing compared to San Antonio

Yet still substantial in its cultural capital

A fragment of the many places that are compartido

Un gran canon of our people’s ritual steeple

 

We pray for food, water, and access

Viviendo sin equality or equity

Orange-faced man deporting our family de nuestra tierra

Shedding tears for terrors and errors from the white man

 

Their evil clan has designed a plan

To eliminate us all or give us hell

But we fight

We fight

We fight

 

Every struggle and every battle turns into spilled blood and hardships

Luckily we’re landlocked and don’t need their ships

We never set sail to kill or be of no avail

If it takes a hundred more years, we shall prevail

 

Wandering around and seeing the influence of my cultural kin

We did win

Life is just about to begin

Chicano dispositions for justicia while always on a mission

 

Viva la gente del Pueblo’s tradition

 

Day 2-3

I’ve never been to New Mexico before and don’t count the time I drove through on my way to New Orleans a year ago. It’s beautiful how the Rocky Mountains trickle down along the Front Range of Colorado and slowly pour into the mountain ranges of northern New Mexico. The landscape of this space leaves me with a warm feeling. After a 7.5-hour bus ride to Albuquerque, I had moments to spare before returning north via the Rail Runner to Santa Fe. I hopped on right as the doors were closing and took a deep breath as the sun slowly exhaled its presence from the horizon. The train steadily picked up its pace and passed a colorful display of graffiti on dilapidated and abandoned industrial buildings. The endless tags all over random walls spoke volumes to me and reminded me of a documentary I watched called “The Last Angel of History”. The story goes that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil to obtain a secret black technology known today as the blues. These worn and torn buildings covered with spray-paint were arranged to tell a story of the devils influence on the development of industry in the Southwest. The artists that created this graffiti formed a type of secret technology (given their hidden identities) aimed to beautify, defile, and re-conceptualize the detritus of development and industry. In performing illegal, but restorative acts, the unknown artists of this graffiti applied a new framework for the future of the Rail Runner’s aesthetics. As such, I drifted my eyes along the artwork of many people from various times and let the reality around me sink. There is no time or space or place when art occupies your mind and heart so vividly. As the graffiti came to an end, the scenic views from the second story of the Rail Runner flooded my emotions. The sun was softly kissing the fields and mountains flowing in all shapes and sizes. I couldn’t help but to be mesmerized by the unique geography and spectacle of the land.

 

I stayed the night in Santa Fe and explored the city the next day before departing for Taos. After visiting the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe I felt inspired to poem out some more thoughts:

 

Here lies a compilation of today and yesterday’s artistic influences

Landscapes, love, hate and cultures all accumulate

Stories of ancestors and kin being displaced

But our visual presence still penetrates the mainstream

 

Art that mirrors dreams and scenes never before seen

Reading between the lines and viewing between the seams

Of fabrics and interwoven narratives

Native, Mexican, and our combined heritage

 

We live to be part of one another

Different mothers, but still brothers

 

It must be essential to be free from artistic boundaries

Our whole existence is based on hybridity

Co-construct and be healthy

Life isn’t worth living if you’re not considering family as being a type of wealthy

 

That’s why we push each other to grow and stay steady

Heavily sedated by our passions for things like justice and tacos

We all have the capacity to go all the way up, yo

And here lies a compilation of today and yesterday’s aesthetic phase

 

 

 

 

Day 3-5

 

In the Southwest there exists a never-ending quest

Best described by the aesthetics

 

But what is the scene?

 

It’s a compilation of Indigenous happenings and Chicano dreams

A space to erase the Anglo whilst incorporating brown nuance

 

Still some staunch and pomp fools

Gringas adored in turquoise with their boyfriend tools

 

The spools of fabric that breathe life into this space are almost always chaste

Holding back enough to preserve the cultural integrity, but exposed enough to feed into Anglo greed

A nation of folks that didn’t choose to secede, but instead embraced hybridity

 

I spoke with this man on a bus about how reptilians are among us

He spoke of the senses he had permitting him to see through their exterior and know what’s within

He called me a good person and part of his kin

Then I bought him a burger and that’s how the story ends

 

Fables and folklore

Thoughts on the spot

Whether what he said was true, it will never be forgot

We connected with each other’s tales and departed on a note that wasn’t stale

 

Low and behold to my avail

I’m in Taos feeling like a Diasporas Chicano male

 

… There’s still so much to learn. The dude I met in Taos was all about the natural properties of earth and their power to change our physiology and spirit. When he opened up the conversation by saying that Trump was a reptilian he automatically caught my attention. Ever since I was a child, I have been a firm believer in extraterrestrial life living among us as the white man. The white man is the incarnation of the evils in our world and I thanked this man for providing me with affirming insights. We parted ways and then I enjoyed a night in a comfy bed being all freaked out by the thoughts of reptilians in Taos.

 

On the last two days I ventured around Albuquerque, but not before getting lost in the scenery and landscapes of the Southwest again. I rode the free bus and a rails from Taos to Albuquerque and have to say that the land of this region of NM is what blows me away the most. There is so much to see and so much more to experience. I wish I could have more time to walk from place to place and have my feet closely tied to the earth of a space that holds so much history and culture. But, I kept on drifting. Albuquerque had a much larger city feeling, almost like Denver in terms of how much it was spread out. I wandered the streets of this place for two days eating and drinking with random folks who suggested what to see and do. I had plans to visit a Borderlands exhibit, but they ended it in April so I went to the University of New Mexico’s Architecture school and scoped out building styles of the Southwest. I noticed that in Pueblo, CO murals and street art were very prevalent, whereas Santa Fe and Taos had significantly less. However, Santa Fe and Taos both shared very similar pueblo-style buildings. The aesthetic changed from art on buildings to the buildings themselves. Albuquerque, on the other hand, seemed to be a lot more city-like with fewer pueblo-type infrastructures.

 

Regardless, the nature and presentation of exploring aesthetics changed in each space. I was constantly seeing new things that made me reevaluate the notions of art and aesthetics of the southwest. What I learned is that there is not one type of aesthetic that prevails in New Mexico and Southern Colorado. Instead, there exists a breeding ground for creativity and cultural exchange that incorporates pieces of Chicano, Indigenous, Spanish/Anglo influences that all resonate with the aesthetics of the southwest.

 

And on that note, I leave you with this:

 

La tierra de Aztlán, Nuevo Mexico, Colorado o cual quiere es profunda

Este es el mundo

From these spaces arise the cultures of yesterday and today all living and breathing together

The visual, audio, intellectual, emotional, spiritual and regional confluence of so many cultures will leave anybody astounded

We’ve all played a role in creating these spaces whether we know it or not

There exists a place in our hearts that is always open to loving our surroundings

It’s not a matter of pointing out what is and isn’t true, but rather knowing that you knew what the experience meant to you

To me, this is all a splendor

I’m just a blender mixing the insights from my delight and bountiful sight-seeing

Ripe like fruit just plucked

A greeting that builds trust

I can never fuss because this whole trip was a must

Bring brown in brown spaces was healing

Even if it’s not all entirely revealing of the ultimate truths that lie outside

I’ve accomplished personal growth and for that I have great pride

 

Bendiciones…


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