Vivala is proud to feature a series of articles for National Hispanic Heritage Month that represents our vibrant culture and honors our history. Click here to read more.

"Artists are central, not peripheral, to social change," artist Favianna Rodriguez said in a 2013 essay entitled "Change the Culture, Change the World." "To have the movements that make the wave, you need cultural workers."

It is through cultural workers, commonly known as artists, that we are able to comprehend the true density of our history and complexity of our present. For Latinos, our culture is enriched in visual statements that display our struggles that, at times, can be difficult to absorb, but nonetheless assist us in looking to the future with passion and optimism. 

It is through artists like Frida Kahlo that we've been able to celebrate feminism and individuality, Diego Rivera who chronicled the fighting spirit of Mexicans, and Obed Gomez, hailed as the Puerto Rican Pablo Picasso, who amazingly captures the vibrant energy of Puerto Rico. 

Today there's an abundance of extraordinary contemporary artists that fill our compass with a light that exposes our truths, our brilliance, and hopefully within their process bring positive change and clarity. 

Here's some of our favorites. 

Daniel Gibson

She's Watching OJ's white bronco get loose. #bronco

A photo posted by Daniel Gibson (@hotburrrito1) on

The work of Chicano contemporary artist Daniel Gibson reflects the plight that many Latinos face in America: confusion and loneliness. But from that struggle lies true beauty. 

"Growing up in the desert still affects my art making, I tend to draw from that experience," Gibson said to KCET. "Some of my first drawings were of the desert horizon with ocotillo plants and Mt. Signal. We used to watch people from Mexico trekking across the blazing hot desert, kids and families drinking from water jugs."

Maria Gaspar

Latina artist Maria Gaspar specializes in interdisciplinary work. She was born in Chicago, and also recently had an art show at the Mexican National Art Museum. Recently, Gaspar was awarded a Creative Capital Award, a Joan Mitchell Foundation Emerging Artist Award, and the National Museum of Mexican Art Sor Juana Women of Achievement Award.

Raul Caracoza

Raul Caracoza, hails from my hometown of Montebello, California, and recently captured the essence of Frida Kahlo in the most spectacular way. As a design artist, Caracoza apprenticed under renowned master printer, José Alpuche of Self Help Graphics & Art as well as Richard Duardo of Modern Multiples to enhance his knowledge of fine art. 

His work is representative of true Chicano life in California. 

Linda Lucía Santana

"Linda Lucía Santana work responds to the fading memory of Mexican narrative ballads, called corridos," Priscilla Frank writes for the Huffington Post. "Inspired by Magical Realism, she accompanies corridos with fictitious portraits of their subjects, most of which were never photographed. In her work, 'Santana plays the role of artist, archivist and a corridista,' activating lost histories, living memories and the imaginative space in between."


Patrick Martinez

Graffiti is at the forefront of Patrick Martinez's style of work since it was introduced to him in the early '90s. In 1994 he attended Pasadena High School Visual Arts and Design Academy and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, where he received a bachelor of fine arts.

"Patrick focuses on the phenomenology of his surroundings," his bio states. "He brings sublime beauty to things that aren't thought of as conventionally beautiful. He uses subject matter such as everyday people that aren't usually painted into the limelight and elements of the city that would be thought of as objects we take for granted."

We spoke to a few more of our favorite artists. Here's what they had to say about their work. 

Debi Hasky

Hasky is an American-born, Barcelona-based artist, who grew up in Miami, Florida and Panama City, Panama. She created a series titled "#CallOutCatCalls," which earned her a full scholarship to study graphic design at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Barcelona.

Vivala: Do you consider your to be political?

Hasky: "I personally don’t consider my work to be political, the way I see it, my work mostly consists of my own thoughts and emotions."

V: What would you like to convey through your work?

Hasky: "An overall feeling of positivity and badassery."

V: What inspires you?

Hasky: "Pastel colors, weird feelings I’m trying to figure out, women in general cause women are awesome, random conversations, vintage comics, my friends… and so much more!" 

Angelica Becerra

We first discovered Becerra on Instagram because she was drawing important feminist women in history, and were floored by her talent.
Becerra’s love of art came naturally, perhaps because she comes from a family of artisans who raised her to be creative in her hometown of San Juan de los Lagos, Jalisco, Mexico. At the age of 10, she and her family immigrated to the United States and her accessibility to art changed a bit.

V: Would you consider your work to be political?

Becerra: "Definitely. Both the intention and content of my work is political. I paint the revolutionary womxn I wish I had on my walls growing up, I paint them because now more than ever, it is crucial to remember them as we fight for social justice. The motivation to paint came from a state of burn out from organizing and activism, I felt that issues of emotional abuse and mental health were not addressed in the social justice spaces I had been a part of. I see my work as a very different call to action, a call to love ourselves into becoming whole." 

V: What would you like to convey through your work?

Beccera: "First and foremost, I'd like to convey that those of us who are broken, are still capable of healing. As we work to do work that matters to us, it is important not to compromise our own sense of worth. I hope that through the work, others can feel empowered and loved, I make the work out of a deep sense of responsibility to love those of us who are often told we're unlovable." 

V: What inspires you?

Beccera: "Many things inspire me on a daily basis. Primarily, queer bodies of color being fully and unapologetically themselves." 

Nani Chacon

According to her bio, Nani Chacon, is a Dine (Navajo) and Chicana artist. She is mostly known for her female figurative works which utilize bold colors and an illustrative format to create commentary on Native, Chicana, and American culture. At 16 she was introduced to graffiti and began a career as a graffiti writer and continued this practice for the next 10 years.

V: Would you consider your work to be political? 

Chacon: "I consider my work to be humanitarian and I use the opportunity of creating art to raise questions about our environments. I like to focus my work around raising questions not necessarily announcing an opposition or a certain way to think. The questions I raise some times this bridges into areas that have been addressed by governments or states, but the focus of my work is to talk about people and our relationship to space.  

V: What would you like to convey through your work?

Chacon: "I would like to propose questions and present a platform for dialogue. I would like to give reverence for indigenous ideologies." 

V: What inspires you? 

Chacon: "I am inspired by the world around me. I'm in awe of the knowledge of my ancestors that I may never fully understand, but the glimpses i get will fuel my life time. I'm inspired by the work of people in my community whether they are farmers, philosophers, musicians, artists, mothers, teachers, activists. I love seeing the amazing work they do, and lines of consciousness they connect in ways i would never imagine. I'm inspired by the many things in life that I don't understand yet leave an impression, that keeps me wondering."

Yasmin Hernandez

This mural (seen above) by Yasmin Hernandez is prominently featured on one of the most well known streets of East Harlem, at the The Modesto Flores Garden, on Lexington Avenue near east 104th St. Artist Yasmin Hernandez painted the iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo sitting alongside Julia de Burgos, "an equally amazing kick ass revolucionaria" Hernandez said. She's a prominent poet to come out of Puerto Rico, and whose life and work have incredibly uncanny parallels to Frida's. For example, she died on Frida's birthday. The unity of both cultures is poignant to the identity of many Latinas.  

V: Would you consider your work to be political?

Hernandez: "I do consider my work to be political.  Most of my work speaks to the nebulous political state of Puerto Rico, which essentially affects our global identity and the way we see ourselves as individuals. Until that nebulous state is resolved, I believe that everything that happens in and around and about Puerto Rico is political by default."  

V: What would you like to convey through your work?

Hernandez: "In the past I used my work to share narratives born out of struggles for justice. Some of the related images might have depicted acts of injustice. Today what I like to convey through my work are stories of our greatness. Even if within the context of injustice struggles, there is a greatness expressed when one recognizes their own right to justice, to peace and dignity. Through my work I now strategically convey stories of greatness, of people marginalized rising from that space to claim something bigger, something more just and beautiful. I hope to inspire others to see, own and express that greatness in themselves and in every one of us."  

V: What inspires you?

Hernandez: "I am inspired by our greatness, by the great stories of survival, perseverance and love that our people today and our ancestors have managed to birth and create out of conquered spaces.  Puerto Rico is the name the conquerors gave to island of Borikén, what the indigenous ancestors called this land. It means land of the noble and brave."

Betirri

Mexican-born artist Betirri Bengtson, who simply goes by his first name moniker, studied art and architecture at the University of Houston. But it was in Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy, in which Betirri's love affair with art grew even more. His bio states: "Bettiri’s aspiration is to continue to unite the undying international passion for futbol with the eternal beauty of art.

V: Do you consider your to be political?

Betirri: "My work doesn't show a political aspect right away; however, most of the paintings that I paint, the origin of the rivalry is mainly political. Football being a global and a sport that involves the masses, politics are often in it. So I would say that my work is political." 

V: What inspires you?

Betirri: "What really inspires me to paint football are the passion of the people towards this sport: either the passion of the fans for their teams, the passion of the players to win or to become better, or the passion of a discussion of a game between two fans. The energy at being in a live game in a stadium fills me with more energy to paint more. The joy of the people around the world when a World Cup is about to start or when it is happening."