Maggie Negrete was a 2016 Cafe Con Leche resident artist. Maggie is a SWPA native, a feminist artist that adapts her medium in response to the dialogue she wishes to create with the audience. Her artwork consists of installations, illustrations and prints with themes focused on women's history, fantasy and the occult. Uniting these mediums, Maggie's design sense manifests through black and white linework with nods to Gilded Era illustration, the current renaissance of sign painting and is influenced by her heritage of typographers and illustrators. Additionally, Maggie is a Teaching Artist and Arts Administrator, coordinating events for other teaching artists through her position at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. Below are excerpts from Maggie's project for her residency, "Puntos de Referencia". You can learn more about Maggie by visiting her website by clicking here.
I watched a lot of television as a latchkey kid, but I never really noticed Latinx people aside from the Panchos in my Irish grandfather's Westerns.
Then, there was Selena- the movie playing in syndication on network television. Jennifer Lopez was Puerto Rican, but she was playing a beautiful, talented, exuberant Mexican woman. Edward James Olmos, who plays Selena's father reminded me of my own- his pride, his desire to parade his incredible daughter, his conservatism, and love of music. My heart would rase as I listened to the musical numbers and watched her dance. Then, I saw video of the real Selena.
Omigod, do I look like her? Omigod, she's like me. Will I grow up to be as beautiful as her? Do you think I could sing like her? Omigod. Is this what is means to be a Mexican woman?
When my friends and I would put on her CDs, I got to pretend to be Selena. She wasn't blonde or blue-eyed. Her hair was long and dark. They couldn't move like her, but I could. It was in my blood, somewhere deep down in my hip bones, so I thought. There was bolero and jarocho and mariachi inside of me, and it was mine. I couldn't understand the words, but I could feel the music, the power of Selena's voice, and I felt powerful.
"Soy Mexicana; mi apellido es Negrete." (I am Mexicana; my last name is Negrete.)
"Oh, como Jorge?" (Oh, like Jorge?)
"Sí, él era el primo de mi bisabuelo." (Yeah. He was my great-grandfather's cousin.)
"Hola, mama? Dame a abuelita. Tengo la prima de Jorge Negrete en mi taxi!" (Hello, mama? Give me grandmother. I have Jorge Negrete's cousin in my taxi!)
This conversation was repeated throughout my travels in Mexico and Peru. It gave credence to the pale-faced American girl claiming to be Mexican in her stuttered Spanish.
At some point in the '40s, my grandfather visited Mexico with his father. As they crossed the Zocalo, in some city, I don't remember which, they saw a huge crowd and big spotlights.
Qué hace allá? (What's happening over there?)
Jorge Negrete está rodando una pelicula nueva! (Jorge Negrete is filming a new movie!)
Supposedly, my great-grandfather turned and began to walk through the crown towards the barricades and then through the barricades and onto set. The PAs started screaming for him to stop when he locked eyes with his cousin. Jorge called out for them to let him pass, and they met with a great embrace.
I like to imagine them as small children. My great-grandfather visiting Jorge in Guanajuato at family reunions unaware of their vastly different futures. Jorge would be a singing cowboy with scholars writing about his influence on masculinity in film. My great-grandfather would be a laborer.