I have always been fascinated by tales of my grandfather swimming across the Rio Grande to move to the United States. As a child, I was enchanted by the symbolism of swimming into a new life. Like a natural baptismal font, the Rio Grande cleanses immigrants of their past lives, rebirthing them into new opportunities. However, this new life has always come at a cost. In 2015, an estimated 170,000 immigrants made the journey across the Mexico-U.S. border. Often carrying nothing but backpacks and water jugs, these immigrants travel on foot through the hundred-degree desert heat of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Dehydration, exhaustion, injury, and hypothermia claim the lives of hundreds each year.
As a biracial Latina, a seventh-generation Texan of European descent on my mom’s side and granddaughter of Mexican immigrants on my dad’s, I have followed the roots of my own ancestry to shape my practice as an artist. Major events in Texas history such as the Mexican-American War, Battle of the Alamo, Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and the Bracero Program have created a complex relationship between my two cultures: Texans and Mexicans. The residual racial discord that has resulted from these historical moments—particularly, the racialization and displacement of unauthorized Latinx immigrants—is both the context and focus of my work.