A buffet of festive Hispanic foods lined the entrance into the Gatov West Art Gallery while Ranchera music filled the air. In the very center of the room, Loteria cards and pinto beans sat atop a table for visitors to interact with.
Five California State University, Long Beach art majors of various mediums came together to collaborate on a Latin inspired interactive multimedia art exhibit. Marlene Tafoya, Bianca Hurtado, Romana Vera, Vanessa Olivarez and Cindy Vallejo all joined forces for the project to confront stereotypes.
“We feel that as Latinas a lot of stereotypes are imposed on us and go unnoticed,” Olivarez said. “We want to make [the audience] aware of what is happening.”
Loteria is a game similar to bingo. It includes a deck of 54 cards each representing an image and meaning. The group put their own spins to the game and picked cards that best stereotyped Latin culture, such as heavy drinking and the role of Latinas being child bearers. They recreated their own images to mock such imposed stereotypes in efforts to critique them.
Discussing the importance of centering their exhibit on the popular Mexican game, Vera said, “We wanted to play Loteria to bring the community together. Whether we come from a really good family or a dysfunctional one we create a community. That is what we are and that is what we did.”
Mutually expressed amongst the group of artists is that diversity within the student population in the school system is visible. Yet, the educational curriculum is Anglo-centric.
“History is written by the people in power but we are the people in numbers so we need to know where we come from,” Vera said. “Being whatever combination you are within the Hispanic-American culture, we never really fit in into either. You just grab from whatever you can. Sometimes you just get confused… you’re given all this information of America that is kind of twisted.”
When visitors enter the gallery, they enter into a celebration of the Latin culture that is reflected in both the photographs of the gallery to the game of Loteria.
The music in the background represents both the Hispanic and Americans roots of the art students. Hurtado was the mastermind behind the music and purposely mixed “the cliché Mexican playlist” with contemporary pop music.
When asked what the ultimate message the art gallery portrayed to the public on behalf of the Hispanic community, Tofaya said:
“That we are here. We are proud. We are the backbone. We make things happen, and we should be appreciated and also celebrated. Our whole community should be treated as an equal part of society.”
The School of Art displays student artist’s work in the Fine Arts buildings 2-4, with new exhibits weekly. Visitors can experience the Tafoya group gallery Wednesday from noon to 7 p.m. and Thursday from noon to 5 p.m.