This piece pays homage to two incredible Aymara revolutionaries, Tupac Katari and Bartolina Sisa. In the 18th century, the brutality of Spanish colonial rule led to many uprisings but the leadership of Katari and Sisa successfully transformed this despair into a powerful movement of more than 40,000 native people of all different communities including Quechua to occupy the city of La Paz (then Peru, now Bolivia). The physical occupation of the city in 1781 lasted 3 months but the legacy of what this occupation meant is still very present in the minds of man. Nothing is more instructive and transformative than witnessing what is possible. When I learn the history of my people and how we stood up for ourselves and others who suffered alongside us, I understand that our current resistance movements are a part of a larger historical continuum of people who are conscious of their condition and see that it is in fact something we can tangibly change.
I depict them here amongst the people to honor the way they were able to inspire the most oppressed communities to put aside their differences and come together to fight for their freedom. Although this occupation ended up with the brutal murder of these two leaders and many others, Katari knew that even by killing him, the revolutionary spirit and change that he and others demonstrated, would transform the people of the Andes and before his death said that he would die but return through the millions more that would be inspired to fight in his wake. Even in our failures, when the struggle ends in defeat, we must do everything we can to come back even stronger.
This piece is dedicated to every person who understands that freedom requires struggle and will fight to make it possible.
“You can jail a revolutionary, but you can't jail the revolution” - Fred Hampton
“Volveré y seré milliones” - Tupac Katari
It feels fitting to have this piece live as a public art installation in the Peace Garden in Egleston Sq as a project with Space Us. Growing up, I spent many weekends and school vacations with my cousins a few blocks over on Boylston St playing soccer outside of Stonybrook t station or walking to Hi-Lo (RIP) to get yucca or platanos to fry.
Away means “to weave” in Quechua. As someone who is first gen, I often struggle to convey what it is like to have a home away from home. At times, it feels like I am always bringing an incomplete version of myself at every table I sit at. As I grew to learn more about the history of my people and family in the Andes, of our language, culture, dispossession and resilience, I learned that the difficulty of weaving together these struggles with the creation of home here on the East Coast soon faded away. This painting was inspired by all the moments I share with the women in my family both here and in the Andes. The way we support and prepare one another for battle with tenderness and fierce honesty. The way we have carried tradition on our backs across borders and have transformed it to carry meaning in new contexts. To braid our hair is to prepare ourselves for the day to come.
We give and we receive and we grow. It is the way of the pachamama, it is ayni, and it is a fundamental teaching that expresses itself in the natural world we live in. Today I will hold these memories firmly in my mind and tomorrow I will braid my hair to struggle on another day; another day stronger.
paqarikama. kawsachun kallpay warmi.
Nurturing my chichera roots with this color experiment on cardboard. Chicha culture is the “colores chillones de la sierra”. In trying to translate this phrase, I inevitably had to explain the racism experienced by Andean indigenous migrants to Lima for work, the legacy of colonial underdevelopment in the high Sierra of the Andes and the ongoing destruction of native food agricultural networks with the import of cheaper, lower quality food products. Chicha culture, a workers/immigrants/diaspora culture which flourished in Lima in the 80’s/90’s continues to be revived today. It tells the stories of exploited workers through colorful lyrics, guitar melodies, and huaynos fused together. It is the neon bright colored posters plastered across the barrios to advertise these shows. The stories of people persevering and finding their humanity in each other and the music and culture they listened to while working. Chicha culture is for the taxistas, the marketplace lunch breaks, and the women who will sell you quinoa con leche for 1 or 2 soles. Chicha music is creating through the conditions we were born into. Chicha culture is not finding excuses under this capitalist system. Chicha culture is the resilience of the human spirit. [song recs to listen while observing this print: Soy Provinciano by Chacalón y la Nueva Crema, Mi Tallercito by Los Shapis]
Side note: the texture of the cardboard didn’t take my ink block too well so it looks like wood is next!