Immigrant Luchadores: The Fight Goes On and On. Immigrant Luchadores Catich Gallery Exhibit will end on May 7

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Luchador Jaguar de Río I crossed the river between Guatemala and Mexico. Behind were the children, the old, the women with babies. I couldn't leave them. I went back and swam, helping more than forty people cross the river. Swimming with a baby on one arm, his mother on the other arm, and a child strapped to my back. I swam and swam, over and over, until my legs froze from cramps. Photo by Miriam Alarcón Avila
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By Miriam Alarcón Avila

My family and I immigrated from Mexico to Iowa in 2002 with the dream of obtaining a good education. My goal was to work as a visual artist, and acquire the means to become a photographer; however, I quickly realized this would not be an easy endeavor. As a single mother with financial challenges, I found I needed to postpone my studies and pursuit of photography, in order to raise my two children. Like many Latinos in the United States, I have encountered discrimination, language and cultural discrepancies, and other factors as a minority group, which have limited our options for work and driven us to accept low-paying jobs.

Along the way, however, I realized the shortcomings and difficulties facing all Latinos also brought a shared perspective of unification. In Iowa, I stopped calling myself a Mexican; I became a Latina. I found a new family in Spanish-speaking friends from numerous countries, sharing the cultural similarities of expatriate Latin American populations seeking to find a place in a country that did not recognize our love and commitment.

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We share the feeling of invisibility; that we are here, but we do not count.

Luchadora Con Fe Todo Se Puede
My mask reflects what I like the most, It has the sword of good luck, and the flower crown represents my daughter Rosa, it is for her that I want to achieve my goals.
I was born in Honduras, it is very beautiful, but crime has increased in the last ten years.
My dream was to be a teacher, but I was only able to study until sixth grade.
I was a victim of extortion! I had to leave my beloved country, I cried when I left, fear and uncertainty forced me to leave. It was a decision made in less than 24 hours, a fatal decision for me. The gangs were going to kill me!
With pain in my soul, I had to leave my children, I could only bring one of them. Click on picture to read more.
Photo by Miriam Alarcón Avila

I started with the creation of a photo documentary on the lives and ways of Latino immigrants in Iowa. But even here, I encountered obstacles. When I launched a series of video interviews, the very people who I sought to showcase for their inspiration were concerned about the intrusive nature of the camera, and its ramifications in the US today. “But I don’t want them to see me,” I was told. “I don’t want to be recognized.”

An invisible wall formed again, leaving these stories in the dark.

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I knew that I had to find a way to protect the identities of my sources of inspiration, without obscuring or hiding their faces. Our history in this country has already been hidden for a long time. Instead, the stereotypes of “bad hombres” have dominated the narrative, perpetuating the disparities generated by our brown skin, our language, and our stories.

Early in 2016, while driving to work, I remembered my childhood hero “El Santo,” a masked Lucha Libre wrestler in Mexico. I remembered my fondness for his films and his spirit of justice, and how I became aware of the significance of the word “lucha,” which has a double meaning in Spanish. On the one hand, it is the name of the wrestling match, and on the other hand, it is the battle we carry out to overcome obstacles – to struggle, to fight. A “luchador” is one who fights to get ahead, engaged in a struggle to achieve her or his goals. In that moment, remembering the silver mask of “El Santo, el Enmascarado de Plata,” I realized that this was the symbol I needed to protect the identity of my interviewees – and, at the same time, empower them by recognizing them as “superheroes.”

Instead of hiding their brown faces, I decided to fill them with glitter, color, and sequins.

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From that moment on, I started working with the Luchadores Immigrants In Iowa Project, which received support from the Iowa Arts Council. I started interviewing real-life “luchadores” from all walks of life. With them, I designed and made each person a customized mask that reflected their migratory struggle. I included recent immigrants, as well as others who identify with Latino heritage as second or third-generation residents.

After the 2016 elections, and the constant attacks against Latinos and immigrants by the past White House administration, this project took on greater importance. It provided a place for the voices of immigrants and minorities–and their stories, and their actual presences, bringing them out of the shadows, making them visible and heard. In the process, it has become part of my life mission as an artist and advocate.

The portraits presented on this occasion are some of the many “luchadores” that I have photographed. I hope that their stories will plant seeds in the memory of the spectators, and that they help to shatter the grip of those worn stereotypes that need to be tossed to the heap pile of history.

While the COVID-19 virus – which has exploded in the Latino communities – has slowed my work, the “lucha” continues. I am luchando in my determination to bring these stories into the light, into our communities, and into the “rings” of luchadores across the country. As Che Guevara said:”La única lucha que se pierde es la que se abandona.”

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“The only fight that is lost is the one that is abandoned”

So here, in these images, “The Fight Goes On And On!”

¡La Lucha Sigue y Sigue!

Thanks for your lucha!

Immigrant Luchadores Catich Gallery Exhibit will end on May 7 with a Q&A event with artist Miriam Alarcón Avila. 

You can register for the event here

The Catich Gallery is open by appointment

Catich Gallery

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Galvin Fine Arts Center

518 W. Locust St.

Davenport, Iowa 52803

563-333-6444

[email protected]

Luchadores Latino Unidos of West Liberty, 2018, by Miriam Alarcón Avila.
Luchadores Latinos Unidos of West Liberty is a nonprofit organization designed to unite all Latinos and help the community. Providing culture and citizenship to the Latino community promoting and maintaining the ancestral culture through the creation of projects and festivities in the town.
West Liberty is the first Hispanic majority town in Iowa, with 52% of the population of Latino origin.

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