Artículo 39, Monumento Benito Juárez , Cd. Juárez (Photo courtesy of Maintain Studio)
Christian and Ramon Cardenas are LxsDos, artists living and working on both sides of the border in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez. Walk through El Segundo Barrio or Downtown or Union Plaza or Ciudad Juarez and you will see their art. The faces of the everyday people of la frontera will look out at you from their work.
When I first saw their mural, "Sister Cities/ Ciudades Hermanas," portraying El Paso and Juárez as two hermanas with their hair braided together, it inspired me to write my first blog post about my twin sister and me. It reminded me of my own life as a sister and as a fronteriza born on one side and raised on the other. (You can read that post here.)
That's what their art does-- inspires, tells stories, recognizes and pays homage to the everyday people of the border, and helps us think about our own stories. We as border people are reflected in their art. Our culture and our vidas cotidianas are in their art. And their art talks to us about power and change.
The piece above, "Artículo 39," and the piece below, "Ayotzinapa Tribute," are potent statements about the power of el pueblo, the people, and they are calls for change. Together, they point to the contradictions of power and the suffering of the poor.
Article 39 of the Mexican Constitution says (translated into English): National sovereignty is bestowed essentially and originally upon the people. Every public power derives from the people and is instituted for their benefit. The people possess, at all times, the inalienable right to alter or change their form of government. In the piece, warrior women stand, demanding their rights and their power.
The piece below, "Ayotzinapa Tribute," uses the ancient Mesoamerican image for life into death with the face of one of the college students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers School in Guerrero in the center. In 2014, 43 students were disappeared after being attacked by military and law enforcement as they headed to Mexico City on a bus. For three years, their parents have sought answers, saying "You took them alive. We want them back alive." In the piece below, the final stage from life to death is the image of a jaguar, a warrior. Even in their absence, the young Indigenous men of Ayotzinapa are warriors for justice, just as they were while attending college.
“Ayotzinapa Tribute” by LxsDos. Photograph © Federico Villalba, all rights reserved.
I met Christian and Ramon last year when we first began working to protect Barrio Duranguito in South El Paso, the oldest barrio in El Paso and under threat of demolition by the City of El Paso. LxsDos were generous with their talent as we began producing posters and banners.
I fell in love with their art. It spoke to my heart and it spoke to my sense of the beauty of this border. Not a romanticization of the border. But the beauty of our every day life.
Below on left: Banner designed by LxsDos. On right: poster designed by Zeke Penya and LxsDos.
LxsDos, Chris and Ray, believe that street art brings art to the people of barrios on both sides of the border. Study after study has shown that working-class people in the United States do not go to museums. It's not because they don't love art. It's because they don't feel welcomed for many factors (language or entrance fees, for example) or their time doesn't allow them. Working-class folks often work more than one job or work graveyard shifts. Art becomes a luxury, then. For LxsDos, art should not be a luxury. It should be a right. Their street art brings the beauty of art to the people... on both sides of la frontera.
Foundational to their work is the understanding that the borderline created in 1848 divided a land and a people that were and in so many ways remain tied together. The creation of the modern dividing line made us into migrants. Both Chris and Ray have experienced crossing borders: Chris is Mexican and Ray is Filipino.
I've always been a woman of words. Words are how I see the world. In the past few years, I've worked at developing my visual skills and the way I observe the world through my eyes. It was experiencing the power of art that began my journey of looking at the world, rather than only listening to it.
The art of LxsDos has been part of that journey. I am grateful for the fronterizx vision of LxsDos.
Artists Ramon and Christian Cardenas. Photo: Itzel Martinez for Remezcla.