Mayra and Miriam Medina Macias, seniors who happen to be twins (it took me quite a while to distinguish one from the other), currently each have their own art galleries in the Christiansen Center at Augsburg College. Here is a little bit about each gallery, why they are important, and why you should go see them.
[I am not posting pictures of the whole galleries because you should go see the whole thing. I am terribly tempted to just post all the images I have!]
“Reflejos” – Miriam Medina Macias, Augsburg College
This is why this gallery is powerful: as a person, each of us has multifaceted identities and you can find traits in each and yet, there is only one you; you are every identity. This colorful, creative, gallery that will also make you use a dictionary reflects the immigrant experience but it also reflects the experience of anyone who sometimes feels like they need to code-switch for whatever reason.
And it also, at least to me, makes her life political. She is Mexican. She is American. She 100% American & 100% Mexican. She challenges notions of having to pick and choose. Miriam is saying that her Americaness reflects her Mexicaness and vice versa. And that I think is a great challenge.
Mayra, who is undocumented too,* used photography to unearth the complexity of racism in America. She held a conversation about her gallery and surprisingly, it unearthed not only racism, but also classism among other ‘isms.
“Am I ILLEGAL?” – Mayra Media Macias, Augsburg College
Interestingly, Mayra chose to capture mugshots of Latin@ youth around her age because it was the best way to challenge stereotypes about undocumented people. Some of the youth are undocumented and some are not. But how can you tell who is who?
Mayra was inspired by her experience seeing how sometimes people reacted to the fact that she is undocumented and in college or hearing comments about friends or family members. During her conversation with the audience, it was clear that many generally assume that Latin@s are only undocumented. Or poor. Or uneducated. Or that everyone is Mexican.
It was also personal for the audience too. One participant said sometimes people keep questioning him about his race/ethnicity because “you don’t look Hispanic.” Someone also said how they also assume by what people wear and if they see someone wearing business clothing, their last guess is that that person is undocumented.
Doing this work also challenged Mayra. She mentioned how one time she learned one of her friends was Guatemalan and Mayra even told him that he wasn’t because she held this stereotype about how Guatemalan people look. The audience brought up how that happens a lot within racial groups as well.
Structural racism exists. Classism exists. But there is also this subtle turbulence between members of a racial group where while everyone is supposed to fit under one label, there is some friction.
The mugshots also show how diverse the Latin@ community is. Some have dark, darker, light, lighter skin. Some are skinny, slim, built, heavy, and so on. I assume the immigration status of all are part of a spectrum—some undocumented, other US, and others somewhere in-between. And I am also sure there are people with different or multi-nationalities.
It’s like Auggies (Augsburg’s mascot)—we all come in different colors and shapes.
Visit the galleries—open for limited time. Free to the public.
One of the reasons why I love these galleries is because both make it personal. I think we all have experienced times when we feel like we need to divide our identities or when someone has assumed something about us without even knowing us. Both galleries unearth layers of how complex our society is and how complex sometimes it is for someone to just be them, be whole. And in many ways, there is a historical aspect to it as well.
Mayra & Miriam have a great challenge for us—how are we going to address issues of racism, classism, but also, how are we going to create fully accepting and embracing spaces for all students, regardless of their specific characteristics (race, immigration status, gender, sexual orientation, etc)? Augsburg students maybe can provide some answers through their future work?
Thank you Miriam & Mayra for having been a great classmates, being great friends, and thank you for putting your creativity to work our minds and challenge us to think deeper about who we are and where we are. You represent some of the best about Minnesota. Best of luck in your last year of college! (And thank you Augsburg for your commitment to students!)
*I received permission to publish this.