An Introduction to the We Are You Project
What Is the We Are You Project?
The We Are You Project is the first comprehensive 21st Century coast-to-coast exhibition depicting current Latino socio-cultural, political, and economic conditions, reflecting triumphs, achievements, risks and vulnerabilities, affecting all Latinos “within,” as well as “outside” the USA. It is also the first 21st Century art movement that cohesively combines Visual Art, Poetry, Music, Performance Art, and Film making, amalgamating these diverse art-forms into one (“united”) socio-cultural artistic Latino voice, which utilizes ART to confront current challenges and opportunities that are faced by contemporary Latinos and Latinas throughout the USA and Latin America; these concerns include: 1). Latino immigration, 2). Latinization, 3). the current Anti-Latino backlash, 4). the rise of Pan-Latino transcultural-diversity, as well as 5). revealing the diverse fusion of Latino identities in the 21st Century, assiduously forging, nurturing, and evolving a “New-Latino” persona armed with an “innovative” aesthetic world-view, which Raul Villarreal has christened, “Neo-Latino.” Throughout the We Are You Project, these six (above-named) key thematic issues reinforce transcultural bonding between US-Latinos and Latin Americans; which is (at this time, in North America) propelled by generous ground-level barrio support, flowing from an evident wellspring of ever-growing intra-Latino camaraderie. As the 21st Century unfolds, America's Hispanic population continues to grow, increasing by leaps and bounds, inevitably attaining majority-status on or before 2070 CE. As a result of this population growth, inescapable dynamic changes will occur within the Latino community, whereby Latinos will increasingly flex their political and economic power, achieving greater success, as they persist in their pursuit of “The American Dream.” Assisting in these 21st Century Latino aspirations, by means of visual art, poetry, music, and film, the We Are You Project provides cultural and artistic insights as well as avenues for maneuvering “into or through” the pending Hispanic-emergence, which in 1991, Dr. José Rodeiro prophetically dubbed, “Latinization.”
What Looming Socio-Cultural Crisis Threatens Latino Progress?
Since 2007, a shameful and shocking Latino crisis has manifested both circuitously and overtly undermining Latino self-confidence and optimisms around the world, but, particularly in the USA. From Georgia to Arizona, there is widespread antagonism against Ibero-American Latinization: a term best defined as the expansion of Latino socio-culture (artistic), economic, and political influence within the USA and the world. Initial intimations in 2007 of an imminent “Great Recession,” marked by 2008's near collapse of the US banking-system fostered a sudden and unforeseen rise in non-Latino animosity and hostility against Hispanics. Non-Latinos more-and-more felt threatened by an ever-increasing, energetic, and resourceful US-Latino work-force. The effects of the global economic downturn upon the US-economy coincide with the ongoing wave of "rightwing" anti-Latino rhetoric. The noticeable rise in US-Latino population, commensurate with the possibility of prospective Hispanic political power and economic strength, generated a massive anti-Latino backlash marked by various states either pursuing or passing virulent anti-immigrant legislation, encouraging anti-Latino official policies and actions, including the acceleration of ridiculous and costly fence-building projects along the US border with Mexico. In addition, since 2007, the FBI documented a distressing 40% increase in hate-crimes targeting Latinos (such as, the wave of unwarranted police actions in 2012 against innocent Latinos in East Haven, Connecticut). But, even worse were the host of ethno-racist laws legislated since 2010 in Arizona, Alabama, Oklahoma, and other states, attacking the US-Constitution, civil rights (The Dream Act), affirmative action and basic human rights.
How Did the We Are You Project Emerge? What Are Its Aims?
Despite this abhorrent "rightwing" political backlash, the 21st Century's US-Latino emergence persists propelled by innovative and revolutionary forms of transcultural Latinization: a phenomena that inexplicably melds all US-Latinos as well as all Latin Americans together, forging new Pan-American Latino identities and world-views; described (since 2000 CE) as: “New Latino” or “Neo-Latino.” Nowhere is this new reality as evident as in the coast-to-coast rise of Latino art and culture in the 21st Century. One of the greatest manifestations of this fresh and innovative Hispanic contemporary condition, crystallized in New York City in 2005, when Dr. Carlos Hernandez (President of New Jersey City University (NJCU)), Mr. Mario Tapia (President and CEO of Latino Center on Aging (LCA), Miami (FL) and New York City (NY)) and Duda Penteado (a Brazilian artist and community-activist in Jersey City (NJ)) forged the We Are You Project, which coalesced as a significant Latino entity in June 2005 when Penteado created an image and a poem entitled “We Are You” for LCA's prestigious 13th Golden Age Awards ceremony in New York City. By April 2010, this revolutionary triumvirate (Hernández, Tapia, and Penteado) initiated a large-scale Latino Conference at NJCU, focusing on Latino culture, including a panel moderated by Dr. Carlos Hernández entitled “Art as a Catalyst for Social Change: ‘WE ARE YOU,’" consisting of Duda Penteado; Dr. José Rodeiro, Coordinator of Art History (NJCU); Dr. Sara Gil-Ramos, Adjunct-Professor (NJCU), and Fausto Quintanilla, Gallery Director, Queensborough Community College Art Gallery, NYC, NY. This paradigm-shifting Latino artistic event was the fountainhead of the We Are You Project International exhibit, because immediately after this groundbreaking panel, a hardworking and dynamic exhibition subcommittee materialized chaired by Penteado, which included Rodeiro, Raúl Villarreal and Roberto Rosado. Between spring 2010 and fall 2011, under the moniker “The We Are You Project International,” the subcommittee promptly identified a brilliant cohort of outstanding coast-to-coast “2-D –oriented” Latino artists. As part of the selection process, each We Are You artist needed to have lived in the USA for at least a dozen years and their selected piece needed to either reflect or examine the five We Are You Project thematic concerns: Latino immigration, Latinization, the anti-Latin backlash, Pan-Latino transculturalism and/or Latino identity. Also, desired were revolutionary imaginative artists determined to radically transmogrify contemporary art by strongly emphasizing the emotive, visceral, and visual in art over the merely conceptual. Also, the project sought artists who were willing to reestablish intrinsic artistic-collaboration(s) with all the ARTS (visual art, poetry, music, performance-art, film, etc.), ending the ridiculous and ignorant artificial “pseudo-academic” isolation of individual disciplines, which (at present in the USA) foolishly detaches a specific art-discipline from other creative modes. As a consequence of this criteria, and the subcommittee's diligence, thirty-six prominent contemporary Hispanic visual artists and a score of poets were selected, which are presented throughout this Website! This unique world-wide coterie of transcultural pan-Latino artists and poets reflect diverse Ibero-American ancestries and heritages: Mexico, Puerto-Rico, Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Spain and Portugal. Most importantly, each Latino artist or their families have experienced what it means to be an immigrant, refugee, a migrant, expatriate or nomad. Each of the artists in The We Are You Project International gratefully found a new home in the United States, where over the course of years, they attained professional success by expressing their individual vision, distinctive imagery, or their inimitable personal story(ies).
©Dr. José Rodeiro, Jersey City, New Jersey, 2012
For the complete, illustrated essay please