Editor’s Note: Mark Alvarez, a familiar name to regular Selective Echo readers, offers a good look at Mestizo, an increasingly important and prominent anchor in the city’s arts profile.
Mestizo Coffeehouse and the Mestizo Institute of Culture and Arts formed in 2003 to create art and to build community in Salt Lake City. This month, Mestizo has presented the work of Xico Gonzalez, who came from Sacramento last week to participate in the Gallery Stroll.
Xico says, “I create art to empower and to provide a voice for my community. [I am] an individual that believes and works for justice and equality.” Xico has won several awards for his close work with immigration communities in California. His art arises from experiences with people who have suffered real harm. Xico has worked to push immigration reform as evidenced by Fuck La Migra and ¡La migra me la pela!, which uses Andy Warhol’s banana off The Velvet Underground and Nico in a criticism of current policy.
On Friday, Xico performed poetry and inspired a youthful audience at Mestizo. His art nicely matched the Mestizo mission and message. Mestizo has declared:
“We refuse to take a step back. We refuse to apologize or compromise where dignity or humanity is concerned. Our eyes have been opened. We have stared honestly at ourselves in the mirror and looked even more closely at the children who follow in our path. We are proud of what we see.”
Youth is often criticized in the media. Newspapers, radio and television give an account of troubled young people and a growing gang problem. Mestizo co-founder Terry Hurst says, “there is nothing wrong with youth.” Largely through Mestizo, Terry has worked to encourage the voices of youth and others often unheard during public conversations. He stresses culture to help bridge divides and bring people together as collaborators.
Terry also stresses activity. Staying out of trouble does nothing for youth. Creating something does.
Yesterday, Terry began an adventure for Mestizo. Terry seeks to achieve success for the Five Million Dollar Fund described on the Mestizo site. Terry will ride his bicycle to publicize the effort. Terry will broaden community contacts for Mestizo as he rides from Salt Lake City to Ogden, Logan, Boise, Yakima, Seattle and beyond. Terry plans to ride until his goals are met.
Some have criticized Terry for excessively ambitious goals. Criticism has not blunted Terry’s audacity, and he pushed off last night. Terry sometimes has told others to get off their ass and do something. Now, he will act on that advice.
The goal of the ride is funding, but it is also something else. Mestizo seeks to increase gathering space, give underserved youth access to higher education and raise issues of social justice.
Program director Walter Mason focuses on youth. He says, “Young people do not choose to get into trouble. That is an illusion. Young people who have real options will make the right choices. We should trust them to do so.”
Mestizo has an Arts and Activism program for youth. Two participants were Asa Matelau and Isaac Giron. Asa stresses the importance of confidence. He says, “Youth can create change. Mentoring is important, but most important is the opportunity to participate.” Most of us seek acknowledgement, and real outlets and opportunities can make that positive.
Isaac Giron speaks more broadly about community: “A mobilized community will stand up for itself. The key is self-esteem. When you know what you are going to do, it is harder for people to beat you down.”
The word “mestizo” describes someone of mixed blood, especially from relationships between Spaniards and natives of the American continent. The people who run and support Mestizo Coffeehouse and Mestizo programs carry the label proudly as they strive to create opportunity.
Mestizo is located at 631 West N. Temple in the Courtyard of the Citifront complex. Mestizo is a welcoming place filled with art, people, coffee and hope. Artist Ruby Chacon, Terry Hurst, university professors and others often join at Mestizo to improve the prospects for youth. Mestizo invites everyone in Salt Lake City to collaborate.
There is nothing wrong with youth. For those who want to exclude or point a finger, we have a finger as well. Better to use them to help.
Terry, have a nice ride. We await your return.
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