Canciones de la Tierra (2010)

Melanie Cervantes
20″ x 26″
9 – Color, Hand printed, Screen print, Coventry Rag, Printed in Oakland, 2010

Songstress, Lila Downs, has inspired my art making, through her lyrical storytelling and enchanting vocals since I first heard her album Sandunga in 1999. That year I started to create collective artwork with my friends, including 8-foot long banners we called “walking murals”. Walking because unlike permanent murals they got to travel but always were displayed in public, outdoor spaces. We painted these huge walking murals in my parents’ garage and made work that addressed the connections between the Mexican Revolution, the Zapatista Uprising, Chicanismo and the UFW. Lila’s voice echoed out of the garage, down the avenue and into the neighborhood as we painted late in to the night sipping chocolate.

En Chiapas, mujeres y niños rezando
machetes y balas, con sangre bañaron
la patria su sangre al progreso ha clamado
pero esa es tu raza que sacrificaron.
–Sale Sobrando

In a song that often moves me to tears, Lila references the 1997 Actéal, Chiapas murders of mostly Indigenous women and children by paramilitary forces. For me the themes Lila would address in a single album were like the murals we were painting. They told stories that connected the struggles of Indigena/Mexicano/Xicana people to survive and live with dignity on our own lands. This print is the first in a series of portraits of fierce mujeres whose music has inspired me as an visual artist.