Featured Artist This Month: Danyol Leon
My parents did not want our family speaking Spanish in our middle-class California home in the 1970’s. We were taught assimilation and acculturation were forms of survival in the United States. This experience alienated us, like so many Americans of Mexican descent, from a knowledge of our heritage, an understanding of our culture, and a pride in our homeland. Similarly, it alienated us from latinidad, where we were seen as outsiders trying to access something that did not belong to us – unwelcomed reminders of colonialism.
Although my direct connection to Latinx identity was severely limited as a youth, I still consumed the Mexican culture ubiquitous throughout California, even amongst the conformity of suburbia: Mexican pop icons like Frida Kahlo, Selena and Luchadores filled my bedroom walls. We ate Mexican food. Celebrated Cinco de Mayo. Listened to ranchera music, and I filled my pop-culture belly with chola vernacular.
This work evolves the decoupage aesthetic for which I have become known for by utilizing Mexican foods as canvases – a visceral attempt to reconnect with the ways of my family. All food items were purchased at local, Latinx owned grocery stores in the Mission.
The term “pocho” refers to Mexicans and Chicanos who have left Mexico, and specifically those who do not retain their language proficiency. As a collection, Pocho tells a story about my attempts to connect with latinidad and expose not just my love and adoration for Mexican culture but also my anxiety and trepidation as a mixed race Latinx artist trying to understand my place in these communities.