For Latinx Heritage Month, we sat down with educator, artist, poet, and political and cultural organizer, Xico González. We discussed Xico’s heritage, inspiration, and journey.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Xico González, and I’m a Chicano educator, artist, poet, and a political and cultural organizer based in Sacramento, California. I am an alumnus of Sacramento State (2002 and 2005), and UC Davis (2007). Upon completing an MFA degree in Art Studio, I taught Art Studio, Ethnic Studies, and Chicana/o Studies at Sacramento State and at UC Davis.
After awhile, I decided to leave the post secondary educational setting and bring my skills and knowledge to the high school level. Since 2011, I have been teaching Spanish and Art Studio at the Met Sacramento High School, where I promote social and cultural awareness in and out of the classroom.
How would you describe your artwork?
Mestizo Gallery in Salt Lake City, Utah described my work as an “intellectual and emotional provocative experience, showcasing the way art and civil-rights activism merge to move communities to action”, and I agree with them. My work seeks to uplift, motivate, and inspire people of color and allies in our quest for social justice, and equity in this country.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
As an artist, I enjoy putting in visual form the concerns of my people, and the concerns of other people of color, as we fight the different manifestations of white supremacy. I also enjoy bringing new generations into the Movement through organizations like MEChA (Chicanx Student Movement of Aztlán) to continue building on the legacy and the work of Chicanas, Chicanos, and Chicanxs from the Civil Rights era to the present. It is beautiful to see the transformation in youth as they become agents of change in our communities. Art and Chicanismo are great tools to make this change happen.
In what ways do you celebrate your Latinx heritage?
As a Chicano, my heritage is an essential part of who I am. I celebrate, participate, and organize Chicano cultural events in our community in spaces like Sol Collective, and the Met Sacramento High School. Some of these events include Día de Los Muertos celebrations/exhibitions, Chicano art exhibits, poetry readings, posadas, Cinco de mayo celebrations, dances, rallies, marches, protests, and facilitating cultural art workshops to community members.
Another way that I celebrate my heritage is through music. I currently have a radio show called Radio Xicanismo on Mixlr.com and on KUTZ 103.1FM (Thursdays and Sundays at 7:00pm) where I showcased the beautiful music of México and Latin America. An extension of this show is an Instagram page (@radioxicanismo) where I share my 45rpm vinyl collection. I feature 45 rpm records with a brief artist biography, as well as connecting the music to personal and collective experiences. The music ranges from the 1940s to contemporary music being pressed on vinyl by independent record labels.
Who have been your biggest role models?
The late Sacramento State Professor Ricardo Favela made a tremendous impact in my personal and artistic life, as has UC Davis Professor Emeritus Malaquias Montoya. Both are pioneers of the Chicano Art Movement, and I am proud to say that my work has recently been archived alongside theirs at the Smithsonian American Museum and an exhibition titled, “¡Printing The Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now,” which features our work and the work of other Chicana/o/x artists. The exhibit opens on November 20th.
Another role model is the late Phil Goldvarg, a Jewish American poet that claimed Chicanismo as his own. Phil inspired me and my generation to utilize poetry in front lines of the Movement. I can still hear him scream “Basta, basta, bastaaaaaaa…” to this oppressive system.
What challenges do you think confront Latinx in the United States today?
The biggest challenge that our community confronts at this point in time is racism, discrimination, and xenophobia. It doesn’t matter if you are Mexican, Central American, South American, documented, undocumented or a US citizen, we are are being targeted not only by your everyday bigot, but by our own President. I am never going to forget his remarks towards Mexicans while campaigning for office, and neither should you, even if you are not part of the diaspora. We must also remember that it is this administration’s policy to separate families at the border, and that children are still being held in cages in ICE detention centers.
The anti-Mexican sentiment extends to our siblings from Central, and South America, and their US born children. We must form alliances and work together for the betterment of the diaspora. We don’t need umbrella labels/identities rooted in Whiteness that erase our particular histories. What we need is real unity to fight a common oppressor.
What advice would you offer fellow Latinos/Latinas/Latinx who are striving to succeed in the creative industry?
Manifest your vision. If possible, seek to uplift, inspire, and motivate our community with your artwork. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you, go out there and create them. Also, be true to your artist’s voice and create artwork that you want to make, and not artwork that others want you to make.
Why is it important for members of the Latinx community to vote in the upcoming election?
We need to exercise our right to vote and do so for the millions that live in the shadows who are not allowed to vote. When it comes to our community, we need to vote for a candidate who will keep families together, close ICE detention centers, abolish ICE, and who will bring immigration reform and a path to citizenship for the undocumented. Casting our vote has the potential to bring balance to the unbalance created by our current president and administration. Our vote can also support other people of color, and underrepresented communities in their quest for social justice, equity, and the dismantling of white supremacy.