EXHIBIT ON VIEW
Arte Américas returns with its first exhibit of 2019, CAMINOS (translated as roads or paths). The exhibit presents the history of the Central Valley’s Latino community, told as a journey. The exhibit is comprised of various forms based on interviews, photographs, posters, and maps—many from community participants. The story is pieced together against a historical framework developed by a team of researchers, community scholars and student interns, led by historian Dr. Alex Saragoza, professor emeritus at UC Berkeley, and a native of Madera, California. CAMINOS follows the paths that brought people to the valley, primarily from Mexico, and their diverse experiences over time and generations.
The narrative takes into consideration international, national, and local events and their impacts on the formation of the Latino community. For example, the exhibit underscores the ways in which anti-immigrant legislation against the Chinese, Japanese, and southern and eastern Europeans contributed importantly toward the recruitment of Mexican farm labor as agricultural production increased at the turn of the twentieth century, especially during WWI and the boom that followed through most of the 1920s. As a result, many Mexicans settled in the valley, establishing a network that would facilitate further migration from their erstwhile homeland.
The exhibit begins in 1772 with the first Spanish explorations through the valley and then turns toward the Mexican (1821-1848) and Early American (1848-1900) periods that witnessed the economic transformation of the valley and attracted so many groups from the eastern and southern parts of the U.S. as well as immigrants from Asia, Europe, and eventually from Mexico in particular. Subsequently, in a series of chronologically arranged intervals, the exhibit takes the story to the present.
The narrative highlights the development of a community bound by language and culture whose integration—however fitful and uneven—has enriched valley life. The story is one of change, resilience, and resistance, from the struggles of the Great Depression years and the civil rights era to the achievements of Latina entrepreneurs and the brave service of Latino soldiers.
Some information may be scarcely known facts, such as the “Fiesta” put on by the KKK in the 1920s at the Fresno Fair grounds, while in the same year the Mexican community celebrated their own “Fiestas Patrias.” Or that in 1960 only about a dozen Mexican origin students graduated from Fresno State College, but by 2018 over a thousand received degrees at Chicano Commencement at CSUF.
This is Arte Américas’ first foray into historical representation, still utilizing the creativity of its artistic community to tell the story. The project began with an initial seed grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and then matched with a grant from the California Council for the Humanities. A team gathered from scholars, college interns and volunteers took on the project throughout 2018 with the indispensable aid from librarians and museum curators from Madera, Fresno and Tulare counties. California State University, Fresno, and the State Center Community College District came on board with sponsorships and student assistance. Additional organizations, businesses and individuals also are contributing to the realization of the project. The exhibit represents an initial phase of a larger collection documenting the community’s history, the culmination of the collective work to date.
Admission is free with the support of our sponsors, though donations are welcome to support programming related to the exhibit. Fee-supported guided tours are available. In addition to regular hours, Arte Américas will be presenting weekly Sunday programs of discussions and films beginning March 24 and continuing throughout the run of the exhibit. You can check our "Events" page for more details and RSVP on facebook.