Mexican-American artist Yocelyn Riojas' work has appeared in many political rallies in the last few years, and it gives hope to all the minorities suffering from the most recent wave of hate taking over the political landscape in the US.
The United States is going through a difficult time, with a president who, in the best of cases, unwittingly encourages people to distrust one another, and in the worst of cases, pits people against each other for political and economic profit.
Latinxs from all backgrounds living in the States have been on the brunt end of an endless barrage of open hostility, and while it is difficult to be courageous while being attacked and belittled, some people take that negative energy and turn it into vibrant and positive messages to spark the change they want to see in society.
One of these people is 27-year-old Mexican-American Yocelyn Riojas. She grew up in Eagle Pass, Texas, right along the border with Mexico. Her grandparents were agricultural migrants, and her parents are first-generation Americans who both went on to become attorneys. In the last few years, her art has been one of the most prominent visual representations of a growing movement in America, a movement of tolerance, diversity, and empowerment of minorities. She currently lives in Austin, Texas, and is pursuing her Master of Fine Arts at Texas State.
Her art has, in turn, become the visual representation of many voices that refuse to be silenced and bullied. Her powerful illustrations tell the story of many people in minorities, be it LGBT, PoC, feminists, and many others who don't fit any particular label or category, feel more and more disenfranchised, and lack representation in mass media and commercial art.
Her unique perspective as the daughter of first-generation born migrants, but who has to deal with all the discrimination people of color deal with on a daily basis is one of the things that made her become so active in political movements. In interviews, she has stated that "I have the opportunity to freely live in this country without the fear of DACA expiring and wondering what I would do next. I learned to recognize the privilege I had as a naturalized citizen. From there, I had to figure out what could I do in order to help and for me, it was through art.”
In her bio on her web page, she describes herself as "a Latinx designer, illustrator, and resistance artist passionate about empowering her community through creating a voice for people of color."
One of her better known pieces is an illustration named "My dreams are not illegal" that shows an Afro-Latina woman looking up to the sky, surrounded by monarch butterflies. This particular image was seen countless times during the 2017 and 2018 protests around the country.
Her art has been seen more and more ever since the 2016 election that marked one of the most bitter political battles in recent history in the US, before the election with posters made from her illustrations inviting people to get out and vote and after the election in protests across the country. Her art explores the plight of undocumented immigrants, such as people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients.
Riojas' illustrations make use of traditional Mexican religious iconography and other elements from her heritage to highlight the power of popular organization and of community bonding to bring about change.
Here we bring you 10 of her most representative illustrations, which are full of life and hope, and show how even in the darkest moments it is possible to find a path of love and union and come together to fight oppression and hate with art.
Go to her website and find out more about this artist who is empowering so many people through her art.
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