(this is more for my own benefit…but feel free to read… Plus there are some fresh vids/tunes/graffiti images)
Numerous family members and friends have shown extreme interest and excitement in the possibility of my being published but once they hear that I’ll be researching/writing on Latin@ culture and graffiti the praise quickly turns to thoughts of my work glorifying vandalism and gang culture. Although, such thoughts are slightly justified, they are oversimplifications of an extremely thought provoking subject matter.
While I gear up to write, edit, and rewrite within the coming weeks I presently sit in front of the computer screen with a head swimming with the various ways to present the topic. As of now, the outline begins by discussing the rise of graffiti within the Latin@ community during the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943. During these events, Pachuc@s etched out their space not only through the oversized pants and exaggerated style of the zoot but also by scrawling their names on public walls as a way for Pachuc@’s to reclaim their subjectivity in a society that continuously marginalized Latin@ bodies and silenced Latin@ voices.From here the tentative plan is to explain the use/importance of graffiti within the cholo identity– such as putting up plaqueasos/placas in barrios to claim territory and establish a gangs name and create a roll call for membership.
Next, I will be discussing the influence of New York’s Wild Style in the 1980s and how this gave rise to the bright colors and intricate designs that began to pop up throughout the west coast. Although influenced by this style the utilization of indigenous cultural elements was an extremely unique characteristic found in the work of many Latin@/Chican@ graffiti artists. This was due in large part to the impact of the Chicano Movement and the rise of cultural nationalism across the United States. With the cries for returning to cultural roots Chican@/Latin@ graf writers combined the cholo writing and New York Wild Styles creating pieces that incorporated Aztec glyphs and other indigenous elements. It is also important to note the rise of hip hop within the 1980s, and the use of graffiti as one of the aesthetic elements of hip hop culture, as well as the link between murals and graffiti.
Possibly the most important aspect of my research is the connection between colonization and graffiti, as some authors have argued that colonized peoples (i.e. Latin@/Chican@ graf writers) are using the colonizers tool (i.e. the english language) to create images out of words, effectively appropriating the colonizers tool and deconstructing it. Graffiti, within the context of Latin@/Chican@ culture, was/is a means for marginalized peoples, who have been rendered invisible within the dominant culture, to construct a visible identity within a public space by deconstructing symbols/imagery and the same language that continues to maintain the subaltern identity of Latin@/Chican@ peoples within American society. This can be seen in both the use of english language and the use of Aztec glyphs and indigenous aesthetic elements making the colonized/dominated culture visible once again.
This moves Latin@/Chican@ graffiti out of the space of mere vandalism and an art form unique to gang culture–in fact, my present research has even moved it out of the realm of political discourse. What we can see is that graffiti within Latin@/Chican@ culture is an art form that borders into the process of decolonization and reclamation of cultural identity, not to mention the reclamation of voice in the public arena.