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The focus of the contest is the Georgia immigrant experience. We invite high school artists from across Georgia to depict how they perceive the life of immigrants. Scholarships are given for first-, second-, and third-place winners, and all submissions are displayed in a prominent public venue each year.
The purpose of the contest is to uplift the voices of Latino and immigrant youth and to empower them to convey their message of struggle and hope to a broad audience. The art contest enhances educational opportunity and connect the students to a broader network of professional artists.

For me this is probably one of my favorite social/political pieces I’ve made. I know each person has their own interpretation of the “immigrant experience” but this is my personal connection in relation to this. In my own experience there will always be people who are not happy with the way I am, but I choose to take pride in my Hispanic heritage and culture. Some try to change the way I am, try to change the way I speak or dress, try to change what I listen to. I have actually been told “learn to be American” (that’s why I included that phrase on one of the signs) They want to take the Latino part of me away but I don’t think it’s possible no matter where I am. All of that experience influences and ties into my entire piece.

Personally speaking I actually have had racial slurs yelled at me about my appearance or music (hispanic music) and so because of that I chose to have music and style as the two of the main focus points. One of the other things that people would criticize me for is my accent, as if I can switch it on and off or even get rid of it altogether. News flash-this accent is my own and I intend to keep it.

The reason for the outlet was because that is something common here in the US so that’s why I chose it as the setting for the painting. I set it up so that each “store” would have something to do with what some people want to change about immigrants and me personally. I will admit it was difficult to draw this all from scratch but I’m happy with the way it turned out in the end.

Last thing I wanted to add to this piece were the people. Originally I wanted to have myself pictured in the painting but instead I decided to depict my culture; Mexican women with the traditional dresses found in different states.

For me, it’s important to always keep those ties to your culture and traditions no matter where you are. True, it might be somewhat difficult to do when all anyone is ever telling you is to forget it. I might only be 17 but I can already say that there are some difficult times when it comes to identity and I will say this; you should always be proud of your family, your heritage, and more importantly, you should be proud of yourself and who you are. That’s something no one can ever take away

In this piece, I wanted to explore the concept of finding self-identity through reflection, literally and metaphorically. I felt it was important to reflect on the experiences I’ve personally faced regarding my cultural identity, specifically my assimilation into American culture. By making my tongue look like an American flag, it’s a representation of how it replaced my native tongue, Spanish. I wanted this piece to be reflective of my journey with my identity, particularly my heritage. Although I grew up with predominantly Hispanic influences, I had to adopt American culture in order to feel accepted in society. Although this piece is predominantly reflective of my personal experiences with Mexican and American culture, it can be applied in a broader sense to the experiences of first generation immigrants.

One of the many pressing issues that immigrants face in America are language barriers. To some, the idea of learning the new language seems simple and reasonable, but it can feel impossible. One of the biggest issues that language barriers can introduce is an overwhelming feeling of isolation. The inability to understand others or to be understood can make one feel secluded. I felt it was very important to address the language barriers that first generation immigrants face but I also wanted to add my perspective as a second-generation immigrant. The desire to communicate is simply human nature, we all need to express our emotions and experiences with friends, family, or whomever it may be. By not being able to do so, it leaves one feeling misunderstood and lonely.

I personally grew up speaking Spanish, but as I entered school I encountered many challenges. One of the most frustrating aspects of the language barrier at school/with my peers was the feeling of isolation; the inability to communicate made me feel disappointed and dejected. One of my biggest regrets is succumbing to the frustration by choosing to adopt English as my primary language. In a way, I felt I had to assimilate in order to survive school, make friends, and feel accepted. Although I feel integrated into American culture, I always feel as though I lost touch with my Mexican heritage in the process. I showed this change in identity through the tongues; while I may physically represent Mexican culture, internally I felt I had been pressured into assimilating into American culture. In the mirror, you can see the shame I sometimes associate with this experience of taking on a new identity.

I eventually came to embrace and celebrate my heritage but to this day I still struggle with speaking Spanish; I would love nothing more than to be able to communicate properly with my family and converse confidently with Hispanic peers and friends. With reflection, I have come to appreciate what Mexican and American culture have provided me with. I am proud to have come to terms with my identity; although creating a balance between both cultures can feel overwhelming and daunting, I am proud of my efforts.

“The Bloom We Won’t See” is meant to illustrate the beauty in which we as a society are represented through the use of symbolic imagery such as the birds, flowers and butterflies being depicted. Our world is represented in a new way. America. In my painting the immigrant society is represented through the flowers. Vibrant and colorful use of reds,yellows, purples and greens flowers in which they grow with one another with a purpose. A purpose to serve to the next in power. Almost like a food chain, these help feed the next animal in line. The butterfly which feeds on the sweet nectar from the flower, then the bird from the butterfly, the snake from the bird and lastly the owl from the flesh of the snake. The use of nature justifies the chaotic composition of this piece. In addition, the positioning of the owl and the plants symbolize a never ending cycle of dependence and connection. Furthermore the use of a food chain, is supposed to represent a hierarchy of power in which the flowers, immigrants or the lower class, are rooted deep into the earth, yet are important to the growth of this scenery. We as humans, especially here in Georgia, oftentimes forget how important it is to acknowledge the importance of those who might be in a lower economical or social level. I decided to approach this with a different mindset and decided to show our interconnections with the use of nature. This food chain is what our world is. A hierarchy of levels  which intermingle to make something greater than ourselves. Without the flowers as a basic foundation many of these animals would die. Similarly here in Georgia, we forget to acknowledge the importance of the immigrant labor  importance and decide to discriminate against them through the use of a political mindset. The flowers made this happen, yet they are not being acknowledged for their impact.

The immigrant experience to me is to hear the stories of my father. At the age of 17 (consequently my current age) he crossed the US/Mexico border illegally. Faced with an unknown journey wrought with sketchy characters, hunger, thirst, and a sense for adventure he pushed forward to a land unknown. I am very humbled to hear of his life experiences and to know that his experience is shared by many. To me the immigrant experience is multi-faceted: a lot of hard work, humility, and boldness.

I drew the man with his child in his arms because that’s what immigrants do: whatever is necessary for their families. Sometimes this means suffering which explains the man’s tears and his injured arms but still keeping his eyes on the prize (the US flag) and his most prized possession, his child, close to him in his arms. The people in the background are the men, women, and children who have not made it successfully to the US. Either because they are in detention or because they have passed away. Those who are in gray tones are the ones who have passed away while being detained. Their names, their dreams, their hopes and their wishes in the endless pursuit of happiness will not be forgotten.

I also drew a uterus in the heart of a crying Hispanic woman to signify the forceful removal of detained women’s uterus. This is something that I’ve been hearing about lately and it is immoral, unthinkable. The immigrant experience is also one of hope and success. Of dreams accomplished, of battles fought and won; of unspeakable joys and triumphs. These are the stories of our immigrant families. Stories that are still being written. Some with tears, some with blood, but all with determination.

I’m mexican. Legally, I am a US citizen but actually, I’m mexican. The first time my dad came to this country he was seventeen years old. He’s got a job since he was three years old; so coming here to be a hard worker was not a new experience. Except that here he had the american dream. He came with hopes of a better life for him and my mom. The first time my mom came to this country she was twenty two years old. My parents got married about five months before she came, but three out of those five months she was alone in Mexico because my dad left to come back here to keep working.

How is my painting related to my experience with immigration? No one can leave their whole environment without cutting the umbilical cord that connects them with everything they ever know. I think the girl in my painting represents my family. She represents me. She portrays my brother. She depicts my mom. She pictures my dad. She is about to do what we all have done at certain points in our lives.

The first time my brother came back to this country he was seventeen years old. My brother was born here in Atlanta, GA. and lived here until he was twelve years old when we had to go to Mexico to live. The first time I came back to this country I was fifteen years old. I was born here in Atlanta, GA. But we left when I was four years old.

Whenever I look at my painting, no matter the angle I feel like she is looking right through my eyes. It is almost like she can see herself while looking at me. Funny to say, since she is an inanimate object, no, not even an object. She is just the subject of one of my oil paintings, just a 2D image over a canvas. And honestly not even my best painting technically speaking, as an artist I know that my oil technique could have been cleaner, but as the person who felt every stroke of paint onto the canvas I think it is beautiful.

But when I see her, I see my dad’s back, the back of the man that has worked all his life and never complained about it. The man that maybe was not as involved in matters like school or art, but not because he did not want to, but because his parents decided that school was not worth time; he never finished elementary school. I see the eyes of my mom. The eyes of the women that carried my brother and me in her womb. The woman that saw multiple people beat her up physically and psychologically until she was too afraid to see again. I see my brother’s feet. The feet of the only other man that has taken full responsibility for me. The feet of the man that put his own dreams aside to push and encourage mine. I see my hands, the hands of the artist that feels lucky to come from where she comes; and feel proud of being the daughter of mexican immigrants.

I think in reality the “American Dream” is just a kind of golden cage. Which is what the limes in the painting represent. Everyone in Mexico thinks that this country offers so many more opportunities, which is true, for the children of the immigrants that were born in the country; but for the immigrants all it offers is discrimination, hard work with minimun wage, and being afraid of getting deported all the time. It is still the same cage they were in their country but painted gold. Even though it might be better than where they are from there is an expensive price to pay. In my painting there are three sole limes, out of what could be a whole feast they only provide three sad limes.

On May 15th of 2007, the day before my fourth birthday, my dad was arrested while I watched through the window. About two months after the arrest he was deported to Mexico. And like two months after the deportation my family moved to Mexico. He’s only “crime” has been to come without documentation but thanks to that my brother and I can be “free” in this country.

I’m mexican.

“El vuelo del Inmigrante”

Desde pequeña siempre me ha gustado expresarme a través del arte. La pintura ha sido mi manera de desestresarme  y de poner mis sentimientos en un lienzo. 

Esta pintura nació de manera accidental, estuvo guardada por meses, mi mamá siempre supo que ella expresaba más de lo que yo podía ver.

 Finalmente nos llegó la oportunidad de probar que no existen accidentes y que “ El vuelo del inmigrante “ tiene su propósito. 

En esta pintura se visualizan dos aves la primera vestida de rosa, su color uniforme representa lo conocido, ella se lanza al vacío a pesar del miedo que lo desconocido le produce. Abandona el nido dejando atrás familia, amigos, amores, costumbres, comidas y tradiciones.  Mantiene su  mirada fija en un futuro lleno de sueños y de esperanzas.

Con el paso de los años se transforma en una mezcla de nuevos sabores, nuevas costumbres, nuevas tradiciones, nuevos idiomas, nuevos amigos, nueva familia. El águila multicolor representa este cambio.

En esa tierra que la recibió emprende un nuevo vuelo, extendiendo sus alas cargadas de lo vivido, conservando  en su corazón la esencia de lo que un día fue, representado por el tono oscuro que en forma de hoyo se ubica en la parte derecha del ave multicolor.

Esta pintura es un homenaje a mi padres, a mis hermanos, a mi familia entera que hoy se encuentra dispersa por este maravilloso planeta y que comparte conmigo un mismo cielo. Es un tributo a mi persona, a nuestra historia, a lo que pasamos y a lo que aprendimos. Con ella también honro a todo aquel que ha tenido que dejar el suelo que lo vio nacer y que gracias a esta experiencia sabe lo increíble de renacer. 

Solo al salir de nuestra zona de confort aprendemos a vivir con todo lo que la vida tiene para ofrecernos.

 No hay animal más fuerte y maravilloso para representar a los inmigrantes que un águila.

My Life as an Indian Immigrant

The plane’s wheels slowly hit the runway, and I swayed around in my seat due to the impact. I looked out the window in awe. The pilot’s voice slowly crackled to life on the speaker. “Ladies and Gentlemen, please remain cautious when opening the overhead storage as the contents may shift through the duration of the flight. The temperature outside is currently 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Other than that, welcome to the United States. Please watch your step while you exit. Thank you.” I was finally here. I was an Indian immigrant arriving in the U.S, but little did I know that I would experience a whole new type of treatment, just because of how I look, act, and most importantly, what I believe.

I am an Indian, and like any other ethnicity I have certain beliefs, customs, and ways of acting. When I first arrived here, to the United States, I thought I would be treated the same way as everyone else. But then again, little did I know that the way I would be treated was going to change. We, Indians have a custom of putting a ‘bindi’ between our foreheads. It symbolizes the energy point in the junction between our foreheads. I wear a bindi every day, and back in India, no one comments about it. But, one day when I was in sixth grade, in California, I was commented on for wearing a bindi, by my classmates. Apparently, they thought it was okay to call me a “dot-head” just because I carry on the Indian tradition of wearing a bindi. That was my first taste of the so- called different treatment. This incident made me realize something. I wasn’t mad that I was called a “dot-head”, I was mad that people have lost their sense of empathy and ability to be welcoming to different customs.

Indians are forbidden to eat beef, as cows are sacred for us. We consider a cow, on the same level as a mother. Ever since I was a little girl, I have always followed this, and never disrespected a cow, or any animal to be exact. One day in school, we were having a discussion about different religions in the world. I raised my hand and talked about Hinduism, and as the discussion went on, I talked about our customs, such as worshipping a cow. And that’s when people took advantage of what I was saying. A student in my class, raised her hand and said something like, “That’s cool, but don’t you think it’s a bit weird to be cow-worshippers?” The teacher didn’t do anything to stop her, or at the very least tell her that what she was doing is rude and disrespectful. I wasn’t angry that she asked a question. I was angry about her inability to be welcoming to the information that I was sharing. Every custom which I follow does not need a certification from a third-party.

An immigrant is supposed to feel safe in another country, as they will spend a long time there. As an Indian immigrant, I felt how it was to be treated completely different just because of how I look, act, and what I believed. I am saying this, not as an Indian, but as a human being. People, in general should be treated the same, because at the end, we all one.

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