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10.5: Cultural Productions in Practice

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    Cultural Influence on Politics and Society

    In addition to shaping our cultural narratives, shared meanings, identities, and practices, cultural productions are also a material part of our world and activist movements for social change. There are many ways that Chicanx and Latinx communities use culture to advocate for change, like performance, theater, poetry, lectures, education, and more. As we have learned throughout this chapter, there have been many examples of how culture matters for politics. In this section, we will focus on some specifically activist forms of culture. 

    Artivism and Politics

    Successful mobilization of social movements or movidas depend on the availability of symbolically powerful and relevant cultural schemas, also known as symbolic resource mobilization.51 These need to resonate with various audiences, including the supporters of the movement, as well as the targets. Crafting creative, compelling messages is a skill that is honed through practice and artistic expertise. Art plays a key role in activist movements by communicating demands, claims, and critiques to a range of audiences. Artivism refers to the combination of art and activism, and the ways in which art is a vehicle for advocating for social change. 

    The website Justseeds is an activist movement that curates and distributes art for activist groups and their allies. The site includes paid artwork that can be ordered and downloaded, which directly supports movement artists and provides opportunities to raise awareness in one’s home, workplace, or other shared location. Further, the website also offers a database of Graphics that have been licensed with Creative Commons license so that they can be freely distributed and reproduced in their original format, as long as they are not sold for money and the artist is attributed. Prominent Latina artists like Favianna Rodriguez and Melanie Cervantes contribute to the site, along with people from a range of sectors invested in racial justice, decolonization, and liberation. Providing artistic resources help movements mobilize campaigns and raise awareness about social problems. In Figure 10.5.1, it shows a graphic activist poster that emphasizes, “Brown and Proud. Todos Somos Arizona” (We are all Arizona).

    A woman with a fist raised and a stylized caption that reads, Brown and Proud, Todos Somos Arizona.
    Figure 10.5.1:Brown and Proud: Todos Somos Arizona” by Melanie Cervantes, Justseeds is licensed CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

    Activist Spotlight: Zines

    Zines are another example of pop culture used for both enjoyment and political resistance. A zine can be a physical or digital piece that typically includes images and texts. It is often created by cutting and pasting magazine items or using a digital style that mimics this aesthetic. They are also usually formatted to be printed and folded. This is to make them easy to share in discreet ways, for example by folding them up and holding them in your pocket, or tucking them into another book. The format in this instance, responds directly to the need to be able to subtly distribute information to large groups of people. For example, zines can be used in schools, workplaces, prisons, and other institutions to share grassroots information. Many groups have used and adapted zines for their own cultural context and political goals. For example: Muchacha Fanzine, Black feminist queer radical zines, and Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex.


    A common practice of activist artwork for activism is the painting of large murals in shared public spaces. For Chicanx and Latinx communities, this is often referred to as muralismo. These murals communicate narratives, cultural pride, and a strong sense of shared space. In the context of being denied political representation, in the case of immigrants, and cultural and social representation, which impacts all Chicanx and Latinx people, artwork becomes a way of positively exercising self-determination and collective decision-making. 

    The roots of muralismo can be observed in the practice of mural drawing in Mexico and throughout Latin America, including the Mexican mural movement. Three prominent figures in this movement in the early 20th century were David Alfaro Siqueiros, Diego Rivera, and José Clemente Orozco, sometimes referred to as “los tres grandes.” The style can be witnessed in places like San Diego’s “Chicano Park,” where dozens of large-scale murals transform a park tucked under a freeway overpass into a cultural destination and hub for families and community members. One example of the murals in Chicano Park is shown in Figure 10.5.2. This piece has the text “Nacimiento del Parque Chicano 22 abril 1970, which translates in English to “Birth of Chicano Park: April 22, 1970” and commemorates the historical significance of the space. 

    A mural with Indigenous style artwork and a four-directional serpent and a goddess figure against a rainbow background.
    Figure 10.5.2: “Chicano Park Mural” by Mario Alberto Viveros Espinoza-Kulick, Author is licensed CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

    Over time, murals have been utilized by Chicanxs and Latinxs of varying backgrounds. In Los Angeles, Judy Baca is renowned for her mural work, including the Great Wall of Los Angeles, which showcases the Latinx experience and history in LA. Figure 10.5.3 shows Judy Baca restoring the mural in 2011, ensuring that the quality and image are maintained. In spaces where these murals have been put up, there are appreciable differences in people’s relationship to the space, including both a general sense of pride, as well as a specific improvement in the safety, upkeep, and liveability of surrounding areas. Because of these documented benefits, local agencies and government bodies have begun working directly with artists and art collectives to establish, maintain, and preserve murals and other forms of public art. 

    Judy Baca is working on restoring a mural, using a skyjack lift to reach the top portion of the wall.

    Figure 10.5.3:Great Wall of Los Angeles Restoration 2011” by The City Project, Flickr is licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


    51 Laura E Enriquez and Abigail C Saguy, “Coming out of the Shadows: Harnessing a Cultural Schema to Advance the Undocumented Immigrant Youth Movement,” American Journal of Cultural Sociology 4, no. 1 (February 2016): 107–30,

    This page titled 10.5: Cultural Productions in Practice is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Mario Alberto Viveros Espinoza-Kulick (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI)) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform.