History museum

Bato jacket with High School

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Emerging in the 1960s, the Chicano Art Movement strove to resist and challenge ethnic stereotypes while celebrating Mexican American identity. Today, a new generation of Mexican-American artists are drawing inspiration from the movement, continuing its work of challenging social constructs and racial discrimination while creating their own definitions of what it means to be Latino in America.

Artists in the Chicano art movement focused on social, political, and cultural issues of Mexican Americans, such as civil rights, immigration, and police violence. They also recognized shared experience and history, creating spaces for ethnic affirmation and cultural unity. Artists like César Martínez (b. 1944) drew on their lived experiences to create new images of what it meant to be Chicano. Describing the move, Martínez said, “We didn’t have to figure anything out, so we had to make it up as we went along. And that was the path to a deeper understanding of who we are.

A major figure in the Chicano art movement in the late 1970s and 1980s, César Martínez’s paintings telegraph a specifically South Texas history and culture. For his Bato/Pachuco series of paintings, he drew on memories of childhood in Laredo, Texas, as well as photographs from high school yearbooks and magazines from the 1950s. It features a colorful cast of fictional characters who celebrate and elevate representations stereotypes of the chicano pachuco subculture – young people in zoot suits who resisted mainstream American culture in the 1940s. also at the same time very universal to the Chicano experience.”

Today, Martínez continues to explore what it means to be Mexican American as well as the culture and terrain of South Texas, his place of origin.