Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Xicanosmosis: The Semiotic Visions of Izel Vargas!

Tex[t]-Mex: Seductive Hallucinations of the "Mexican" in America introduces the concept of "Xicanosmosis," a mouthful of a word that fuses the ideas of "Chicano" with "osmosis"--sort of a shorthand way of talking about what happens when the cultures and histories of the United States and Latin America combine, clash, fuse, and frolic. Izel Vargas's amazing paintings embody the odd, symbiotic dynamics of xicanosmosis in ways that my book just can't match. Click "Dora" above to go to Vargas's cool art site; one of my favorite pieces? "Estados Jodidos"; Izel Vargas writes into the galleryblog with an anecdote about what happened when he displayed "Estados Jodidos" in public below.

"What was funny was that no one knew what "Estados Jodidos"* meant, except for the occasional Spanish-speaking passerby, which happened to be the Latino workers that were employed near and around the storefront. When I was asked about it, the conversation quickly turned into a one about immigration in NC--some of the surrounding counties had been passing laws that didn't allow workers to hang out in certain areas, limited taco truck vending, and gave cops the power to detain for ICE officials anyone they identified as illegal. Most Latino immigrants didn't understand these laws mainly because of a language barrier, which in turn added more mistrust that had already permeated within the community. This is how 'Estados Jodidos' came to be."

[* A Spanish-language pun on "Estados Unidos" or The United States, "Estados Jodidos" means "The Fucked States"]

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