By Guadalupe Caballero, Photos by Vanessa Alejandro
The word “mestiza” (half-blood/ half-breed/ mixed-race, used for women) represents, for Yucatan’s culture an emblem of motherhood, home, protection, wisdom and history. It is, for many, the representation of indigenous, strong and hard worker woman whose embroideries are worn by many citizens; a clear example could be the shoes, clothes, bags and accessories that foreigners or even Mexicans use. However, the perception that a common person has about mestizas, is different from the one that an artist could have; this is because artists can see not only the physical aspect of the subject, but also the essence. The mestiza, in this case, depicts a precious and valuable figure by many Mexican artists who respect and portray her more as a cultural identity, rather than a historical symbol.
To Abel, the mestiza is part of his identity. Being himself a member of a mixtecan community (those who reside in Oaxaca), he has been surrounded all his life by indigenous women, whose physical proportions such as wide hips, thick arms and legs, represent the image of how Mexican indigenous women are. This are features that have inspired him to create his sculptures. “I come from an indigenous family, my grandmothers worked on the field, so I see the strength that they have and that’s what I want people to see portrayed” he states.
The interest that the sculptor has for the mestiza’s image, is illustrated in his words full of joy, as he relates how in his first years of art school, making sculptures with topics regarding women, was implemented as an area. With practice, he started to develop a love for it, which kept growing throughout the years. For the artist, this portray never stopped to be important in his life as well as in his personal life; he is interested to know which attitudes and emotions the new generation has regarding mestizas and, most important , he would like to rebirth the image of female strength.
As Abel keeps reciting his experiences, his eyes start to sparkle in happiness, it is the proudness of embodying a work that contains his own identity that makes him so blissful. He mentions that the inspiration to create mestizas sculptures does not appear just like that, but it comes from generations, experiences and artist’s memories throughout historical ages.
“I was born from the land, the field, there were no hospitals. Talking about the indigenous woman, is talking about my essence.” He claims. As the artist lived the majority of his life with his grandmother, he observed her endless times plowing the land; he remembers watching his aunt selling on the markets the fruits that used to grow on the backyard. Abel recalls the attention that he gave to small details such as their behavior, attitudes, the shape of their silhouettes, hands, face features, hair, and the way they dressed, that later on would be reflected on his sculptures.
Abel Vazquez, does not perceive mestizas as strange entities; the view that he has on them goes beyond, that someone who has never spent time with one, could ever have. The typical image of the mestiza is described as the brunette woman with braided hair that you could easily find in a market, as a handmaid in wealthy families or even hidden within her town, far away from the modern society which is so alien to her, as her culture would be to a common person. The artist, emphasizes that for him, it is about the reflection of a life essence which he grew up with, it is portraying love towards Mayan culture and above all, to fortify the image of the indigenous woman through art.
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