All the art installations at the 2022 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival are tied to environmental sustainability in some way. But projects from local nonprofit Raices Cultura and husband-and-wife duo LosDos also convey a message of immigrant resiliancy with their respective works “Blooming Culture” and “La Guardiana.”
Since 2012, the grassroots arts and culture nonprofit Raices Cultura, based in the City of Coachella, has recruited youth that live in the eastern valley to work on an art piece for the festival campgrounds.
Marnie Navarro, the organization’s executive director, said the nonprofit typically selects 20 local students, ranging from grades nine through 12, and ensures the team is made up of those who identify as artists as well as those who do not.
“It’s important to develop and nurture creative qualities and imagination in all students,” she said.
This year, the young artists chose to center their work around a theme of migration and the journey to a better life. Navarro said, “There is a focus on the deep history of their ancestry, the strength of regional farmworkers, the varied migratory journeys, and day to day life in the eastern Coachella Valley.”
“Blooming Culture” features a sunflower as a symbol of happiness and abundance, and a monarch butterfly as a symbol of migration, change and hope. “The additional flowers represent the seeds that were planted by ancestors, which have bloomed as the current generation of vibrant youth. The students are proud of their diverse culture and with this installation, uplift their parents, ancestors, and all migrants from around the world,” Navarro said.
For the four months leading up to the festival, Navarro said students learn about installation art, including how to conceptualize their artwork, related logistics, aspects of fabrication and the final on-site installation process.
After COVID-19 halted the last Coachella project in March 2020, Navarro said Raices Cultura shared an “overarching feeling” of joy in being together again and creating “meaningful art that celebrates our community.”
Similarly, LosDos, comprised of graphic artists Ramon and Christian Cardenas, had to wait two years to showcase their work at Coachella.
The couple was first approached to collaborate on a poster with Rage Against the Machine, who was supposed to be one of the headlining acts in 2020. LosDos said that when the festival’s art department saw their concept of “La Guardiana,” they were asked to do a large-scale version of it.
The result is “The Guardian Woman,” who is carrying a baby and a stick, similar to the ones the Zapatistas, or Mexican revolutionaries, used to fight during a revolt in 1994. At the top of the stick, there is a small bird, which Christian said symbolizes that she is not fighting for violence, rather for life.
On the figure’s skirt, there are smaller images that include the US-Mexico border wall that LosDos said they see every day in El Paso, and a train known as “the beast,” in which many immigrants travel.
“The train is a very dangerous way for them to travel, but here, they are using it to break through the wall, to a new life,” Christian explained.
An image of a boat additionally shows refugees in Europe, meant to convey that “La Guardiana” is not only watching over those at the border wall, but immigrants from many different communities —something they discussed with Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha, Ramon said.
During the final stages of the setup, LosDos said they were approached by several Latino/Hispanic workers at the festival grounds, who told them they connected with the piece.
“Several of them said this was the first time they’d seen artwork here that they could relate to. That gave us valdiation. Their approval is all we need,” Christian said.
Eliana Perez covers the eastern Coachella Valley. Reach her at email@example.com or on Twitter @ElianaPress.