Re-connecting to land-based ancestral knowledge takes on a very different form for those of us who live in dense urban areas like San Francisco. PODER’s youth began a movement to connect back to these histories through Urban Campesinx, a food justice and leadership program. Even here in San Francisco, we can find areas of land that others might think of as the leftovers, to dig deep. For the last three years, PODER has engaged in an urban agriculture experiment on the southern edge of the city, building a farm on Public Utilities Commission land. Hummingbird Farm / Huerto Colibrí, has become not only a place for growing food and plant medicines, but a place for ritual and ceremony, and a place to bring our children to be in the earth (when so much of the soil we might have access to in the city is polluted with lead or arsenic). Imagining the future is often visualized in the sky: flight and space, the moon and the stars and planets beyond our own. But there is no future without soil, without that connection back to ancestral time that flows from past to future. Here Alondra and her son reach down to the growing plants. It’s been amazing to watch this child grow together with the plants, from the time they were a newborn. Below them, Pakal reaches up from the underworld to the world tree, adapted from a drawing by Merle Greene from the Temple of Inscriptions in Palenque. I think of the Mayan tradition that Tere Almaguer recounted to me, of the connection we have with the place where we take our first breath.
Futuros Fugaces was a way to explore themes and relationships that have concerned me for a long time: what it means to reclaim ancestral knowledge, how we re-imagine the future, and what this looks like in the particular of the Mission/Excelsior Latinx community I’ve worked with for the last 30 years. Thanks to the SF Arts Commission for funding my first Individual Artist Grant.
In imagining a Latinx futurism, the project took me in unexpected directions, beyond a more literal extrapolation of futurism, to a more mythical layering of Mesoamerican imagery as a way to connect past and future cosmic time. The emergent utopias of our communities of color will not be sterile or sanitized; they will contain hints of the dystopias we’re already living through, and they will contain the messiness and contradictions of our cultures, a collage of rasquachismo, rooted in a reclamation of ancestral traditions and collective memory to urban land struggles and queer ecologies. As I thought of a Latinx futurism, the cyclical nature of Mesoamerican time, cyclical, perhaps helical, expanding outward but always returning. Or perhaps it is a simultaneity of times, layered in parallel existences informing the present, accessible through ritual and ceremony. Mesoamerican time gave me a layering of myth and history and contemporary cultures and utopian visions. Utopia has to coexist with the present, accessible through our cultural practices and our arts, to inform our actions. Glimpses or shadows of that utopia found their way into these images.
The images were created in pencil, scanned to create the line drawing, then watercolored and scanned again, and additional colors and backgrounds applied digitally in Photoshop. They were printed as giclée digital fine art reproductions at East Bay Giclée in North Oakland.