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A.R.T.: After the Rise of Trump

By Mel Dickens, Howard University News Service
On December 4, 2017

Photo Courtesy: The Mexican Cultural Institute, Acrylic on Canvas by Roberto Gutierrez

A large four-story mansion was transformed into an art exhibit composed of Chicano artwork with over 60 artworks highlighting the evolution of Latino people from the early 1970s to the landmark election of Donald Trump as president.

The Mexican Cultural Institute opened an exhibit entitled “Before the 45th” that explores how Chicano and Latino artists shed light on the economic, political, and social injustices faced over the past four decades up to the presidency of Donald Trump. The exhibit will concentrate on themes of political activism.

Donald Trump sparked emotions in the Latino community immediately at the start of his political career. During his announcement of his Presidential run on June 26, 2015, Trump said in reference to Mexican people “They are not our friends, believe me. But they’re killing us economically. The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems,” Trump said. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

More than 2 years later in 2017, President Trump received criticism for his handling of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) situation, where immigrants registered to be able to work and receive licensing rights in the U.S. Some Latinos still do not feel President Trump has the best interests of Latino people in mind. “President Trump is doing less to help the Latino community than previous presidents. The actions he has taken and continues to take directly affect the Latino community negatively,” said Itziri Gonzalez, a Davidson student and DACA advocate. 

“Before the 45th” provided many Chicano artists such as Mel Casas, Enrique Castrejon, Rupert Garcia, or Carmen Lomas Garza a platform to show the voice of  Latino people to D.C. The Art featured in the exhibit largely comes from the AltaMed Art Collection. Much of it includes depictions of Latino people as they are seen in their own image. “The murals were communicating a hopefulness telling the story of where Mexico once was,” said Rob McNutt, an immigrant who saw the exhibit. McNutt said the border issue was a problem, and he explained that he went through the legal process to become a citizen, so he believes others should as well. “I think there is hostility to what he [Trump] is doing. My wife is an immigrant from Ecuador,” said McNutt.

Even though McNutt was not very critical of Trump’s ideology in regards to Latino people, the same can not to be said for many others. Josh Rivera, a resident in D.C, said the response from President Trump after the Hurricanes in Puerto Rico was not enough. “I think many Latinos in D.C are not happy with Trump,” said Rivera. Rivera also said he hopes the exhibit can keep Latinos uplifted as “Before the 45th” highlights injustices within the Latino community.

The Before the 45th cultural exhibit will run through Dec. 29 of this year. The exhibit is free, so all who want to visit need only travel to the Mexican Cultural Institute located at 2829 16th St NW Washington, DC 20009.

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