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Las Soldaderas of Chicago's Barrio Culture

December 1, 2015

Las Artelitas, a predominately Latina group, are currently making waves in the Latinx art community, and in their surrounding communities. Based in Chicago, these women use their art as a way to shine a light on the neighborhoods often overlooked by most communities, and show the beauty within them. They are also known to use their art to portray certain holidays such as Dia de Los Muertos. Las Artelitas, whose name is a homage to Las Adelitas of the Chicana movement and the soldaderas of the Mexican Revolution, believe strongly in the expression of issues that are not normally comfortable to talk about in the name of racial and gender equality. For example, one of the women in Las Artelistas painted an ofrenda for Dia de Los Muertos honoring the transgendered women who were murdered that year. “There’s always the underlying theme of social issues, social change. We’re constantly discussing the things that are going on in our society and communities and how we deal with [them],” said Sara Cortes, a leader of Las Artelistas. “It’s more than just a gallery show with art.” Their art gallery, which used to be a furniture store, houses their art which portrays each artist’s individual cultures and ideologies. “It’s the opposite of you know a Wicker Park, with all these galleries that are very commercialized spaces for art,” said Amara Martin. “It’s a community space, it’s a homey space, straight DIY, no pretension. People are looking for something more authentic and that’s what we’re trying to be.” The main entry is blocked off, which requires visitors to use the only other entrance which is in the alleyway. “Having people come through the alley forces people to interact with their community in a way that they normally wouldn’t,” said Erica Sanchez. “[People] might not necessarily know our faces but they know Las Artelitas–we’re the girls who throw the gallery shows through the alley! Don’t be scared!” Las Artelitas believe in seeing and doing things in a new, or less conventional manner, and also are strong supporters of all things DIY/homemade. Their strong love for their community and their passion for bringing to light the issues both in their barrio and in the country as a whole does not go unnoticed. They often have visitors coming into their gallery to see the works of political and social awareness that Las Artelitas create and display. They often discuss their desire to help their communities and make a difference by using what they believe to be their most powerful weapon- their art. “Because we’re so involved in the community we cannot make art for art’s sake. We’re not going to have a show just to have a show. There always has to be intent and purpose behind the message we’re trying to get to people.” Said Amara Martin. Las Artelitas believe strongly in the cultivation of openness and friendliness in an neighborhood, and although they are not fans of new neighbors, they try their hardest to create an environment where all people can feel welcome and comfortable to express themselves as individuals. “I do want to see the city interact with each other and the idea of having new people move into your neighborhood doesn’t have to be a negative thing,” said Sara Cortes. “But with the experiences that the city has had with gentrification it’s hard to have a positive outlook on the changes happening in the neighborhood. We don’t want to see our community divided and we don’t want to see the climate we cultured here change.” Las Artelitas have made a profound impact in the Latinx community, especially in Chicago where they originated, and continue to make ripples in the art communities in other states. Their love for their communities, their desire to create art, and their passion for addressing social, political, and economic issues both within and surrounding their communities, has developed into a career, and a way to make an impact in the community. They take on huge topics like sexism, homophobia, and racism and they believe that “The way to fight it is by being resistant and I think we’re doing that by being Las Artelitas,” said Sanchez.

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