Coming from the small working class city of El Centro, CA, located about 15 miles from the US-Mexico border; I grew up in two cultures, two languages, and two perspectives. My parents were born and raised in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico and had not been living in California long before I came into the picture, so while I was born in the states, I grew up with an immigrant experience.
Being raised on the border was interesting for me because on the US side, there was a smaller city surrounded by rural agricultural communities and right across the border there was a significantly large city. At a young age I began to question the existence of the US/Mexican border, which eventually led me to create socially conscious works revolving around immigrants and indigenous rights.
I was fortunate enough to come from a family that in its own way appreciated and valued the arts. For that reason, I feel that I became a critical thinker who questioned everything from a young age. This instilled in me a powerful belief that being around arts and culture helps stimulate the mind, and if exercised often, can help anyone become a critical thinker capable of disseminating information.
We currently live in an age of mass media control and because this country has not yet accepted the true history of its inception, it’s important for me to be a critical thinker. This helps in the preservation and continual survival of my culture, languages, food, and art. Through critical thinking, I have been able to begin process the reclaiming my cultural roots that have been lost due to colonization, migration, etc.
Coming from a working class background, I often saw people voting against their own best interests because the media tricked them into thinking that a certain choice was best for them. Drawing from my own experiences, I began to ask myself "how can we create more critical thought in working class communities?" It took years to try and find an answer, but in 2008 after feeling disenfranchised with the way my community, at times becomes complacent with unhealthy situations, I created a project titled "Hecho Con Ganas".
The phrase translates to "made with motivation" or "made with desire.” There is no direct translation for "Ganas," since it is what you feel when your passionate about doing something or learning. Ganas is the ember that sparks when creativity and imagination begin to flow.
The purpose of the HCG was to provide thought provoking, culturally rich images to generate pride and motivation within the community. HCG is an attempt to create published work that is relatable and accessible to working people. Like most Chican@ artists, I was tired of seeing our stories being told to us and for us by people that didn't come from within.
For the most part, art is marketed to the upper middle class and it is usually not accessible to working class people, so in a sense, I wanted HCG to be "art for the people by the people". Over time, HCG has evolved and now we are at the stage where we are publishing art that we feel will help generate critical thought within working class communities. Our intent is to publish work with artists who make more than just pretty images, who make more than "decorative" art, we want to work with artists who have something to say, artists with a positive message, artists who have vision and are grounded in reality. Con Ganas- ernesto