Favianna Rodriguez brings colorful activism to campus

By Mariana Roa Oliva

Last Monday, as part of Latino Week, visual artist and activist Favianna Rodriguez talked about her work at Macalester College. She started her presentation by saying she hoped that her experience with activism could be helpful as an example of how to engage with social causes through art. Favianna Rodriguez was born in Mexico of Peruvian parents, but has spent most of her life in the United States. Her commitment to issues related to immigration, discrimination, social justice and equality, she mentions, is related to her status as a woman of color in the United States, and the way she has felt this identity to be “invisible” or misrepresented in the media. Her concern with the mass media is what inspired her to use posters as the main form for her artwork.

Her posters include colorful characters and short slogans. They are printed in multiples and distributed to different parts of the country. Rodriguez said she reflects in her posters the struggles of minorities that are often oppressed and exploded. Going through some of her artworks, Rodriguez pointed out that she represents the main subjects of her art in ways that are empowering. As an example, she showed a poster that addresses the femicides of Juarez. The poster, all in pink and purple, shows the complex context of the femicides and the women that are affected. A woman working in a maquiladora has her hand on a box that says “No NAFTA,” the family of one of the disappeared women holds a picture and a mother looking for her daughter puts up a poster. In the background we see the Mexico-US border, about which Rodriguez commented “It is unbelievable that, being one of the most powerful countries in the world, the United States still can’t do anything for the 450 women that have disappeared in the past 10 years. Aren’t we good enough neighbors?”

The work of Favianna Rodriguez also includes prints, postcard designs, stickers and installations. All of them are compromised with grassroots movements. She is currently working on video and new media, supporting a group of students from Florida in their call for immigration reform.