Advertisement

‘Little luchadores’ light up the Ped Mall during Semana Cultural Latina Week

  • 246
    Shares

Semana Cultural Latina Week

Downtown Iowa City — through Sunday, Aug. 25

A “little luchadore” photograph by Miriam Alarcón Avila is projected onto the artist’s luchador mask sculpture on the Iowa City Ped Mall. — Rachel Wachter/Little Village

As daytime winds down in Iowa City’s Ped Mall, a larger-than-life, blank white mask comes to life on the new stage outside of the Graduate Hotel. The suspended sculpture, created by visual and multimedia storytelling artist Miriam Alarcón Avila, becomes a three-dimensional projection screen.

A series of photos of “little luchadores,” children wearing their own decorated paper masks, are displayed onto Alarcón Avila’s massive luchador mask, over which she labored for months (the version used for this installation is her seventh iteration).

The Little Luchadores in Iowa exhibition will run after dark all this week as part of Semana Cultural Latina Week in Iowa City, which runs through Sunday, Aug. 25, anchored by Saturday’s Iowa City Latino Festival. It also serves as a preview for Alarcón Avila’s upcoming exhibition Luchadores Immigrants in Iowa, to be held at Hancher this upcoming November. Alarcón Avila was awarded a 2018 Iowa Arts Council Art Project Grant for that photo documentary project.

Miriam Alarcón Avila’s luchador mask art, displayed on the Iowa City Ped Mall outside of the Graduate Hotel. — Rachel Wachter/Little Village

The luchadores in Latinx culture are famous wrestlers, but much different than the professional, WWE-style wrestling popular in the U.S. Alarcón Avila explained that growing up in her culture, “the luchador is a real life [super]hero.”

“Here in the U.S., you have Spider-Man. For us, we have the luchador,” she said.

Her work is inspired by an observation she made while working at Hancher. “There is so much beauty [at Hancher],” she said. “I look out into the crowd and see the same faces. There are not Latinas in the crowd … A big feeling of the Latina community is that they feel they do not belong.”

“I have been here for 17 years,” Alarcón Avila said. “All of the time I see the stories of the Latina community and I feel so proud of how loving they are. Inside my heart, I know these stories need to be told.”

Alarcón Avila found the little luchadores for the Ped Mall exhibit by attending various Latino festivals throughout Iowa, and as the children made their masks, she had a chance for some rare time to chat with the parents. She says this mini-series evolved as “a gift to her,” as it was unplanned and happened so organically.

“I want to showcase the rich culture … [We] are much more than cooks behind the counter or in the kitchens of Iowa City,” Alarcón Avila said.

This Saturday evening, Aug. 24, she will give a presentation at 7 p.m. that will feature both an audio and a video segment, including an interview with one of her adult luchador storytellers, El Camaleón. El Camaleón chose his name based on his experience as a Latino in Iowa, Alarcón Avila said.

“Being Latino and living here, you feel like you have to pretend to be someone else,” she said, explaining that her subject would prefer to blend in with the crowd, like a chameleon.

Curious what's happening this weekend? Sign up here to stay in the know.

Alarcón Avila’s all-time favorite luchador is El Santo (the Saint). Like other famous luchadores, El Santo was known for more than wrestling — he was also a prolific actor. El Padre Tormenta (the Father of Storm), lived other lives outside of the ring as well, serving as a priest and doing good deeds for the community such as raising money for orphans. Both men are considered real-life heroes.

“La luchas overcome struggle. They are always raising up, always fighting,” Alarcón Avila said.

Over the years, attempting to interview fellow Latinas on camera about their struggles living as Iowans or among Americans had left her empty handed — until she brought the mask concept into her work.

“I would meet people that would agree to talk with me on camera about their stories, but then they would freeze,” Alarcón Avila said. “They would say, ‘Now people will know who I am; they will know my identity.’ I didn’t want to edit the video to darken the face or blur it out, like the person speaking is a criminal.”

The masks empower those brave enough to interview for her, she said. “With the mask, the person can talk, and keep their identity, while still telling their story. Latinos are already so underground. They need to come to the light. It is time to shine and overcome this current political climate.”


  • 246
    Shares

Comments:

  1. Thank you, Miriam, for bringing out the beauty of the Latin cultures!! I so dearly love my Latina friends!!

  2. Miriam, I am so proud of you! You are an AMAZING person, woman, Latina and a luchadore for me and others!

  3. Congratulations Miriam! So great to see your creative passion finding a public voice and helping our community. All of Iowa is better in having a diverse culture and embracing all immigrants. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Advertisement

40 Years Forward:

A Celebration of Empowerment & Hope

Deb Talan of "The Weepies" will begin our night of celebration with a story of survival, empowerment, and hope told through words and song. Join us in remembering our past and envisioning the future at the Coralville Mariott.

GET TICKETS

Friday, September 20 at 7:30 p.m.

For 18 years...

Little Village has been telling the truth and changing our little corner of the world.

If you can, help us head into the next 18 years even stronger with a one-time or monthly contribution of $18, or any amount you choose.

Advertisement

A collaboration between The Englert Theatre and FilmScene

STRENGTHEN
GROW•EVOLVE

Help us build the greatest small city for the arts in America—right here in Iowa City. Learn more »

Donate Today

Strengthen • Grow • Evolve is a collaborative campaign led by two Iowa City-based arts nonprofits, The Englert Theatre and FilmScene that seeks a major reinvestment to strengthen the arts through modern and historic venues, innovative programming, and new models of collaboration.

Little Village's
BEST OF THE CRANDIC

From Aug. 1-Sept. 30, cast your vote for your favorite places, people, eats and entertainment around the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City area.

Don't forget to explain your picks! The best answers will be published in LV's Best of the CRANDIC issue, out Dec. 3, 2019.