Artist Amado Pena



I grew up in Texas and growing up in a border town [Laredo] is very different than growing up in Dallas or Amarillo or Houston. We never thought of ourselves as poor but it was just that there was a difference. The kids that had money hung around with the kids that had money, and the ones that didn’t have money hung out with the kids from the barrio.

Crystal City, Texas 1969

By the 1970s the Chicano Movement finally hit Texas and there was an instructor [Mel Casas] in the art department who made us aware that we should be involved in this as artists. We didn’t have paintings or murals or lithos or drawings that documented our people and our daily lives and our celebrations–the whole spectrum of our characters, positive and negative. And the Chicano Movement did that.

Then all of a sudden I’m in the middle of this revolution. And what does it mean to me? I couldn’t avoid it. It was right there, it was being impacted on by my classmates, it was being impacted by my instructor, it was being impacted by society., by the news media. And I asked myself, “Wow! I’m right here. And this is part of me, and this where I need to be!” I never really thought that I had to defend what I did. What was important was that I get it done. That if I saw an image of a lettuce that was important that I was supposed to do that and I go in and do it. Nothing else mattered. I didn’t care if my work was shown in gallery or not or whether it was bought or not.

Untitled, 1979

I grew up with stories about my Yaqui great-grandfather and that part of my family that I never paid attention to. But the Chicano Movement made me understand that we had to go back to our history. Coming to New Mexico for the

La Huelga

first time, made me realize this other side of who I am. Native people don’t separate themselves from one another. They are part of the same thing. They go all the way back to the indigenous people of Mexico and South America.

I still paint who I am. It’s not so much that I left my Chicanismo and dropped out altogether. It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with the fact that where I choose to be now is more Native than Chicano.


  1. Olga Pina says

    Narcissism has nothing to do with a movement of historical presence. It has to do with being chosen by history and hearing the calling of a people that needed a voice. In my opinion, reflecting on his words, he just never got it…

    • latinopia says

      You're certainly entitled to your opinion. Are you familiar with Amado Pena's body of work during the Chicano Movement? This includes posters for the United Farm Workers as well as posters on the police killing of Chicano youth–exactly narcissitic. Tia Tenopia believes Amada has and continues to do art work for and about his people, which he now embrace as pan-Native American. TT.

  2. Stan says

    I guess it's OK to keep all this "separation" alive…but I think we would be better served as Peacekeepers to consider ourselves Americans rather than Chicano, Latino, Tejano, pan-Native American, or any of the myriad terms that keep us set in our separate ways, with differing and sometimes strong opinions. I just like his art, and would rather he call himself American, albeit native. Stan, from Texas now living in Washington state.

    • latinopia says

      Dear Stan, Thanks for your opinion. We at Latinopia agree with you that we are all Americans. We hold the ideals and precepts of the the Constitution dearly. But we feel what makes America great, is precisely the great "uniqueness" that each culture and ethnic background brings to the table. What would American be without the great contributions of the Irish, Italains, African Americans, Chinese, Latinos, etc. But we also agree that these "separations" can keep us divided. But only if we see our differences as barriers instead of as bridges of understanding. Latinopia strives to present Latino culture in a way that respectful of other cultures and which contributes to making America a better place. With you, we oppose racism in any form, and we seek to make Latinopia a bridge of understanding and sharing of our culture with all Americans. When possible, as in the up-coming St. Patrick's Day celebrations, we try to show the links and unity between Latinos and other American cultures. Thanks again for your thoughtful comment. Tia Tenopia

  3. john munro says

    I own a ceramic tile from amado pena called mariita the number is 1322 can you tell me what it is worth

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