AMADO PEÑA – NEW MEXICO ARTIST
IN HIS OWN WORDS:
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.
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.
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
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.