As the Hispanic population in Houston grows equal to (and by some estimates even surpasses) the white demographic in the city, it’s an apt time to celebrate the accomplishments of the region’s Latino artists.
Latino cARTographies does just that. Curated by the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Houston, Latino cARTographies is an interactive and portable digital experience that displays the work of more than 180 Latino visual and performing artists from around the Houston area. With just a swipe of a finger, users can navigate a 75-inch interactive and bilingual wall mounted display board that features 2,000 pieces of art, 17 art organizations, and 80 local landmarks that all speak to the importance of Houston’s Latino history. Told through narrative text, images, videos, maps, music, and QR codes, users can scroll through Houston’s many diverse neighborhoods while reading about a piece of art and its artist on a pop-up screen.
Everything on the board is meant to be viewed with a simple touch. In fact, ease of access is exactly what creators Pamela Anne Quiroz and Juana Guzman had in mind when they designed the innovative art board.
“Latino cARTographies is a permanent yet dynamic visual archive designed to educate and engage the public,” Quiroz tells Houstonia. “It merges art with technology to address the historical inequities of Houston’s underserved and underrepresented Latino artists and its art centers and communities. It presents an alternative to the traditional ways in which people have accessed art and culture.”
Quiroz, a professor and leader of the Inter-University Program on Latino Research at UH, first conceived of the concept in 2019 alongside Juana Guzman, a Bloomberg Philanthropies cultural strategist. Together, they created a permanent tribute to Houston’s Latino artists.
“I believe the project will have far-reaching, sustainable benefits for the Latino communities of Houston,” Guzman said. “Not only is this project unique, but it affords an opportunity to fill a knowledge gap and serve Latino communities in one of the most accessible manners I have encountered in my 40-year arts career.”
In many historically-Latino neighborhoods, art has helped foster an elevated sense of awareness and identity for its inhabitants. Not only does local art create civic pride, but it also transforms playgrounds, transit stations, and otherwise mediocre exterior buildings into more vibrant expressions of the human experience.
Muralist Rosalinda R. Toro of SPARK Parks, said she was thrilled when asked to participate in the project. Her mosaic butterfly in Northside’s Butterfly Pocket Park is featured in the project, as was her mosaic piece at the John H. Reagan World War II Memorial Plaza. “This is awesome having all the Latinos together,” Toro said. “Art should enrich our communities and visual environment, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Since Latino cARTographies’ debut in the fall of 2022, the project has also been an opportunity for local artists to collaborate with each other. Famous automotive lowrider paint artist Jose Mendoza, of Pistolero Designs, and graffiti artist and muralist GONZO274, plan to merge their mediums by painting street art graffiti onto GONZO’s 1982 El Camino. The idea is to bring the museum to the streets to continue the mission of art accessibility.
“We are from the neighborhoods featured in the project, and with something like this, it’s hard to say no to,” Mendoza said. “It’s something for future generations to get inspired by, just out their window, and hopefully [they will] walk in our footsteps.”
“This is visual menudo,” GONZO said. “It’s everything! We’re all in the same pot, and we all have our distinct flavors, but when we come together, it’s a delicious meal that you can eat with your eyes.”
By bringing the museum to the community and the community to the museum, with Latino cARTographies, Quiroz and Guzman have created a unique piece of art in their own right. One that will celebrate, educate, and promote Houston’s growing Latino artist community for generations to come.