7

21 Trucks of San Antonio Texcala is a fiber-based, graphic design series exploring the importance of trucks and other vehicles to the people of rural Mexico and Mexican migrants in the US. 

Through depictions of trucks, towns, and people, this series explores the roles of trucks and the paquetero (individuals who transport goods across the border) in these rural communities. This project is inspired by folk-art traditions of amate bark painting and quilting found in Mexico, Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series (1940-41) and the Quilts of Gee’s Bend in the US.

2This series consists of ten to fifteen distinct pieces varying in size from as small as 30 by 40 inches, to as large as 6 by 8 feet.  The various media used in these pieces includes, but is not limited to, canvas, commercial textiles, fiber, buttons, die-cut cloth and foam, photograms, brass, acrylic, and found objects.  These compositions explore individual trucks, groups of trucks, individuals involved in the use and transport of trucks, as well as individuals who depend on the goods transported by these trucks.   

21 Trucks... is inspired by a documentary film I am producing with Prof. Alyshia Gálvez entitled ¡Salud! Myths and Realities of Mexican Immigrant Health, which explores the healthcare and health disparities of Mexican immigrants in the United States and the ‘Latino health paradox.’  Building on a proposed pilot collaboration with a university in Puebla, Mexico, we ran a Winter session study abroad course in Puebla, Mexico.  During this ten-day research and production trip, Prof. Gálvez, myself, and our students travelled to rural migrant-sending villages like San Antonio Texcala, Tulcingo, and Chinantla, as well as highly developed, urban areas like Ciudad de Puebla and Cholula. See the video below for a work-in-progress glimpse of this developing documentary

These regions have sent large numbers of migrants to the New York tri-state area and the migratory flows have produced deep connections in which migrants and their families work to pursue their goals for economic, social and professional mobility in spite of barriers which prevent most of them from migrating with authorization, working legally or circulating freely across borders. Paqueteros, possessing visas allowing them to circulate freely and transport goods in both directions, playing a key role in connecting people divided by borders.  

3Because current immigration law does not allow most working class migrants to circulate freely, their efforts to maintain foodways, traditional health practices and family ties are challenged. Despite this, people continue to seek ways to pursue health and well being, including consuming foods and remedies from their home communities. Falsely associated with epidemics and health risks, many people in the US are unaware of the many practices people engage in to sustain health in spite of socioeconomic disadvantage.  Moreover, these connections have direct and well-documented links to the health and wellness of these migrant communities. Given the current administration’s hostility to immigrant communities, these connections are even more under threat than in previous years. 

It was in these rural towns of Tulcingo, Chinantla, and specifically San Antonio Texcala (SAT), that I saw how pivotal trucks were in the lives of the residents. Fruit and vegetables, maize, construction materials, rocks, minerals, and even people are loaded onto trucks in these towns for transport. In addition, trucks in various states of disrepair are scattered about SAT, waiting for repair, mirroring many of the unfinished houses – half built, the owners of these houses wait for additional remittances from the US to complete work.   

9While in SAT, I met Moises Fuentes, who owns a thriving business selling carved pieces of decorative onyx from the local mine. Moises is also a paquetero, regularly journeying to and from Mexico to bring back goods and remittances to the families of migrants in the US, providing a unique and vital cultural link that otherwise would not exist. Every month he travels to the South Bronx from SAT to bring letters, gifts, and goods from residents of SAT to their relatives in the US.  

Upon returning, Moises will often transport items back to Mexico that are too difficult or expensive to purchase in country, such as televisions, bicycles, and microwaves. He and his wife will often drive back an additional truck, as these are also expensive to buy in Mexico.  Moises has had to learn how to circulate on some of the riskiest highways in North America, even while many fellow paqueteros have experienced violence.

To celebrate this multi-location, cultural support system, 21 Trucks depicts the trucks, towns, and people, exploring the roles of trucks and the paquetero in these rural communities.