In the progressive United States, it is easy to be blindsided by
materialism or societal factors and give up what one loves in order to
succeed or make a living. Favianna Rodriguez is a prime example of someone who
has fought to do what she loves despite oppression, racism, and disbelievers.
Favianna has successfully built a life for herself where she can explore what
she loves and spread this passion towards others. In simple terms, Favianna
loves posters and revolutions. I attended her talk at USF entitled “Art and
Social Justice” and I was struck by her confidence, intelligence and intensity.
Born and raised Catholic in Oakland, Rodriguez faced
discrimination and oppression by her peers, teachers, and parents. In school
she noticed that she was often the only “brown girl” in many of her honors
classes. Rodriguez felt as if they school system had cheated the minorities and
casted them off as lazy, stupid, and worthless. In essence, children of
minorities were failing because the school system had failed them first.
Already at a racial disadvantage, attempting to succeed in school and get out
of the local community seemed pointless and unrealistic. Rodriguez felt this
hopelessness, this desperation so feverously that she demanded and fought for
change. Her parents also tried to devalue her individuality. As Mexican
immigrants, they wanted their daughter to become a successful, rich engineer
and geared her towards pursuing science and mathematics. Understandably
so, they did not want their daughter to become a starving artist when they had
risked so much in their pursuit of life in the United States. She was raised
with Catholic ideals that challenged her from the start. Rodriguez could not
wrap her head around the fact that an almighty, loving God would smite any girl
who was not virginal. She did not believe in her grandmother’s path for her
either, to marry a Catholic Mexican man and bear him children. To conform,
Rodriguez believes, is to die.
So she pursued art, a powerful, visionary ideal. Her graphic
posters emphasize the downtrodden, beaten, and demoralized victims of the U.S.
government. They focus on issues that face minorities today such as health
care, right to education, and immigration. With vibrant colors and stark
images, her posters demand attention and arouse intense feelings in all
viewers. They’re extremely controversial and that is why they are so effective.
When I saw a few, at first, I was shocked. One reads, “There is no shame in
having an abortion. COME OUT. SHARE YOUR STORY. BREAK THE SILENCE.” Another is
over a cartoon woman with very intense, exaggerated facial features that reads,
“POLITICS OFF MY PUTANG! My uterus is mine.” She is demanding honesty in women
because it is their silence that aids oppression. The figures in her posters
look like native Mayan women, praising the ancestry. Her posters have been
displayed in shows around the United States and also internationally in Tokyo
and Rome. She has taught in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Mexico, and Cuba. She
is co-founder of East Side Art Alliance and Visual Element in Oakland. These
programs emphasize the importance of muralism to aspiring artists. She has also
co-founded and presides over Tumis Inc. — a bilingual program which fuses art
Favianna’s primary desire is to revolutionize this country by
reviving art, starting with small communities. She is another artist in the
long line of revolutionaries who demands social justice, utmost equality, and
honesty. By pursuing simple graphic posters, Favianna can reach a vast majority
of people in all fields of life and in simple effort “touch their