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Cultura en Austin: Are you living well? Young Latinx artists explore 'buen vivir'

Nancy Flores
Colombian American Lina Puerta is among the featured artists in the 24th annual Young Latinx Artists exhibit.

In the midst of growing to-do lists, constant multi-tasking and striving for success, how can we truly embrace living well? That’s a question that Mexic-Arte Museum’s exhibit “Buen Vivir/Vivir Bien,” which runs now through Aug. 25, explores.

“Buen Vivir/Vivir Bien” challenges western worldviews and is part of the museum’s popular annual Young Latinx Artists exhibition. It offers visitors “decolonial ways of imagining, visualizing and changing the world,” says Tatiane Santa Rosa, a Brazilian-born independent curator who served as this year’s YLA guest curator.

The concept of buen vivir or living well has been adopted by various Latin American social movements and emphasizes living a full life. “It’s a concept that we need to talk about — us living in harmony with everything in the world, living and nonliving,” says Sylvia Orozco, the museum’s executive director. “So the artists are responding. It’s a good issue because we’re seeing the effects of (not being in harmony). If we abuse the Earth, it affects the balance. We’re having 100-degree weather, tornadoes, and we just need to talk about it and bring it to the forefront. Our ancestors lived in harmony with nature.”

The artists, who are all of Central or South American descent, tackle decolonization in different ways. Artist Carolina Caycedo presents an ongoing series “Be Dammed,” a collection of video documentaries and installations that expose the negative effects of hydroelectric dams on the lives of indigenous people. Other artists turned to the African diaspora for inspiration such as reclaiming Afro-Latinx and Afro-Brazilian healing methods.

“It may be possible to vivir bien if we seek to practice decoloniality day by day in our trivial actions but also considering decoloniality as part of our life goals and dreams,” Santa Rosa says. “We shall insist, despite everything, on claiming our right to live and our right to live well.”

RELATED: Austin artists give street corners a makeover, tell community stories

Women who Resist

It’s been 25 years since the Zapatista movement caught the world’s attention with an uprising in southern Mexico that demanded justice and democracy for indigenous people. In 1994, the EZLN guerillla forces or Zapatista National Liberation Army sparked a rebellion in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, and former Mexico City photojournalist Paula Ramírez had a front row seat to history.

Now Ramírez, an embedded photographer during the uprising, shares her never-before-publicly-displayed work in the photo exhibit “Resistance: Origin and Gender in the Zapatista Movement.” Ramírez’ work spotlights the courage and dedication to justice that the indigenous women of the movement carry.

Catch the exhibit, sponsored by local nonprofit Latinas Unidas Por El Arte, at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center from now through July 27.

“The participation of women has always been fundamental in all aspects of the struggle for freedom, democracy and justice worldwide,” Ramírez says. “The prominence of women in the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN) is unquestionable — from its origins in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, to the present day.”

Check out living music legends

Turn up the summer heat with must-see live music shows. July brings many options, but here are a couple of free performances — so no excuses.

If you’ve never seen this blues-rock hero, now is your time to see a master at work. Rosie Flores, whose latest record, “Simple Case of the Blues”, released earlier this year, presents a free in-store performance at Waterloo Records at 5 p.m. on July 15.

Flores has blazed a trail that’s shook up the music industry. Decades ago, she became the first female Latina country artist to place on the Billboard country charts. She’s carved her own path that’s encompassed everything from punk to R&B.

Catch another living legend at the Pan Am Hillside Concert Series at the Pan Am Neighborhood Park in East Austin. Each Tuesday in July (except for July 30) from 7-10 p.m. offers a dose of Tejano music. Grammy-winning Tejano music legend Ruben Ramos, also known as El Gato Negro, wraps up the 61st annual series of family-friendly concerts.


Nancy Flores grew up in the Texas border town of Eagle Pass and has been covering Latino culture for the American-Statesman and Austin360 since 2011. Before that, she covered Latino issues as a journalist in Mexico City. Send tips or suggestions to