Mexico’s artistic scene is changing.
The Chicanos of Mexico City are no longer the only ones making art, but they’re also making some of the most beautiful.
Art Nouveau, the subculture that emerged during the 1960s and 70s, was the birthplace of modernism and the roots of many of Mexico’s most celebrated artists.
But it was also the place where Chicano artists were mostly suppressed.
Today, it is one of the world’s most diverse artistic scenes, with an estimated 200,000 artists, including Salvador Dalí, Dali, Michelangelo, and Salvador Dali among the most influential.
Chicano Artista is an independent movement in Mexico that began in the 1970s, and has flourished ever since.
It has produced artists such as Carlos Castaneda, Javier Amador, Andres González, and the current king of Mexico, Miguel Ángel Álvarez Sánchez, and artists such the Salvador Daligos of San Diego, Luis Álado, and Juan Carlos.
It is now worth an estimated $20bn in sales.
But in 2017, the Chicano movement found itself under attack.
The government passed legislation that severely restricted the movement and the cultural spaces that were to become its most important asset.
Art, which is often considered to be a social and political act, was now a criminal offense.
Artists who were already in jail faced the possibility of being deported.
The law also banned the work of all Chicanois and other indigenous artists who had no legal permission to use their artistic work.
Artista groups have organised rallies, staged protests, and formed a union that aims to protect the rights of indigenous artists.
They have also been vocal about their opposition to the government’s repressive stance.
“We’re still waiting for the government to do something,” says Francisco Villarreal, an artist and director of the Chacoan collective Chaco-Mexico, based in the capital, Mexico City.
“They are still working on this law, but we are waiting for them to say that we have the right to protest and to be heard.”
He adds that the government has failed to address the fundamental problems in the Chancery of Artista: that it is a non-profit organisation and is run entirely by the Chanchos, a highly-skilled group of indigenous workers who were instrumental in the creation of the movement.
“They are not even the ones who control the money,” Villarrao says.
“It’s the Chanche, or the chiefs, who are in charge.”
This is why Villarras is so frustrated.
“We are the ones that have the most power, because we are the people who create the laws, who have the authority, and we have to fight for our rights.”
As well as the law, the government also imposed restrictions on the artistic freedoms of indigenous people in Mexico, and on indigenous artists, who had to obtain permission from the Chanches before creating their work.
“This is a crime, and this is a law,” says Fernando Ruiz, the president of the indigenous community of Miquel, near the Chihuahua border.
“It’s an insult to indigenous people and it’s a crime that will make us lose our independence.”
While there is no way of knowing exactly how many Chicanosi and indigenous artists are behind Artista, the number is growing.
“The law and the social environment are the main obstacles to our progress,” says Joaquín Castro, an activist and member of the Assembly of Mexican Chancepinans.
“People are scared of being arrested, so they hide in their homes,” Castro says.
“[Artista] is creating a space of refuge where we can speak our minds.
We don’t have to hide.”
It is difficult to quantify how much of the $2.5bn in revenues generated by Chancétistas is directly related to the criminalisation of indigenous art, or to the movement itself.
“I think the real number is probably much higher,” says Daniel Diaz, a lawyer who works with indigenous communities in the state of Oaxaca.
“There is a very strong link between the state’s economic policy and the Chacenas [Chancepins] cultural and political activities.”
He points out that the Chicha-Coche, or people of the plains, were once considered to constitute the country’s most oppressed people.
“So we have this kind of relationship with them, in that we see them as an equal.”
But he says that the state does not want to protect them from the government.
“To the extent that the laws and the penal system are affecting them, the state is actively working to marginalise them.”
The situation is not unique in Mexico.
The US has an estimated 20,000 Chanchis, a group of Native Americans who live in the northern part of the state, including the Chiche