If you visit the National Hispanic Cultural Center between now and November you will see amazing images from the aftermath of a street battle and a struggle for public education you probably never knew happened.

For many years in Oaxaca, Mexico’s teachers have taken to the streets to protest for more resources. In this poor community only about 40 per cent of students are allowed to continue in school past the primary grades. This lack of resources has long been resented by the people. In 2006 the local governor refused to listen when teachers staged their annual strike in the public square and asked from help from the Federal Preventative Police to suppress the protest. On June 14, as protestors battled to be heard, 92 people were seriously injured and four died.

The reaction to the police intervention was fierce and a collective resistance called the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca or Popular People’s Assembly of Oaxaca formed to fight repression. Many groups including rural workers, religious activists, students, indigenous organizations, women’s groups, human rights organizations and artists joined the cause.  From this movement, the Assembly of Revolutionary Artists of Oaxaca (ASARO) formed.  The street art and prints that sprang up in the community have been collected by the College of University Libraries and Learning Sciences at UNM.

In 2010, UNM graduate student Michael de la Rosa was working in the library to digitize the new collection. The images stirred him and he began to look for a way to bring them out of the archives. When he began an internship at the NHCC he asked about putting together an exhibit in their gallery, and curators were receptive. De la Rosa is completing his Master’s degree at UNM, teaches Spanish and is a street artist and activist.

UNM Libraries has collected Latin American contemporary prints since the 1940’s. Suzanne Schadl is the curator of the Latin American Collections at UNM and teaches Latin American Studies. She mentored de la Rosa and worked with Director of the NHCC Art Museum and Visual Arts Program Tey Marianna Nunn and NHCC Registrar David Gabel on the exhibit “Getting Up Pa’l Pueblo: Tagging ASAR-Oaxaca Prints and Stencils.”

The images in the exhibit cover topics far beyond the strike and police repression. They includes issues such as land rights, political prisoners, government corruption, political violence, police brutality, violence against women, art exhibitions, and the nationalization of agriculture and oil.

The exhibit was made possible by a grant from the New Mexico Humanities Council and supported at UNM by the Latin American and Iberian Institute, the College of Fine Arts and the Southwest Hispanic Research Institute. It may be viewed at the NHCC through Nov. 9.  Schadl, de la Rosa and the artists from ASARO have collaborated on a book that accompanies the exhibit and is available for sale at the NHCC, at the UNM Bookstore and Bookworks.

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