Printmaker Juana Estrada Hernandez moved to the United States from Mexico when she was a child. Her artwork reflects her culture and status as a participant in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, part of the first wave of students that applied for the program in 2012.
Estrada Hernandez is among the countless people who were brought to this country by a family looking for a bright future and equitable opportunities for their children and families. DACA protects eligible immigrant youth who came to the U.S. when they were children from deportation. DACA gives young undocumented immigrants protection from deportation and also work permits.
This week, Estrada Hernandez will receive her Master’s of Fine Arts in Studio Arts with an emphasis is in Printmaking from The University of New Mexico.
“My interest in printmaking started in undergrad. I enrolled for a printmaking class without knowing what it was,” she confessed. “I thought that I was going to screen-print T-shirts but didn't end up learning how to screenprint until graduate school. I loved the different graphic qualities that printmaking can offer and the ability to create multiples.”
Despite an inauspicious start, Estrada Hernandez has excelled in her passion, earning, among others, the Southern Graphic Council International Graduate Fellowship Award, SITE Scholars Award, Center of Fine Arts Dean Travel Award, UNM Student Conference Award Program, and the Ralph W. Douglas Endowed Memorial Scholarship. Her work, which also includes drawings, paintings, and ceramics, is available on her website and Instagram.
“My ideas come from my love of my Mexican culture, my family's migration stories, folklore, and the need to address the social and political problems surrounding immigration in the United States, while trying to better my artistic practice in printmaking drives me to always try new techniques and image making,” she said.
In her bio, Estrada Hernandez notes: “I believe that anti-immigrant sentiments prevail in many parts of the country due to lack of insight on the realities of being labeled an ‘illegal immigrant…’ My motivation has always been to raise awareness about immigrants and their realities. These prints attempt to emotionally impact people in ways that invoke independent thought and understanding for those that used to live in the shadows.”
During her time in graduate school, Hernandez also taught Introduction to Printmaking, Drawing 1, and Art Practices and solidified her aspiration to pursue teaching. She has been hired as assistant professor of Printmaking at Fort Hays State University in Kansas, where she got her bachelor degree.
“I have always thought of myself as a fighter and have never given up on my dreams and aspirations,” Estrada Hernandez remarked. “Due to my DACA status, my pursuit of higher education was never guaranteed and that's why I have always strived to work as much as I can to get better in my artistic practice and research. I hope that if nothing else, my story can encourage others que si se puede, even when life is hard.”