Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hidden Treasure of Black & Latinx Culture in DC

During training at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), we visited the Anacostia Community Museum. Although it's a Smithsonian museum, it's located outside the main part of DC - away from the other Smithsonian institutions on the National Mall. I was struck by their "Gateways/Portales" exhibition, which focuses on Latinx* migrant and immigrant experiences in the U.S.

The striking artwork above highlights the Dominican hair salon culture that spread beyond New York and is extremely popular throughout the country today. There were many pieces in the museum that featured Black and darker-skinned members of the Latinx community from a range of origin countries.

This second photo focuses on the part of the exhibit devoted to the Day of the Dead and the associated rich traditions immigrants brought with them and still practice in many parts of the U.S. I was impressed by the quality and variety of the displays despite the small size of the museum. I'm a little ashamed that I never visited the Anacostia Community Museum before in my many years of living in the D.C. metro area.

I couldn't leave without getting a picture next to this beautiful mural created by Rosalia Torres-Weiner, a self-taught, self-described "artivist" (activist + artist). This was only one of several pieces of hers housed in the museum's current exhibit.

As a final note, I'll add that the whole museum was heavy on social justice and left-leaning on related issues. For instance, one of the pieces was called "Uprising Against ICE" (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and depicted migrants suffering under the threat of deportation. There were many components praising the struggles of undocumented immigrants, but the whole presentation was fairly one-sided. I still found the trip meaningful and would recommend it, but I thought the slant worth mentioning.

*Latinx is a gender-neutral term increasingly used to describe those of Latin American descent.

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