An indigenous sculpture

Benson Latin American Collection Debuts New Exhibition

  • May 16, 2023

The Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at The University of Texas at Austin features an art exhibition for spring and summer 2023 entitled “Legacies of Nepantla: Artists Affirming Identity and Existence,” curated by Maribel Falcón, the Benson’s U.S. Latina/o/x Studies librarian.  

“The exhibition showcases work from women whose myriad identities include Chicana, Native American, Tejana and Latina, in addition to mothers, sisters, organizers, artists, activists, teachers and students,” said Falcón. “Many of the featured artists are established as leaders in their communities and recognized as pillars of the Chicano/a art world, such as Santa Barraza, Carmen Lomas Garza, Patssi Valdez, Yreina D. Cervántez, Ester Hernandez, Irene Pérez and Alma López.” 

Barraza, whose work was featured at an opening event in April 2023, paints bold representations of the mythic “Land Between,” known as “Nepantla.” The term, popularized by the author Gloria Anzaldúa, originates from Nahuatl-speaking people of 16th-century Mexico who wanted to describe their experience of colonization. Barraza’s work depicts the historical, emotional and spiritual land between Mexico and Texas, between the real and the celestial, and between present reality and the mythic world of Indigenous peoples of the region.  

“Nepantla could also represent the ‘in-between-ness’ of Latinos like myself, who are reclaiming and embracing their newfound Native American heritage and Indigenous ways,” Barraza says.  

The Benson, home to more than a million volumes and a vast collection of original manuscripts, photographs and media, is one of the premier libraries in the world for Latin American and Latino/a Studies. The exhibition showcases work from the Benson’s archival holdings and will be on view in the Ann Hartness Reading Room through mid-August 2023. 

Read more from the Benson Latin American Collection and TexLibris