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Free art show celebrates Chicano culture - and love

"LIBERTAD," a painting by Raul Mejia that will be shown at La Lucha de Hoy, a free art show on Cinco de Mayo at the Latino Center of Art and Culture.
"LIBERTAD," a painting by Raul Mejia that will be shown at La Lucha de Hoy, a free art show on Cinco de Mayo at the Latino Center of Art and Culture. Courtesy of Raul Mejia

Before he said his prayers, Raul Mejia would write the word 'love' in the condensation on his shower window.

He had grown depressed over the state of his country when the Trump administration came into office and the immigration raids began.

An ancient spirit inside him awoke, he said, its blood was boiling, and its voice was louder than complacency.

He questioned himself on how he could make a difference; as he wiped the word away with his hand, he came to a realization.

“Why am I looking for anything? The answer is right here,” recalled Mejia, “The answer is love.”

The 37-year-old artist curated a successful love-themed exhibition, Love is a Verb, during Valentine’s day weekend at Sacramento’s Elks Tower. Eager attendees waited in a line that wrapped around the building.

“I was actually blown away by the amount of people that turned out and how fun it was,” said fellow artist and activist Alda Nuvia. “To see something like that come together like it did - under his [Mejia’s] leadership - it was really impressive.”

Keeping the brand name of Love is a Verb, Mejia and Nuvia decided to team up again and host another event on Saturday.

La Lucha de Hoy, which translates to, “The fight of today,” will be a Lucha Libre inspired exhibition that highlights the struggles faced by the Latino community and will be held at the Latino Center of Arts and Culture on Front Street.

The venue will give the show a different dynamic than the last, offering guests more room to roam with the addition of an outdoor element.

“I think it’s really important that we have these spaces to feel this empowerment,” said Nuvia, who handles social media for the Latino Center of Arts and Culture. “This sense of community - coming together and reaffirming that we are all together in this fight- it’s important to do stuff like this.”

Commemorating the fighting spirit of Mexico’s victory in the battle of Puebla against French invasion, the show will be held on Cinco de Mayo. Mejia said he hopes to replace the holiday’s rhetoric of “Drinko de Mayo” with something that will remind people of their historical roots.

“If you are going to discredit anything or take something away, plant a seed so that something else grows,” said Mejia, “For me, La Lucha de Hoy is that seed.”

He said the show will be a blend of Chicano and Mexican culture - and the “weird in between” that he identifies with.

Mejia said it will reiterate that Latinos are multidimensional, more than just stereotypes and that everyone can participate in celebrating the culture.

The show will exhibit a variety of medias such as installations, projections, 3D, and performance art.

Mejia said he felt comfort working with the artists and found peace in knowing they are pushing his movement of unity.

“I’m so excited about this I can’t handle myself,” said Sacramento makeup artist Ari Dee.

Dee, 30, said that her experience presenting her body painting work at the Love Is A Verb show was transformative and a turning point for her career.

She has worked with Mejia and Sacramento designer Rory Castillo, to create a politically charged installation piece for the Cinco de Mayo exhibition.

Dee said she hopes those who visit the show leave inspired with love and lighthearted laughs.

“It doesn’t matter what nationality you are really,” said Dee, “As long as your heart is there for the people, that’s what it’s about.”

Mejia said he wants to bring peace and light to the community and hosting free art parties is something that can help.

“At least I’m doing something,” said Mejia, who has been “flying spirit first” through curating these events. “That’s the vibration I’m trying to push out, that we can all do it, but we got to unite.”

La Lucha de Hoy

Where: Latino Center of Art and Culture, 2700 Front St, Sacramento

When: 6 p.m. - Midnight May 5

Tickets: Free

Information: thelatinocenter.com/

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