Looking at these photos a few days ago, I had several ideas as to what the Clothes Story is. Gluten and sugar free experimenting? Reminds me of my obsession with this Spaniard’s Pinterest board about his favorite shops and cafes? There are still artists living in Venice? (Great interview with the artist, Diana Garcia, who did the wheat pasted mural here. Check out more of her art here.) My favorite food on Abbott Kinney? Dressing for texture? Can we take a vote, here?
Okay, I’ve tallied up the votes and the winner is… Barcelona!
Wait, Barcelona wasn’t even on the list. How did that happen?
Well, I did have the word, Spaniard on the list, so…
Yeah, but a Spaniard-made Pinterest board is very different from the city of Barcelona. I want to see the math. Who voted, anyhow?
Who am I talking to, by the way? Hello? Hello? Oh, I hate it when that happens. A perfectly nice inner dialogue disconnected because I asked too many questions. Again.
So… Barcelona. The city with the same Mediterranean climate as Southern California. Home of a Picasso museum and Gaudi sculptures and La Familia Sagrada. Where they speak Catalonian by the sea side and sip a cortado. I have clearly dressed to go back to Barcelona, where I am clearly from… okay, maybe in another life. But this post is really about something deeper – acceptance.
As a Los Angeles-based artist, I have made my peace with identity and belonging. It took years, but these delicate processes always take longer in a city where there is increasingly more and more traffic, no? Growing up in the O.C., of course I wanted to fit in, but I was still wacky (insert crazy outfit here) and proud of my Mexican roots. I learned pretty quick that I was never going to look like the Miss OP Pro or whatever that was. The splits didn’t work out for drill team try outs (It was all about the outfit, and luckily I made the cut to wear a kilt on the field hockey team). Even though I was one hundred percent Mexicana, every trip to visit relatives in deep Mexico was met with people telling me I was Americana. I’d even buy my clothes there and wear them, but it didn’t matter. My cousin said it was how I did my make up and the way I walked. Fascinating.
In college I was met with “I can’t believe your Mexican.” or “What is your background?” at the Westwood ice cream shop on trips to LA. I joined MECHA, took Spanish for Spanish Speakers, and even played in a cumbia band a little bit. My “gringo” boyfriend got me in because he was the drummer and having grown up in Venice, was in some ways more Chicano than me. That’s a whole other story…
After college, the Chicano art scene was supreme in Los Angeles, and I found other wanna-be Chicano artists – gente that grew up in Mexico and were addicted to low-riders and La Virgen de Guadalupe. I met Chicano art scholars that sounded like me and didn’t speak Spanish at all. I met Jewish Mexican artists, artists that spoke Spanish, French and English, and Spanish speaking painters from the Caribbean. I learned about living in the border, where you don’t really fit in on either side. That idea right there did it for me.
Eventually, I found my tribe, and it continues to expand as I meet more amazing, diverse, and creative people. Even now, my beautiful friend of only a few years, Byron is half Hungarian/Euro mix, half Latina. She listened to a recording of me singing in Spanish, and asked, “What is that accent?” “What accent?” I replied, innocently. We finally figured it out. It was ORANGE COUNTY-accented Spanish. When we go order tacos together, Byron with her limited Spanish, has a gorgeous accent and gets all this Spanish thrown back at her. I order completely in Spanish and all I get is English back. It continues…
So, I’m good. But, Barcelona. If I ever wanted a moment where I was completely and easily accepted, if I ever wanted to know what that felt like… it was in Barcelona. I traveled with my Euro American boyfriend around Europe in college. In England, they thought he was Irish. In Germany they asked him for directions. Austria? Check. In Italy, I think he got by as Italian. France? No problem. He could swing some local conversation anywhere it seemed. Me? No directions asked. No one knew what to do with me. No one… until we got to Barcelona.
The moment we got close to Barcelona, coming from Italy on Euro Rail, something started to happen. My boyfriend said something first. “Everyone looks like you.” “They do!” I said, my eyes growing wide. It was awesome. We got off the train. “I” was everywhere. It was like a good Twilight Zone, in a way. We had the same complexion, facial features, hair, and height. We walked the same. We did our makeup the same. We had a similar STYLE. “Oh. My. Goodness,” I thought. “I’ve come home. I’m surrounded by family. We’re simpatico. I BLEND IN.” And I GOT ASKED FOR DIRECTIONS.
I still day dream about Barcelona sometimes, even though it was so many years ago. I day dream that I am walking around… and Barcelona, she envelopes me in her embrace, and I feel I am just a part of her. I am a missing piece of her puzzle that has come home. I realize that the trip happened at an important moment. I was only 21, and at that age I think some of us are still desiring to belong in that longing, urgent, adolescent way. We are still thinking, “Who am I?”, you know? Although since then I have realized I am so much more than Barcelona – and am happy with my individuality – it was an act of encouragement and acceptance. So, thanks, Barcelona.
Photos by Evan Hartzell.